By Kathy Franklin–
I had the great luck to read Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care before my child was diagnosed with food allergies. His common-sense advice made raising a food-allergic child much, much easier than it might have been.
You’re the Boss
Dr. Spock has strong negative words about kiddie breakfast cereals. He asks what kind of a society allows, even encourages, growing children to eat these nutritionally barren, heavily sugared, dishonorably marketed junk foods that do nothing but promote a lifetime of unhealthy eating? He urges parents to resist all entreaties from their children and never, ever buy them popular sugary cereals. Just tell them, calmly and clearly, that this is how we do things in our family, and we may be different from the kids down the street, and the kids on television, but these are my/our rules because this is what I’ve/we’ve decided is best. The magic words he uses are “be perfectly matter-of-fact about it” and your children will accept it. Now, I personally have nothing against sugared cereals, still enjoy the occasional bowl of Frosted Flakes, and, with apologies to the late, great doctor, have even bought some brightly colored lucky loops and fruity charms for my kids from time to time. My point here is that Dr. Spock encouraged me to make unpopular choices when I felt it best, and to present them matter-of-factly to my child. It worked.
When my son was 3 years old, we’d go to the park with a group of other kids after nursery school. Spring, summer, and fall, the ice cream truck sat next to the park. It struck me that eating ice cream every single day, like all his friends did, was a bad idea for my skinny little boy with a skinny little appetite. Big sugary ice cream bars, if eaten 3 or 4 times a week, would make up too large a percentage of his weekly calories. I made Friday ice cream day, and, other days, we’d get snacks from the deli to take with us. I was calm, unapologetic, matter-of-fact about it, and he was hungry, so the first few choices I offered always sufficed. My son didn’t seem to notice, or care, that he was snacking on melon chunks, popcorn, or pretzels while his friends ate ice cream. A year later, when he landed in the ER in respiratory distress after eating a pistachio nut, we had to carefully limit his diet to nut-free (and egg-free and sesame-free) foods. It just wasn’t that big of a deal for him, because he was already accustomed to eating different foods than his peers. Thank you, Dr. Spock.
By the way, this matter-of-fact thing applies to older kids, too. They may chafe at your curfews and rules, but secretly appreciate the limits you’re setting; they know it comes from concern for their safety, because you love them. And, despite what they say, it is not true that all of their friends are allowed to watch unlimited television, play computer games for hours, or stay out as late as they want.