People from all walks of life ask me for guidance on how to get their kids to eat healthier. It’s not really a secret, it just takes focus and commitment. Perhaps the most important way to start is to model the behavior, which is something many of us (myself included) have a hard time doing, and it’s not only applicable to food.
Technology, for example, is a beacon for our attention. In my household, I have to work hard really hard to make sure my kids aren’t fully connected for a long periods of time. I find the best way to accomplish that is by making sure I’m fully disconnected myself. Etched in my mind forever is a day several years ago where I let out an ear-piercing yell, so desperate that my son actually started crying and my daughter put her arms around him to comfort him. They were afraid. Yelling at them that day was one of my greatest regrets, but also one of my greatest blessings. I was sitting at my computer, intently focused on my work, and my kids were doing what they always do, they were being kids. My daughter was talking to me and when I didn’t reply right away she kept getting louder…more persistent. The more focused I was, the harder she tried to get my attention. Finally my patience got the best of me and I let out that ear piercing shriek….STOP! I yelled at her and told her to keep quiet and stop bothering me. No sooner did the words roll off my tongue did I instantly feel the regret. I’ve only been doing this parenting thing for 11 years, yet each day I continue to learn and grow as a mother. Moving into the “tween” years is certainly no exception to the chaios of what it was like just a decade ago when I had two babies just 13 months apart. Fast forward to today, where I still scowl, get frustrated, angry, hopeless and sad, yet there is a profound difference in what I do once those feelings come over me. Teaching children patience and grace doesn’t happen over night, and it’s one of the hardest things about parenting. We strive to do the right thing, raise our kids to be respectful and compassionate, but we’re not perfect; the times when I feel the busiest and most distracted are the times when they need me the most. I learned a lot that day about how I choose to model behavior (especially about my “devices”) but perhaps more importantly, I realized that my kids are sponges, always paying attention to what I do, what I say, and yes, what I eat. I decided that day I never wanted them to be so focused on their electronic device that they didn’t know how to be considerate and compassionate to the very people who were right there in the same room talking to them. I think all parents have a long list of mistakes that make us feel broken, we yell or say something that was uncalled for, then we regret what we said and we regret how it made them feel.
Fully disconnecting from technology actually takes a good amount of effort. A recent University of Chicago research study confirmed something we all pretty much know already…if you really want to focus on something, the device has to go. My belief is that as long as you have the desire, you can find your way back to compassion by pausing, setting a limit to the amount of time you use your device, reflect, and accept that you have to be compassionate to teach compassion. You have to model all behavior if you want them to do the same. This works the same way with food. You have to eat healthy yourself if you want your kids to do the same. The larger the serving of cake and ice-cream that you eat, the more they feel obliged to have the same.
My kids are huge fans of mac and cheese; I’m always looking for ways to kick it up a notch so it’s not so boring for the adults. This is a great way to add in some extra vegetables as well dress it up for a more mature audience. Perhaps if they see you eating the “extra veggie” serving, they might just find that they feel obliged to do the same.
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tsp. chipotle powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. arrowroot (or you can substitute with flour)
1/2 cup light cream or half and half
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1lb fusilli pasta
Roast the cauliflower on a baking sheet at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cook the pasta according to package directions. In a separate pot, whisk milk, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese with arrowroot and a pat of butter. When the pasta and cauliflower are finished, combine together and sprinkle breadcrumbs and scallions over the top. Put under the broiler for about 2-3 minutes to crisp the breadcrumbs.