veggie toddler - a young child learning how to walk and eat vegetables, not necessarily a wobbly vegetarian.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Peer Pressure Points

I have never been a fan of peer pressure. Usually it involves some sort of emotional stress, fear of being different and doing something you didn’t want to do. Nothing good comes of peer pressure, right? Well, a little bit might be just the thing to get your kid to taste a previously detested food.

Steak. My 5 year-old daughter has never tasted steak. I love steak. But she prefers to get her protein from black beans and lentils. Okay, that’s fine. Not everyone has to love steak or even eat it. If she grows up to be a vegetarian, I will support her, no question. But it would be nice if she could, just once, humor me and taste a piece of steak. At the dinner table, I never pressure her but always offer a tiny taste of my steak. The answer is always “NO! Steak, Yuck!” accompanied by a turned head and scrunched up face to complete her point. “Okay, maybe next time,” I say brushing it off as no big deal.

The other night we had an impromptu 5 year-old dinner party: my 5 year-old daughter, two 5 year-old neighbors, my 3 year-old son, and I. Everyone is seated at the table together, excited for whatever food is to come “Who wants rice?” I ask with the pot of rice in my hands. “Me!” “Me!” “Me!” “Me!” “Okay,” I continue, “Who wants broccoli?” “Me!” “Me!” “Oh, okay.” “No thanks.” “Okay,” I continue, “you can have steak or you can have black beans or both.” “Beans,” says my daughter. “Beans,” says my son. “Steak,” says one neighbor. “Steak,” says the other neighbor.

As we eat our dinner together, sounds of “Yum, Steak!” keep coming from the two neighbors. I see my daughter starts to notice. “Can I have a bite?” she asks, wanting to join the steak-loving club. “Sure,” I say nonchalantly as I cut her a tiny piece. “Mmmmm, yum, more steak please!” she says to me with a smile and her fork in the air. I happily serve her and her friends more bite-sized pieces of steak.

“Wow,” I think to myself. “We may have found a peer pressure point tonight.” Don’t get too excited. Peer pressure can have the opposite effect on your child at the dinner table as well. During this same dinner I offer spinach salad, something my daughter usually gobbles up. But tonight, after both of her friends turn their noses with a “yuck,” my daughter follows suit and passes on the spinach.

The uneaten spinach doesn’t bother me. I know spinach is a food my daughter likes so not eating it one night is no big deal. But to get my daughter to taste a food that she usually refuses to even so much as lick? Now that’s exciting.

My 3 year-old, on the other hand, remains oblivious to any peer pressure in the air. He happily goes about his own meal eating two portions of rice, broccoli, black beans, and yes, spinach salad. His peer pressure point to taste steak will be pressed on another night, I’m sure.

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