Question: My two-year-old daughter often sits with us at the table and eats—usually. My question is, should I have her eat if she doesn’t want to? Should I force her to try new foods? Should I make her sit there until her plate is clean or until she’s eaten two bites of peas? If she asks to leave the table before her father and I are finished eating, do I let her?
As you may know, the theme of Soul-Full Eating is: “Eat with love, what’s grown with love, prepared with love and served with love.”
I feel that across the board, this simple statement is the answer to all kinds of struggles that adults have with food. But it’s important that as adults we ask ourselves, when do most food struggles begin? The answer is often in childhood. Many of us grew up in households where it was expected that we “clean our plates” before we could be excused from the table. Let’s get more specific to your questions now… to an inquisitive, on-the-go two-year-old this can be a torturous experience. Often, before the adults at the dining table have finished two mouthfuls of their food, a two year old will declare, “I’m done.” That’s because they’re genuinely satiated with one or two bites themselves and are now ready to move on to “more interesting things.”
So I’d like you to ask yourself, if you’re asking an “expert” how to feed your own child… maybe at some point you were led to believe that other people’s opinions and feelings are more valid and important than your own. The only question I believe you need to ask here—to yourself!—is, “what feels most loving to me now?” How can you best show my daughter that she is completely loved—even at the dinner table?
By the way, my sister-in-law still speaks about how traumatized she was by having to sit at the dining room table long after every one of her siblings was excused, until she ate those last three cold and wilting peas. As she relates it, as a child she rebelled and tried to assert her autonomy for hours and hours saying, “I don’t like peas!.” Unfortunately she’d eventually break and eat them—her dad was a military Colonel at the time, so he knew how to win a battle! But, at what cost?
We never crave food as much as we crave love. And you can teach your children self-love via eating food. Yes! Offer them good, wholesome, healthy choices—plenty of them—this will spark their creativity and feelings of empowerment as they can make their own choices and feel your love as they do so.
If you find that, as an adult, you are unsure if you are in a battle with food yourself, here’s an excerpted exercise from Soul-Full Eating, that’s often very revelatory for my readers. Try it and let me know what you find out. And remember, it’s through conscious parenting that we often discover the spontaneous, joyous, oh-so-loveable “lost child” in ourselves.
SOMETHING TO CHEW ON
Spend five minutes meditating on or writing about the following questions: When you were young, were you given praise for finishing every last bite on your plate? Were you ever coerced into eating even after you felt full by being told about the starving children in other parts of the world or about how others suffered and sacrificed to provide you with your meal?
If so, then it’s likely that guilt has been coloring your world when it comes to eating—guilt for not eating enough, or guilt for eating too much. We are all born with an internal comfort-seeking mechanism—the Soul—The “Voice” of sanity. However, for many of us, it’s been layered over, smothered and silenced by the guilt inherent in our fear-based conditioning.
SOUL-FULL EXERCISE #1
Just for one day, do only what you genuinely love to do. Can you do that? Lucky you, if you don’t have to put a hold on everything and completely rearrange your entire life to do this. That means you are already being True to your Soul!
But if you do have to do a bit of finagling of time and space in order to allow your authentic-self to emerge, that’s still fine. Why? Because now you can see that you really do deserve to love yourself more. Once you do this once, there may be no turning back!
Eating what you really don’t love, without love, is just one small symptom of a greater picture of denying your brilliance and self-worth.