Let your kids eat nothing but hot chips for a week
Parenting can be a fickle and funny thing, can't it? Roy Meredith shares how he had to give in and let his kid get exactly what they wanted ... in order for them to realise they needed to give it up.
When one of our daughters was around 10 years old, she went through a stage of wanting junk food whenever we went out. It was always hot chips! She was like a seagull.
She seemed to have become impervious to the normal parental arguments:
- “They’re bad for your health”
- "You’ll feel sick if you eat too much"
- And the last resort: "They’re too expensive"
We stood firm. She continued her pleading barrage. One day we got so frustrated my wife and I sat down to devise a strategy.
Yes, we would give her chips, as many chips as she wanted. In fact, we would give her chips for every meal, morning and night. Chips would be coming out of her ears and she’d be so sick of them! This couldn’t possibly fail. This was wily old0-school parenting. We were brilliant (or so we thought)!
So We Enacted The Plan
Frozen chips. Take-away chips. Hand-cut potato chips. Wonderful fatty deep-fried chips. Wedges with sweet chilli sauce. Delicious and for every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our daughter knew exactly what we were trying to do and, as the week went on, showed greater and greater enthusiasm and creativity with chips. She became a chef extraordinaire! She was exhausting us. How could we win this battle?
The reality is that the goal of parents is not to win. The bigger goal is to help our children get a better perspective so they will know how to make wise decisions.
Well, she did. She outlasted us. We may have ‘won’ the chip war with a different child, but not her. We soon took chips off the menu and we all had a very good laugh, leading to an open conversation.
You see, sometimes we need to highlight frustrating issues with our children in a creative way rather than with the normal frustrated and forceful approach.
Boring lectures can be our default parenting position. These have little effect. In this ‘pestering for junk food’ situation we found the release valve that helped defuse the problematic situation. Gradually, over the following months, her pestering stopped (at least in the area of take-away food).
Why Did This Creative Approach Work?
1. It was memorable
Years later we talk about that time she ate chips for a whole week. It was crazy, audacious and bold. The episode became a ‘hook’ to hang a bunch of important ideas on. Health, gratitude and the ugly results of pestering.
2. Everyone can learn from it
All of us were swept up into the ‘hot-chip-fiesta’. It sparked interesting conversations throughout the month as each family member considered the likely consequences of getting just what you want all the time. The learning was priceless and was readily transferrable to other areas of family life.
3. It was humorous
We admitted defeat and we all laughed together. We laughed about it for years to come. It was an experience that bonded us all, and especially our daughter.
4. We put limits on the experiment
At the beginning of the chip trial we said we would only do it for a week; not a month or a year. I know as parents we are sometimes so annoyed by our child’s behaviour that we make threats we cannot keep like, “You are grounded for a year!” Our kids see right through this and shake their heads sadly at us. Best to only say things we can follow through on.
5. We insisted that our relationship is more important than anything else
The value of a relationship is much more important than succeeding, winning or being right! We all came to a place where we saw our actions and the consequences of those actions much clearer. We reaffirmed our love and joy in being a family together. We reinforced that our family can work through tricky issues and know that our relationships are robust enough to continue to grow.
This is priceless.
Finding solutions to children’s issues takes time and patience. Parents need to be intentional. Many times, the novel and creative approach to issues will achieve much better and long-lasting results. This is because it is relational and memorable.
This article has been republished with permission from Kidspot.