Watching my mother dump 3 glasses of chocolate milk down the sink was enough to make us cry.
There were three children. Three glasses of chocolate milk. One rule: If anyone said it wasn’t fair that one glass seemed to have more chocolate milk than the other two, all three glasses got dumped. It seemed cruel, unnecessarily strict, one of the meanest things mom could do.
I can say with total confidence that my mother wasn’t trying to teach us kids a lesson in what fair means, she was simply trying to eliminate the whining. It worked.
This may seem too philosophical, too abstract, and not as important as other topics. But this is a mindshift that results in better and healthier eating all around, so stick with me.
In my last post, I talked about two different definitions of fair. Fair, I said, could be thought of as either equal or as just. In the equal version of fair, everyone gets the same amount of chocolate milk. In the just version of fair, everyone gets the amount of chocolate milk that’s right for them. And that’s how I knew my mother wasn’t trying to teach us what fair means.
Each time my mother poured chocolate milk she tried to make each glass the same. She was trying to teach us that fair means equal.
I guess my mother’s pouring skills weren’t up to our observation skills, so she opted to teach us that equal isn’t always obtainable. Mistakes get made. And that the amount of chocolate milk you got evened, or equalled, out over time. Those lessons, I’m sure you’ll agree, are definitely worth teaching children.
But fair=equal? Not when it comes to food. And especially not when it comes to treats. As the youngest, my glass of chocolate milk should have been the smallest. And if one of my brothers had just been to a birthday party, he shouldn’t even have a glass of chocolate milk at all.
By the way, my mother believed in teaching us that fair=just, but only when it came with a healthy dose of sexism. Read One for Girls, Two for Boys.
Don’t avoid teaching your kids that fair=just because you’re afraid of a meltdown. That simply kicks-the-can down the road.
My mother could have:
- Always given the smallest chocolate milk to either the smallest person (me) or to the person who had already had the most treats.
- Given all three children a certain number of chocolate milk “tickets” to use during the week. Once the tickets were gone, so was the chocolate milk.
- Treated the whining as a behavioral problem independent of the food.
Teaching children that being fair with food means everyone gets what anyone gets produces children who eat when they’re not hungry just because others are eating, feel “treat insecure,” and who conflate eating with emotions.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~