Left to their own devices, my children would happily eat pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and a host of other nutrition defying meals at every sitting. I, however, have different plans. While we certainly have quickie meals on unusually crazy days…I say ‘unusually’ because most days are crazy, some are just worse than others…I regularly cook well-balanced meals. A normal dinner in our house includes a meat and vegetable, often a salad, and only occasionally a dessert.
Like most children, they would have you believe I was trying to poison them with this meal plan. Not so, of course. I simply am providing them with balanced, nutritious food. Whether they eat or not is their choice, but there are no subsitutes. No one gets up from the table to fix a sandwich. No one gets a dessert, on the rare days we have one, if she has not finished her meal. Above all, no one complains. I understand each has her own preferences, and those are respected for many meals. I plan a night every few weeks where one child gets to pick the menu. But when a meal is not on anyone’s list of favored meals, no one can complain, whine, or otherwise express extreme displeasure. I consider such behavior ungrateful and disrespectful. After all, their father worked to buy the food, and I worked to prepare it for them. Eating is a basic human need, and we are dedicated to filling that need. Therefore, they can work on an attitude of gratitude.
If a child chooses not to eat, they still sit at the table during the meal. We eat together almost every evening, and one unhappy camper will not break our tradition. Following dinner, each child helps clean up. Again, no complaining. Just do what is expected. Why is that hard?
I have found that allowing a child to complain about things like a meal and dictate alternatives breeds disrespect toward parents and others who provide different blessings. Far too many people look for something better and fail to be grateful for what they have, which is usually more than many other people. I want my children to have a happy, peaceful life. Satisfied with the blessings God gives them. Not afraid to dream and work for more, but not ungrateful for what they get. Respect can be taught with something as simple as a meal.