I was at a school’s graduation ceremony which featured many educative and entertaining activities. There was one competition which was packaged to assess closeness between parents and their children. The competing parents were required to provide answers to some selected questions. Points were scored each time a parent’s answer matched with his or her child’s answer.
When a parent on the ‘hot seat’ was asked to mention her child’s favourite meal, my thirteen-year-old child seating beside me asked me what her favourite meal was. I hesitated for some minutes, while she kept watching me. I was still searching through my mind for events that will provide a clue, when she said that I may never get the answer.
I still went ahead and mentioned one meal. She shook her head in disagreement and said,“I actually have no favourite meal and you are responsible for it!”
This statement took me down memory lane. I recalled the efforts I made at communicating the family value that food selection is not allowed, and everybody should eat whatever food that is provided on the dining table at any point in time.
I consistently applied various strategies at different times to communicate this value with so much zeal and commitment that it etched deeply in my children’s minds even before the age of five years.
- At the time of introduction into adult foods, I would only stop at letting the food touch the baby’s tongue each time food was served.
- At the toddler stage, I would always take time to feed the child each time an unattractive meal was on the table.
- There were times I had to give our native dishes sweet names to make them attractive.
- It was necessary, sometimes, to make finishing an unattractive meal a prerequisite for drinking a favourite fruit juice.
- I had to tell fictional stories of children who died of symptoms related to malnourishment because they preferred particular meals and insisted on eating them all the time or those who became chronically diabetic as a result of wrongly guided food selection habits.
- I also held some informal teaching sessions on balanced diet during which I persuasively presented the nutritional values of our local foods to them.
Interestingly my children embraced my teachings with childish minds.
- Parents should decide and take a position on all issues.
- A solid foundation on discipline would be laid if family values are firmly communicated using various strategies so that the children will willingly embrace them.
- Parents should make efforts to ensure that children eat meals that contain essential nutrients.
Uchenna N. Nduka