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Want Your Kids to Eat Their Greens? Try This Surprisingly Simple Trick

Want Your Kids to Eat Their Greens? Try This Surprisingly Simple Trick

Let’s face it. Kids are the ultimate skeptics, especially when it comes to upbeat songs about broccoli, assurances that peas and carrots are the very reason people grow strong and tall, or stories about Popeye’s spinach dependency.

Recently, however, research has shed some light on why sometimes even our most inventive tactics don’t seem to make healthful food more appealing to kids.

Don’t tell your children it’s good for them

According to a study from the University of Chicago, children are actually more likely to reject food when they know it’s good for them, and all our cajoling often only strengthens their resolve and will make them not eat whatever it is we want them to try.

“You influence what your child eats by choosing to serve certain foods at the table. Adding reasons and trying to convince them to eat often doesn’t work and can actually backfire,” says lead researcher Professor Ayelet Fishbach.

She explains that children seem to think that food can’t serve two purposes: it can’t be healthy and taste good at the same time.

So if you tell your kids that carrots are good for their eyes or will help them read better, it actually makes them less enthusiastic about eating them because they feel that if carrots are so good for them, they can’t possibly be delicious, too.

It’s better to say nothing than to praise the food for its healthiness

The children participating in the study listened to stories about a girl who was having a snack, and were then given a snack of their own. Each time the story presented a certain food as being good for them, the children ate less of it.

For instance, kids rated crackers as less tasty and ate fewer of them when the story mentioned that crackers would help them count to 100.

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So what’s the takeaway for parents?

“Just serve healthy food and make sure all you serve is healthy,” says Fishbach. “You can say that it’s yummy, but we didn’t see that it helps beyond serving the food and saying nothing at all, although it doesn’t hurt either.”

Of course, it’s only natural to want to encourage your kids to eat healthy foods, and your first instinct will probably be to tell them about all the great vitamins and nutrients that will benefit them.

But, if you frequently find yourself engaged in mealtime struggles, a better approach would be to simply bite your tongue and serve that spinach or cabbage without praising its healthiness.

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Be a role model

Another thing to be aware of is that children tend to be very responsive to role models, so when they see their parents eating and enjoying something, they will be more open to eating it as well.

“Serving a personal example is great. Your child will mimic you,” Fishbach explains.

Phil Casey, trainer and assessor of Allied Health courses at Open Colleges and father of two, agrees that giving an example is important, and adds that reducing snacks between meals and giving mealtimes structure can also help kids to form healthier eating habits.

“I cannot stress the importance of family mealtimes enough,” he says. “Giving structure to mealtimes is a good tactic, as children like routine.”

He also warns that;

“Once kids have finished, there should be no coming back as this can generate behaviour that is not ideal at mealtimes, as they will feel that they can just pick at their food and it will still be there later.”

So, in short, don’t make a big deal about serving healthy food, If you want your kids to eat their greens, just serve them and be a role model by eating and enjoying them yourself without going into detail about the nutritional value.

Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and if you’re already extolling the benefits of broccoli or cabbage before it even hits their plate, they’re going to assume that there is a catch.

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More by this author

Marianne Stenger

Writer, Open Colleges

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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