Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Ultimate Bribe

Dinner with a three year old is a bit unpredictable, I've learned. Kai is generally a good eater. Meaning she eats all variety of things if you add up everything she has tried over her lifetime. And she doesn't have any foods that she refuses to eat as a rule -- except spicy food. She hates things with too much heat.

But, Kai is also a stubborn child who likes to be in charge. Which makes many dinners into a bit of a battle because she will declare she doesn't want to eat something we make just because she wants to dig her heels in. Even when she loves the food in question. Take mangoes, for instance. She loves them. What's not to love?

The other night when I made meatball sandwiches with a mango/strawberry fruit salad, Kai decided she wanted nothing to do with it. We learned long ago not to let Kai win her "stubborn wars" (as I like to call them) and have had a rule for awhile that she has to try at least one bite of everything we make for dinner (and more then one bite if she wants any sort of treat after dinner). I think because we are fairly consistent enforcers of this rule, Kai doesn't engage in battle too often anymore. Most nights, she will say "I don't WANT this. I don't LIKE it." And we will remind her that she needs to try one bite and she does. Easy peasy.

Not on meatball/mango/strawberry night this week. She was in a mood and decided she felt like seeing how far we would take the one bite rule. We told her she needed to eat one bite and she clamped her hand over her mouth and started gagging (Kai has drama queen down). We told her that if she wanted to watch the rest of her video after dinner (the one she was watching while we made dinner), she needed to eat her bites. She shook her head. We reminded her that one of these bites was of a mango (which she loves) and another was a strawberry (and she eats an entire pint of strawberries on her own every week at the Farmer's Market).

She whined, "I only want broccoli." Clever girl, asking for a vegetable that she doesn't usually like much but that we also did not have in stock, guaranteeing that we wouldn't be able to call her bluff. We ignored the broccoli request and stuck to our rule. She started sobbing about the broccoli (Eric was tempted to go to the store and get some broccoli just to see what would happen, but we held strong). We told her we would play Uno after dinner, but we needed everyone to finish taking a bite. She persisted. We took her Jessie doll away (because of the fit she was throwing more then her refusal to eat the food). She yelled at us (this is her newest expression of frustration -- she just lets out the highest pitched scream she can muster. So nice to be three and just be able to just let loose when someone is really irritating you!) She got a time out for the scream.

During time out, we regrouped. We told her to calm down. That she needed to eat her one bite, that it wasn't a big deal. And then I said, "guess what, Kailey?" She seemed relieved for the break and interested in the change of subject. I continued, "I got an owie today" (knowing that Kai loves owies). Now she was really curious and concerned. "How?" she asked. And then she said, "I want to see it." I knew she would ask to see it. She loves owies. I had her hooked. "I can show it to you, you just have to take your bites and then we can finish dinner and do other things like look at my owie and get a band-aid." Kai considered. She knew this was a critical decision point. She had refused the video, the Uno game, persisted when her Jessie doll was confiscated... but, the owie. It was hard to pass up the chance to see an owie, even in the interest of winning the stubborn battle (which, incidentally, is not a battle she has ever actually won... so, that may have factored into her decision making).

She relented and opened her mouth. I popped in a bite of mango. She ate it and demanded, "I want to see your owie." "Try a bit of meatball," I countered. She narrowed her eyes at me and opened her mouth and ate the meatball.

I showed her my owie. Luckily, it was a nice sized owie and didn't disappoint. "Ohhh.. mama. owie. Let's get a band-aid."

Battle over. Score one for the Owie Bribe. I have to remember that one. (And you thought the bribe was going to be a cupcake... the picture was just one from a recent birthday party. No relation to the actually bribery that we employ in this household. From now on, it's owie bribes all the way).

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