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do you “make” your kids finish dinner?

The day after Halloween, I posted on my facebook page that I paid my kids $20 for their bag of candy, like I do every year, and then I threw it in the trash.

I got some indignant responses, saying, “Geez, at least give them to candy giveaway programs for the troops!” and the like.

(The two who said that are friends who were on my high school’s drill team. In other words, people who don’t know much about where I am now and what I do.)

Anyway, some of my fellow health nuts went, well, nuts on them. I was a non-participant in the ensuing debate, which you can see on my FB wall. But if I’d wanted to get all argumentative (I didn’t and don’t), I’d point out that if I don’t want to feed my kids poison, why would I want to feed it to the people defending my country? (Or anyone, for that matter. Death row inmates, maybe, if I could be really certain they are guilty.)

Yes yes, I know, the troops will get candy regardless–if not from me, from someone else. But that doesn’t mean I have to be a part of it.

(Have you seen the story about the burning Carnival cruise ship, and the people onboard who were “rescued” with a delivery of Spam and Pop Tarts? LOL!)

The other day at my tennis workout, Laura, one of my teammates and a friend of mine for 20+ years said, “Robyn, I went all Red today.” (She’s speaking of one of my favorite subjects, Taylor Hartman’s Color Code, which you may google at will. Everyone close to me knows you have to understand the Code or you won’t speak my language. I eventually buy any friend who doesn’t “get it” The Book. Which is now inexplicably renamed–for political correctness?–The People Code.)

Anyway, Laura’s daughter Gabby came home from school saying that her friend gave her the brownie out of her school lunch. (I’m talking about the lunch they SELL at school.) So Gabby had two brownies–her own and the friend’s. Gabby was about to throw them away when the lunch lady said, “You’re not going anywhere until you finish your lunch” and required Gabby to eat everything, including the two brownies. “I almost threw up!” Gabby reported to Laura.

Laura was incensed and described the incident wherein she pointed her finger in the principal’s face about this (she’s a White/Yellow! out of character!) and had a little chat with him about the lunch lady.

I said this, separating the “making” kids do it issue from the junk food issue. “Yeah, um. I require my kids to finish their salad, veggies, fruits. If they don’t want whatever ELSE we’re having, like whole-wheat pasta with pesto, for instance–I don’t care.”

I often have this debate with someone in my life who regularly reiterates the mantra that children shouldn’t be “forced” to do anything. I agree that it’s not only pointless, but also impossible, to force anyone to do anything. (I’ve written before about the unforgettable experience I had many years ago, watching a friend of mine force-feed her son a hot dog, because she was terrified he wasn’t getting enough protein.) But could it be that this argument often functions as a smokescreen for the real issues:

Are we willing to parent? Do we take a stand on things we think are important? Requiring a child to do something she’ll learn from–for example, complete homework, eat foods containing live enzymes, treat others with respect–isn’t a bad thing. Are they “forced” (negative word) just because it’s required and there’s a consequence for non-compliance attached? We adults are all required to do things every day. Forced? No, but our feet are held to the fire, and if we choose badly, negative consequences follow. I’m pretty sure you and I work part of every day to pay the rent of some folks sitting behind bars thanks to this very principle.

“Well, sure,” Laura said, “it’s one thing to require your own child to finish her carrots.” But a bunch of junk food? She told the principal, “A brownie is a waste from the minute it is created! After you eat it the rest of the day is about getting RID of it.” (There’s that consequence thing rearing its ugly head again.)

And Laura, my friends, isn’t a health-food fanatic. She’s just a regular mom. She’s at her ideal weight and incredibly fit. Disciplined about food consumption like no one else I know. Laura’s is one of the testimonials in my book The Green Smoothies Diet. She’d been told she was pre-diabetic until she started green smoothies. She has brought one to the gym every morning for the past few years since I taught them to her. She takes one to a handicapped woman in her neighborhood, regularly, and she evangelizes for green smoothies constantly. When one of the dozens of women we play tennis with at the club asks, “WHAT’S THAT?!” about her disposable see-through cup of sludge she’s drinking, she points at me. I take it from there.

Anyway, Laura continued, “When I see somebody nagging their kid to finish their Thanksgiving pie, I think, ‘Why? It’s PIE!”

She said it, not me. Well, now I know I can confide in Laura, at least, if not the popular girls from high school, that I dump all the Halloween candy in the trash. (Lest you think I’m an ogre, let me say this: I do let the kids keep three pieces.)

Your thoughts?

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