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The Snowball Effect

Things can really snowball when you start bending the rules just a little.  In fact, sometimes it’s more like an avalanche.

My three year old is what we might call a picky eater.  A very, very, very picky eater. He lives on fruit, yogurt, whole grain bagels, carrots, and sugar snap peas.  He will eat waffles and French toast homemade by mommy.  Muffins and scones are high on his list of likes.  And milk.  Lots and lots of milk.

Sure, chicken makes appearances at times, and once he ate pasta because it was in the shape of a car.  But steak, grilled cheese, scrambled eggs, and most other foods in general?  He considers it an insult when I put small pieces on his plate.

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  I didn’t eat a piece of pizza until I was 18, and his father was equally as picky as a small child.

It’s more surprising that his big sister eats just about everything.  She will try almost anything, and she likes 95% of what she tries.  Her picky phase was short lived.  She was too busy enjoying new tastes to get stuck in a rut.

Not baby brother, though.  He is set in his ways.  Trying new things is not of interest to him, and he would almost always rather be playing than eating.  He has things to.

When I read books of his choice while he eats, he sits quietly and eats until he feels full.  The power struggle disappears just like that.

And so we read our way through our meals.  We make it into a conversation by discussing our favorite pictures on each page.  In this way, we work in conversational skills and table manners while he eats.

But sometimes…he sneaks in his own little strategy.  Sometimes…he brings a little toy car to the table.

At first, I set the limit.  No toys at the table.  Period.

But then, the power struggles started again.

I’m not that hungry.

I don’t need dinner.

I can just play now.

I can eat later.

Little boys need food.  Little boys need to refuel.  Little boys expend a lot of energy.

Just the one car to keep you company while you eat.  No zooming.  No crashing.  Just to sit by your side.

I know, Mommy.  I understand.

Not to be left behind, big sister wanted a car too.  Just one for you too.  Same rules.  Just to keep you company.

And then, one day, the table was covered in cars.  Stories with complicated plots were created.  Excitement was everywhere.  Cups were spilled and plates were pushed aside.  Food went untouched.

Just like that, the rules disappeared.

I was forced to hit the reset button.

One night, while they slept, I put away every last toy from their ongoing story.  I reorganized and returned to the original rules.

Books only.  They can each choose one.

Secretly, it broke my heart.  These stories they create together that involve cars, ponies, and Strawberry Shortcake are incredible.  The characters remain the same, but the adventures change each time.  Best of all, they create these stories together.

For reasons I can’t quite identify, the stories haven’t been the same since I removed the snowball.  Yes, they play together.  Yes, they laugh, have fun, and play pretend.

But the stories that took over our table and stopped us from eating?  Those have yet to return…

On the bright side, the table is clear and the kids are well fed.

And I know those stories will be back soon…just not at the kitchen table.

Have you experienced the snowball effect in your home?



Galit Breen

Thursday 12th of April 2012

The stories do sound amazing!

But you know what's even more amazing? You're flexibility as you parent!

You try things first, before kaboshing them. Love that.

(The stories will return, right? Maybe over snack? Or a tea party?)


Multi-Testing Mommy

Thursday 12th of April 2012

Exactly how you said, I have to pull the brakes and recharge every once in a while! GREAT post. And hey, your son may be picky, but at least he's got some healthy choices in his bag of likes!


Thursday 12th of April 2012

Yes, we sure have. Sick days with extra tv privileges that bleed into the next few days. One piece of Easter candy becoming a battleground as more and more are requested (and me giving in more than I planned or feel good about). We try to set and make clear limits, but oh, when we backslide, it opens the door to a lot of confusion on the part of my l.o. Good post!