It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I think it’s called the ‘placebo effect’

“I no yike green apples.” Tyler is firm. Doesn’t matter that he’s been happily devouring green apples for months. Doesn’t matter that “Granny” apples were his favourite until… um… a second ago.

“I no yike green apples. I just yike red ones.”

My standard tactic in this sort of situation is a chipper, “Oh, I guess you’re not hungry, then. That’s okay. Away you go and play.”

Because, as we all know, this is nothing about food preference, and everything about power struggles. I’ve waged this battle a gazillion times. My strategy is tried and true and really, puts the control in the hands of the child… while, at the same time, holding firm in my right not to become a short-order cook to the shifting whims of a power-hungry toddler.

Usually, before I’ve even set their feet on the floor, they’ve decided that, “Wait! I really AM hungry!!” They curl their feet up, even, so determined are they NOT to go and play but to EAT, thanks! But if they don’t change their minds, if they are perfectly content to leave the table, well, I’m fine with that, too. That’s their decision. When it comes to food, I follow Ellyn Satter’s guidelines: The child gets to decide how much — and yes, even whether — to eat. The adult gets to decide what, when and where they eat. I provide nutritious food at regular intervals, but it is not my job to get it ingested. That’s the child’s responsibility… which means I accept it if they choose NOT to eat. Because really, this is one a parent will win in the end: the child’s hunger is a good motivator.

But some days, some days it’s just nice to play with their heads a wee bit. Some days it’s nice to be devious. Some days, it’s nice to WIN that power struggle. And some days, it’s a whole lot of fun to win the power struggle they don’t even know they’re having. Well, it is for me at any rate. It could be that you are a person of higher moral fibre than me. No doubt you are, and never even have these urges, much less succumb to them. If you are such a superior soul, avert your eyes now, lest you be horrified and offended by the gross manipulation I am about to indulge in.

“You don’t like green apples?” I display mild, but supportive, surprise.


“You want a red apple?” More with the kindly supportiveness.


“Okay. I’ll be back in a minute.” I take the chopping board and bowl of apples to the kitchen. And there I peel the apples (not something I generally do for almost-three-year-olds, who get their apple cut into smallish slices, seeds and core removed). I peel the apples, the GREEN apples, and return them to the cutting board, and thence to the dining room table.

“Here you go! No more green apples!” (Note how, though I am perfectly willing to deceive and manipulate, I do try to stop short of a direct lie. These are not green. Any more. They are white. I do have my scruples. Shallow though they may be.)

“I yike dese RED apples.” He chomps them down with gusto.

My smile, as I pat his wee blond head, is not tooooo smug.

May 12, 2010 Posted by | food, power struggle, Tyler | , , , | 5 Comments