Montessori Monday is an advice column written by yours truly. If you have a question about Montessori philosophy, parenting or discipline, or anything else in that realm, contact me and your question could be the next Montessori Monday post!
I know it's been asked a hundred times, but how do you get a 2.5 year old to eat vegetables? I'm not that concerned; I keep suggesting and providing them patiently. But, it really winds my husband up which makes meals more stressful than they need to be!
I can totally relate to your frustration with this issue because if I'm honest, my blood pressure is never higher at any point in the day than it is from dinner until our kids are asleep in bed! ;) But, don't fret! Your toddler can and will eat vegetables. First, we need to talk about getting wound up.
Toddlers love to flex their muscles and experiment in creating change and wresting control, particularly when that change and control have to do with the behavior of other people. The fact that your husband gets wound up at mealtimes is allowing your toddler to have all the power. Montessori said that once we get into a power struggle with a child, the only way we'll ever win is though our physical dominance. As adults, we know we're getting into a power struggle the moment we begin to feel wound up. Being bigger than our child means we can pick them up and remove them from a situation, but we can't make them eat a vegetable. We can't make them do anything! As long as your child is directing her energy toward holding her ground and frustrating your husband by not eating vegetables, the actual nutrition component remains a moot point.
The first thing you need to do is sit down with your husband - without your child - and establish this fact: Your toddler will grow and thrive whether he eats vegetables or not. It's true! If your husband is worried this isn't true, have him ask your pediatrician or a midwife, or another trusted advisor in that capacity. I'm certain they'll tell him the same thing.
Next, once that is agreed upon, release all cares about vegetables. At mealtimes, come together at the table, dish up with everyone getting vegetables on his or her plate, toddler included, and finally, eat.
Say nothing to your toddler about her vegetables. Do not look at them sideways.
Now here's where many people might say, "Ignore them altogether!" But ignoring means pretending something is not there, in this case frustration, irritation, anger, whatever it may be, when actually it is there. That's no good. Children are not fools. They know when the frustration is there, whether you're showing it or not, and they know they're in control because of it! So, the key is to genuinely not care. Repeat silently in your head: My child will eat vegetables when he is ready. Until then, he's just fine. Release all cares about vegetables.
Eventually, your toddler will eat her vegetables. One school I worked at had hot lunch provided. Meals were balanced with salad or vegetables beforehand and a main course. Most children would eat the main course, but many children did not want to eat the salad and vegetables. After three or four months, most kids were eating everything. There was just one child who still wouldn't touch anything and ate nothing each day. Finally, his mother confessed that she felt so guilty picking him up two hours later than his little sister that she had a fruit danish and cheese stick for him in the car every day. Well, there you go. If she hadn't done that, he would have eaten just like everyone else!
It might take months for your child to eat vegetables, but it will happen. Just last night, in fact, Theo finally ate his green beans. I can't tell you how many nights he's had green beans on his plate and tried one and refused the rest, or just not tried any at all. But, last night he gobbled them up.
You have the right idea in your approach: always provide vegetables, be patient and don't be that concerned. Rest easy! You're doing a great job.
Fellow parents, how do you get your children to eat their vegetables? What about picky eaters in general? I'd love to hear your tricks!