In my last post about how children are like dogs, I described the two kids I nanny for and how they strongly resemble a couple of my favorite neighborhood dogs, Huckleberry and Maybe. Yesterday while I was walking the dogs again, I made another connection between the furry four-legged mammals and us bilateral human beings.
When my younger brother was growing up, he hated to eat tomatoes. In fact, he stayed at the table and wouldn’t leave long past when dinner was over because he refused to eat his tomatoes. Now, these were not MY parenting tactics. Trust me, there’s a lot of things my mom did that I will never do with my kids. And one of them is getting in between my children and their relationship with food. Read more on this in Alyson Schafer’s parenting book Ain’t Misbehavin’ (book review here).
The fact is, kids say they “don’t like” foods all of the time. One of the kids I nanny for finds a new vegetable to say is his least favorite every day. I’m pretty sure we’ve only got a couple vegetables left for him to scold. A good way to look at your kid’s actions (or your dog’s!) are that they are a way of meeting a basic need. H makes up new vegetables that he doesn’t like as a way of creating conversation. He believes his inflexibility will hurt my ability to prepare him foods and meet his mother’s demands of making sure he eats his veggies. Perhaps he believes that not eating veggies will result in more attention from me or mom. Just a theory.
Another example is that my younger brother hates tomatoes. He used to sit at the table while our mother told him over and over that he can’t leave til he eats them. He had mom’s attention. He had our attention too. Everyone at the table was on the eat-your-tomatoes-brigade. He was on center stage and eating up the attention. He learned that not eating tomatoes = getting attention from mom and everyone else. Who cares if it wasn’t positive attention. This kid was seeking attention and he’s got it. Now he’s a theater major. Ha
Now back to Maybe the dog. Maybe refuses to budge. She hates walking. Should I really force her to come on long walks with Huck? Another dog down the street is notorious for short walks. His name is Fred. He’s also known by many to be the mayor of the island. Perhaps Maybe can go to Fred’s house while I walk Huck.
Same thing with kids and eating their vegetables. Moral of the story: we gotta sharpen our listening skills. What are people really communicating when they won’t eat a certain food or won’t come on a walk? Children and dogs alike are stating something important to them. Maybe’s message is more straightforward: I am lazy and do not want to walk. Kids messages have more depth. Usually, it’s not the tomatoes that they don’t like. What do your children crave and why?
Every sin is a false attempt at meeting a basic need. – Neil Anderson