Fussy Kids? Teaching Them To Be Thankful

Originally featured at Masalamamas.com

My tenacious toddler and free-spirited sweetheart officially left her nest for preschool.

Things had been going fairly well except when I’d pick her up in the afternoon. Every day the teacher would tell me  that she did not touch an ounce of her food, not even an at least-try-two-bites type of deal.

I know the toddler diet might sound enticing to an adult, but the idea of your little darling not eating anything for 8 hours is quite simply nerve-wracking.

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She wasn’t even eating her morning snack. I really wondered how she got through the day and still managed to color in the lines without a morsel in her tummy.

I thought long and hard about how I could get her to eat at school. If she was home with me I could walk with her through the park and feed her little nibbles between sliding and swinging, but since I wasn’t there I had to figure out a way to get my almost four-year-old to understand that she had to eat at school.

The amazing thing about the magical age of four is that at this age toddlers seem to have an amazing grasp on empathy. They really want to help out; whether it’s around the house or simply opening the door for a stranger.

That is why I decided to find a quick and swift solution by honing in on her empathy skills.  I sat down with her as well as my older kids and watched videos of kids playing on the streets of third world countries with nothing more than the blue sky above them and the dirt ground beneath.

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As they attentively and empathetically watched these innocent children not having enough to eat they were reminded of what graciousness really meant.  I talked to my toddler about the importance of eating what is in front of her because there were children her age that didn’t even have water to drink let alone food.

The after effects were astounding.  Not only did my toddler who had been vehemently refusing to eat a bite of her school lunch for an entire week start to eat, my 9 and 7 year old started to catch each other when they found themselves complaining about the (truly) luxurious things in life.

Furthermore, my after school pick-up was greeted by “She ate her entire sandwich,” or “She tried a few bites of the vegetables.”

To further build all of their empathy skills we try to get involved with various food drives and fundraisers, all the while, reminding them that there are children their exact age that have absolutely nothing to play with and moreover, no buffet of choices for food.

It is interesting that teaching your kids to be gracious starts at a peculiarly early age.  The phrase “thank you” may be the third or fourth word they learn.  It seems as though it is embedded in their minds and it is the one phrase you won’t have to remind them to rehearse to the world.

However, as they get older, the phrase starts to lose meaning.  Thank you is a fore thought in the minds of anxious X-box players, and Shopkins enthusiasts.

The phrase becomes an automated response at the receiving end of a gift, and you realize you taught the phrase but never the true meaning.

That is why reminding kids, not just through your words, but through actual experiences around the world that they are blessed seems so integral to their future.

Hopefully, being grateful children will translate into generous adults.

The other day, my toddler came home from school and said, “Mummy, I ate my food and I just love to say thank you.”