When I teach my parenting class, whether it is the start of a 7-week series, or a parent ed talk at a preschool, I always start the same way. Imagine your child is now 25…what are the life skills you hope they have? The list looks similar across the board, things like compassionate, happy, responsible, good social skills, sense of humor, problem solver, resilient, etc. Then we talk about how those skills are built. This is the part I love, the part where we realize together that the skill-building starts NOW. Not when they are 13 or 18, but right now when our little ones are just starting to walk and talk and shine-- in the small teachable moments that happen throughout our day. We often refer to these moments as challenges or parenting hassles but this is the juicy part! This is WHEN these skills are developed - the action, the game time.
One item on my personal list of life skills for my daughters is a healthy relationship with food. This is partly because of my own fight against female stereotypes that were promoted in my life, but it is also because it is in my Sicilian heritage…
this deep love, enjoyment, and reverence for a satisfying meal with others.
I want them to see food as a beautiful, nourishing, cultural opportunity to connect, not as something to fear, manipulate, or use to control. This means that I need to model and offer lots of practice. I need to offer variety, enjoy it myself, teach healthy mindful eating habits, and teach them to listen to their body. It means that I invite them to participate and be a part of the process, from meal planning and grocery shopping to cooking and cleaning it up. It does not mean using dessert as a threat; nor forcing to take 5 more bites, nor controlling them with food, nor keeping them out of the kitchen and only being served the end product. That will only sabotage our final goal of a healthy relationship with food.
I started this the minute they were born, being mindful of my own relationship with food, and identity in the kitchen along with the choices I made with what to feed them and how. The empowering part? You as a family get to decide. You decide your values. You decide what the rules are, or what the culture is in your family. You get to be intentional. So if this is something on your list too, then have fun,
invite your children into the kitchen, and most importantly, start NOW.
Want more? Watch the Sproutable video on How do I cook dinner with little underfoot.
Julietta Skoog is a Certified Positive Discipline Advanced Trainer with an Ed.S Degree in School Psychology and a Masters Degree in School Counseling from Seattle University. She is the co-founder of Sproutable, science-backed online parenting insights, helping multitasking and sleep-deprived parents everywhere. Her trauma-informed expertise includes early child development, autism, learning disabilities, anxiety, behavior disorders, Positive Discipline, Social Thinking, and mindfulness. Her popular keynote speeches, classes, and workshops have been described as rejuvenating, motivating, and inspiring. Julietta has learned the most from her own three daughters.