Last month, we spoke about one of the unique challenges of modern parenting- The terror of consumerism. Saying ‘NO” to children has not only become more difficult, it has also become strangely inevitable. I have been overwhelmed by the responses I received from several moms on how they tackle this challenge. Here’s a little list I made from what I received from all of you. I have picked the ones that stood out as practical and non-intrusive to today’s parenting ways. Most importantly, they reinforce an inclusive approach to raising conscious-consumerism in our kids.
1. Harness the power of the web
Today’s children are mobile, TV and internet savvy. Mom does not know the meaning of a French word? No problem. Type ‘—- meaning in english’ on Google. Need pictures of birds for tomorrow’s class? Print them out!
Kids trust the web. They rely on it. Why not use it to our advantage?
“Whenever I see a compelling article on the harmful effects of junk food, or too much TV, I read it to them aloud. Or even better, have them read it to me. Then, I let them have research more on the foods of their choice. When they are kicked about the history of wheat/rice and veggies on their table, they are less likely to protest having veggies. Such regular ‘Google Time’ along with the kids has helped us transition from pestering for junk food mindlessly to pausing before asking.“
The littler ones can be told stories revolving around veggies and fruits. It makes it that much more personal for those little minds.
2. Mark the calendars
“It is impractical to think that we can do away with all junk food at once. With all the bombarding and peer pressure, it might boomerang and
they could end up hating the word ‘healthy’. The trick is to really go easy sometimes but keep track of it. Had Ice Cream today? Make sure they mark it in their calendars. No more Ice Cream till the month is over. The constant monitoring also inculcates a sense of timing and discipline in them. Many moms have been implementing this successfully.”
3. Cook it up
“Most times, I know what my daughters will resist eating. So, I cheat a little. So if it is chapattis, I let them play in the dough for a while and then make the chapattis. (It’s another matter that it gets messier and stickier than I like). And then tell them that the chapattis are great coz they made it. I know which veggies they will say no to. I let them cut a few and then tell them their veggies are waiting for them. They end up eating without a whimper and even compliment themselves on the great taste! It’s also another great way to introduce them to the pleasures of cooking.”
4. Dress them up
Its a great way to experiment with colors and shapes ! This dad rocked it with his innovative lunches that he packed for his kids every Monday morning. Though we may not get as creative as him, we could try a few simple ones like using grated carrot to make the mouth and sprouted Moong to make the eyes on the face of a chapatti or making Dosas in the shape of Mickey mouse, flowers, etc. Come up with your own!
5. Grow your own
Get them to get their hands dirty with gardening: The process of planting a seed, watering it everyday, watching it sprout and grow a wee bit taller everyday is pleasurable by itself. It’s even more enjoyable, when you get to use your produce in your daily food. My daughter used to hate the coriander juice I gave her every evening for her skin trouble. That changed when she was able to add a few sprigs from ‘her’ coriander pot. She suddenly found the juice ‘yummy’. The fruits of hard work are indeed sweet.
6. Stories are powerful. Real ones are even more so.
“Every night I get pestered for the bed-time stories. So, I make use of all this attention and tell them real stories of how coke plants work, what they put in the soda bottles, and how thousands of natives are displaced to set up one coke plant. I also told them stories about how having tender coconut instead of coke helped farmers transform their lives. The kids were really moved and I haven’t heard them ask for a coke after that.”
7. Slowly gun it- Slogan it
“Working on sensitive issues with children that are beyond their immediate circle of influence helps raise their sensitivity to their surroundings. Help them make banners, posters that read out their mind. I encourage my kids to talk on anything they feel strongly about – eg smoking and cutting down trees. Non-Toxic healthy food is a great topic for starting an awareness campaign among their peers. Plus, it helps develop communication, coordination and leadership skills and they immensely enjoy the process. And then you can be sure they will never turn up their nose at those veggies, coz their friends are in it too.”
8. Trip them out
“For every horror story about genetically modified food and pesticides, there are numerous inspiring stories about Terrace gardening success, pesticide and additive free baking or completely organic farms that yield fantastic results. There are numerous individuals and groups dedicated to production and propagation of natural and healthful foods. Cut a few of the “club membership” trips and include a few such farms in your to-go list. Even a few day trips can make big difference in their attitudes. Get a few pots back home and re-charge your kitchen. Yes, and let them kids get you a few sprigs and veggies and end the eternal tussle.”
9. There’s another life out there
“Encourage them to see the other side of life. Take them to shelter homes to mingle with the other children on weekends/holidays/birthdays. Being with less fortunate children helps bring down relentless pestering. It can add the zing of perspective- not only to the kids, but even to the parents!”
Giving to the poor
And the final one to the parents!!!