No doubt we’ve all heard of Amy Chua’s new parenting memoir “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” . When I first read her article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” on the Wall Street Journal, I thought it was a satirical piece and kept waiting for the punchline. I read in horror the part about her daughter, Lulu (age 7) when she couldn’t play “The Little White Donkey” and Chua writes, “We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom”. (Watch a video of a different 7 year old girl here playing it. Note - it’s not an easy piece). I felt polarized over the article and judging by the 7000+ comments posted on the article, I’m not the only one.
Feelings of outrage are easily understandable. I would never call my children, ‘garbage’ nor will I force my children to those extremities (no dinner? no bathrooms breaks over a piece of music? That’s not me). But it was being sympathetic to Chua that conflicted me the most. Part of me understood her motivation and the fierce primal mother’s instinct to protect the children and to motivate them to be the absolute best they can be. Her sky high expectations though, are tough.
At a later interview, she was quoted as saying “Everything I do as a mother builds on a foundation of love and compassion.” I completely agree with that sentiment. It’s one of the reasons why I’m strict with the kids when it comes to food. One of my goals is to provide Pikelet & Lollo with a sense of what is good for their bodies to eat and to be bold and worldly with their palates.
Take my less adventurous non-eater, Lollo for example. He refused tofu for the longest time. But after six months presenting him with the ‘squishy white cubes’, he loves them. We had a similar experience with canteloupe which Pikelet loves so it was always at the breakfast table.
My pediatrician told me that kids’ palates change and have to try things at least 40 times before they figure out whether they like it or not. It’s not dissimilar to Chua’s belief that tenacious practice and rote learning is crucial to achievement. We kept at it with Lollo and when one day he proclaimed his love for tofu, I can tell he was a proud pumpkin. Note, I don’t force feed the kids like ducks slated for the foie gras line but I do ask for a ‘No Thank You Bite’ which is really aimed at getting them to taste something.
But kids put up a fight and fight they do. And I find too many parents giving in to unhealthy choices because it’s ‘easier’ and sadly, some think that that’s all the kids will eat. Hungry children will eat and it’s a matter of changing what you as parents give them to eat. If something is new, keep showing it to them till it’s familiar. The author of How To Get Your Kid To Eat: But not too much, Ellyn Satter has a similar approach. She believes that it is our job as parents to put healthy food on the table and eventually, she says, perhaps the 10th, 20th or 30th time they try a new food, toddlers will start to like it. How much they eat is up to them as she believes that toddlers self regulate their hunger.
I push the envelope and I realise that I’m not so far off from Amy Chua in some ways. Yes, this Tiger Mother battles with her cubs and I do it because eating right at a young age is a good foundation for a healthier lifestyle. There’s some great practical advice at the Better Kid Care Kids and Food document developed byPennsylvania State University
Today, I asked Pikelet & Lollo what they wanted for snack and Pikelet said “seaweed!!” and Lollo wanted “crispy fruit”. The Sea’s Gift Roasted Seaweed Snack and Brother’s All Natural Fruit Crisps were both healthy and delicious choices. It made this Tiger Mother smile or at least roar very quietly to herself.
Till our next Happy Meal!
Thanks for listening to my Motherhood Musings
Cheryl Collett is a mom on a mission to expand her kids’ palates and IttyBittyFoodies chronicles their yummy adventures. For recipes and other crafty fun ideas, look under HomeMade or check out the best kid friendly places under Restaurant Reviews where the food is delicious for both parents and children. Get the latest updates if you Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @ittybittyfoodie