Perhaps you had this experiencing growing up as a child. You are lingering at the dinner table. No, that’s not right. No child lingers at the dinner table. He’s got places to go, things to do. If the meal is nearly over and a boy is still at the table, he’s stalling. Stalling because there is something still on his plate that we wishes would simply go away. He has no intention of eating it, especially now that it has grown cold through his intentional inattention.
But his mother comes from the “clean your plate” school of parenting. And it’s worse. She has planned a balanced diet for his long-term health. He wants to settle for imbalance because her plan includes some things he is convinced are not worth the stomach space.
The clock is ticking. Mom is not going to ignore his subtle culinary rebellion. Having a modicum of parent effectiveness training, she first tries a simple straightforward command, “Finish your food.” A whine erupts and she moves to squelch it with logic. “Just eat it. It’s good for you.” Obviously he has a different measure of what is good for him and silence ensues, hoping that his mother will see his logic.
She does not. But now she tries to appeal to his social conscience. “You need to eat this food. You are fortunate.” And then comes the tag line, “Think of all the starving children in India.”
My Mom and I repeated that scenario many a time when I was a young boy. She loved things like stewed tomatoes, spinach, and meat loaf. I couldn’t stand them. I came from a pastor’s family, so my Mom’s approach was a little more sophisticated. “Think of all the starving children in Bangladesh.”
I could be strong-willed. “Name one!” Mom never had a good answer to that one.
Be careful what you ask for. My family regularly entertained missionaries home on furlough. One evening, a missionary from Bangladesh, Rhoda Kauffman was sitting across the table from me. I forget what was on the menu, but Mom launched a first strike. “Rhoda, could you give Steve the name of a starving child in Bangladesh?”
Rhoda named several. Busted!
Thereafter, I could no longer use that defiant response, because Mom would name one.
(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn