Editor ponders the increasing unwillingness of children to clear their plates, and comes up with an old-fashioned solution
When I was a child (back in the dark ages, obviously) if I dared to turn my nose up at anything on my plate, it would either appear at my place at the table at the next meal (nice), or I would be made to stay at the table on my own until it was gone, no matter how long it took.
Leaving a nine-year-old girl sitting at the table for four hours staring at a lump of congealed beef gristle (yes, that happened…) would probably get you locked up these days, though it did me no harm (she says, twitching). It’s not a sanction I have entertained with my own children, but I do insist they eat what they are given, assuming they liked it yesterday and it’s not poison.
So, it is at the risk of sounding like an old so-and-so when I marvel at what appears to be an increasing willingness among parents to be manipulated via food by their kids. There’s a hilarious thing on Instagram called #MyKidCan’tEatThis in which frustrated parents post pictures of
un-touched food and their children’s reasons for rejecting it. There is a bowl of noodles rejected because it is ‘too noodly’, a piece of toast rejected because ‘it’s not pancakes’, and a bowl of cereal dismissed because the spoon accompanying it does not feature a princess.
It makes me wonder if we’re getting a bit soft. With my parents’ generation, ‘there’s no princess on my spoon so I’m not eating it’ would get you a clip round the ear. Clearly, we don’t do that anymore, and there are few things worse than the dinner table which is turned into a battle ground. But, by the same token, you’re not going to get kids to try different foods if you let them behave like prima donnas at the table. The response that has worked for me over 18 years and three sons is this – ‘if you don’t want what I’ve lovingly made for you, fine, but the alternative is tripe’. Weirdly, it works every time…