I thought of my family's childhood-food battles when I read this piece about mistakes parents make in feeding their kids, and apparently we're doing everything wrong. I expected another "cut out trans fats" article but actually found some novel information--not so much about changing the of content of what they're eating as changing--my new favorite word--the context in which the food is offered. Example: despite what your instincts--and the 'diet disciplinarian' in all of us--may tell you, don't keep the desserty, sugary foods out of reach:
...a large body of research shows that if a parent restricts a food, children just want it more. In [a]...Penn State study, researchers experimented to determine whether forbidden foods were more desirable. Children were seated at tables and given unlimited access to plates of apple or peach cookie bars — two foods the youngsters had rated as “just O.K.” in earlier taste tests. With another group, some bars were served on plates, while some were placed in a clear cookie jar in the middle of the table. The children were told that after 10 minutes, they could snack on cookies from the jar.
The researchers found that restricting the cookies had a profound effect: consumption more than tripled compared with when the cookies were served on plates.
Other studies show that children whose food is highly restricted at home are far more likely to binge when they have access to forbidden foods.
This seems right to me--we crave what we can't have, in the words of Tacitus, "the mysterious is magnificent," and on and on. Yet almost every parent I know, myself included, does the "keep it out of reach" trick with their kids' treats.
And there are plenty of other shockers in there: don't reward a kid for taking a bite of broccoli, don't insist that they try everything (it just makes them hate it more).
The broad point seems to be that it's a mistake to imply to your kids that some foods are 'tantalizing and mysterious, but forbidden' and others as 'no fun to eat, but morally correct.' Well intentioned though this system may be, the result is an ongoing mealtime angel-on-devil struggle, with our will power and inner pleasure-seeker locked together in a death-grip.
That applies to so much more than food and eating. While you are thinking about that, think about Romans 7:7-8 and think about all the ways you try to restrict and control the behavior of others and what effect that has:
7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”a 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is deada Exodus 20:17; Deut. 5:21