Friday, April 1, 2011

I Paid My Daughter to Eat Breakfast!

My eldest daughter may be in the front-running for the pickiest eater in the Bay Area.  Although the foods in her repertoire are healthy (oatmeal and blueberries, peanut butter sandwiches, chicken, apples, carrots, and all forms of chocolate), the variety is small and her willingness to try new tastes is paltry.  

Will Eat
Won’t Eat
Orange cheese
White cheese
Frozen blueberries
Fresh blueberries
Plain, whole wheat bagels
Bagels with any embellishments
Chicken Fingers
Chicken Strips
Penne pasta
All other shaped noodles
(The complete list is slightly more extensive, but I think that the point is made.)

This morning, as usual, Elana asked for oatmeal and blueberries, which she ate two bowls of for dinner the night before.  Patiently I explained to her that we are going to have something different this morning.  Elana looked skeptically at me, then repeated her request.  With a a firm "Not today!" I began preparing the morning meal.

By no means was I trying to be adventurous, and force my tot into eating something exotic like Huevo Rancheros or a Scottish egg.  I simply melted cheddar cheese on a few organic, sprouted wheat hamburger buns, and added a handful of raspberries to each girls' plates. 

Maisy, my two year old, promptly sat down and began topping her fingers with raspberries, drumming them on the table, then sucking the berries off one-by-one.  When this activity was finished, she picked up her cheesy toast and ate it.  No fanfare, no fuss, no problem.

Elana looked at the plate, declared "yucky", and started negotiating.  "After I eat three raspberries, please make me something else."  In my mind I imagined my mother scolding me, "You are not a short order cook!"

"No, Elana.  You need to try this breakfast."
"But, I don't like this.  Please make me a bagel with cheese."

My attempts to persuade her that the whole grain hamgburger bun with melted cheese is not that different from a whole grain bagel with cheese were unconvincing and her requests turned into pleas, then begs, then ultimately a tiny tantrum.

At this point I didn't care if she ate breakfast or not.  My children are both a healthy weight and skipping a meal or two would not stunt their growth.  However, I am worried about the limited range.  So, with little forethought, I decided to bribe the girl. 

"Elana, if you eat half a piece of cheese bread I will give you two quarters."

After a brief negotiating session, we settled on four quarters.  She then sat down and ate the whole thing, and declared "I like it, just a little bit."

I know that this tactic is completely anti the advice all parenting experts give about food and toddlers, but it worked, and now she has enough money to buy that silly plastic flower ring at the corner store.  So, I ask you, am I horrible?


  1. what's the difference between chicken fingers and chicken strips? you're not horrible. i pay my kids to do all kinds of stuff. :/

  2. i give poppy a donut to get her to go to school and to do grocery shopping with me, I promise her a present... now her is the bad mummy!

  3. I like that you are teaching her valuable negotiating skills early in life! That girl is going to go places!

  4. There is absolutely no difference between fingers and strips. However, she will only eat chicken fingers.

  5. I think this is an important life-lesson: the most important thing in any decision is "do I get paid enough for it? Whether I actually like it or not is immaterial."