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Monday, June 04, 2012

Motherhood Mondays: French Kids Eat Everything

When we were on on vacation last month, I read an eye-opening book that completely changed the way we feed Toby...

This spring, I started feeling unsure of the way we were feeding Toby. He was eating frequent snacks--Cheerios, cranberries--and never seemed hungry for dinner. We'd prepare healthy meals, and he'd pick at them and then want to get down. It was frustrating, and I wanted to make changes.

Luckily, the new book French Kids Eat Everything had just come out. To be honest, I was getting a little tired of books about how the French do everything perfectly and Americans mess everything up. But I pored over my copy, and it really, really resonated with me. Karen Le Billon tells the story of how her young family left Canada and moved to France to spend a year in her husband's tiny hometown. What Karen didn't expect was that she and her two (very picky) daughters would completely change the way they ate.

In her funny memoir, Le Billon shares 10 rules that she learned from the French about how to raise happy, healthy eaters. Here are the seven that jumped out most to me...
1. Parents schedule meals. Kids eat what adults eat.
When Le Billon's daughters went to French schools, the menu was amazing: Raw radishes! Saute de boeuf! Alaskan hake! Blue cheese! Country pate with pickles! Their young palates were exposed to strong flavors. Le Billon also talks about seeing a nine-month-old baby happily gumming a piece of Roquefort cheese! French children eat three meals a day, plus a snack (or "le goûter") at 4pm. Parents choose the menu, and there are no substitutions.

2. Eat family meals together--and make them feel special.
Le Billon explains that kids really respond to the "ceremony" of everyday French meals. "The French never, ever, eat without putting a tablecloth on the table," she writes. "They even have a special phrase for setting the table: dresser la table." This has a marvelous effect on children, she says. Candles, pretty plates, cloth napkins--"It immediately puts them on their best behavior," she says. How fun and magical for little ones.

3. Food is not a reward, punishment or bribe.
This rule could have been written just for me. As Toby would get into the stroller, I'd give him a few cranberries, and when he got into the car seat, I'd give him a cracker. It was like giving treats to a puppy! If he was sad to leave the playground, I'd ask enticingly, "Want to go home and have some strawberries?" Food was being used as a reward and bribe. Using food like this can lead to emotional eating later in life, reports Le Billon. We want children to have a deep respect for food--and not just learn to eat whenever they're bored, upset or tired. Nowadays, if Toby is cranky when we're heading home, I say, "Let's go see Daddy! Let's go play with your train!" So much better than using food as a reward, right?

4. Eat your veggies. Key: Think variety.
The French typically serve veggies first at a meal, when kids are hungriest, says Le Billon. Mix up a different yummy dish each day: Grated carrot salad. Sliced cucumbers with vinaigrette. Beets and oranges. Endive salad with Emmental cheese and croutons. Experiment, go crazy!

5. You don't have to like it, but you do have to taste it.
The dinner table should not be a battle ground. French parents don't fuss or hover, says Le Billon: "If the child refuses to eat, the parents simply take the food away without too much comment." Interestingly, my friend Courtney's wise pediatrician recently told her, "Refrain from begging or even asking them to eat, and do not praise them for eating. Keep the conversation positive and not focused on the food, so that the kids will want to be at the table." How eye-opening! Before reading this, I'd constantly encourage Toby to eat and praise him when he finished something. What great advice to just talk about other things and not make food feel like an issue. (And, amazingly, he eats more happily and robustly when we ignore his eating.)

Still, even if your child doesn't want to eat something, they at least have to taste it, say the French. According to nutritionists, most children have to taste new foods 7-15 times before they willingly agree to eat them! So if kids initially don't like a certain food, it doesn't mean they never will. Fascinating, right?

6. No snacking. It's OK to feel hungry between meals.
I had an "aha" moment when I read this rule. For some reason, before this, I had always been nervous that Toby was hungry, since I assumed he should never be hungry. When I breastfed my tiny newborn, and tried to get his weight up, I always wondered if he was getting enough milk, and since then, I've continued assuming that he should be constantly satiated. But why? It's OK to have feelings of hunger between meals. "Hunger is the best seasoning," say the French. And it's true: Food tastes better when you're hungry, and kids will eat more "real" food when they're hungry, instead of filling up on snacks. Also, the book explains, it's good for kids to learn how to handle the feeling of hunger; otherwise, children may become adults who feel the need to eat something at the first hunger twang instead of waiting for the next meal.

7. Slow food is happy food. As in, eat slowly.
By government decree, French children spend a minimum of thirty minutes at the school lunch table--even when they're teeny! Meals aren't just about eating, of course, but also about socializing with friends. My friend in New York recently joked about trailing her son around the apartment at dinnertime, trying to pop bites of food in his mouth, and ending up in his play tent with bite-size pieces of chicken in each hand. Hilarious, but definitely not ideal! Teaching children to patiently sit through meals and enjoy conversations with loved ones is such an important life skill.

So! What do you think of all this? Do you want to read the book? (I'd highly recommend it.) Is this how you're already eating with your children? Not so much? Do you agree or disagree with it? Any specific parts? I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts...
P.S. Four other genius tips from (guess who) the French.

(Photo by Elliott Erwitt. Illustrations by Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything)

310 comments:

1 – 200 of 310   Newer›   Newest»
Erica Herold said...

So interesting! I am definitely going to try some of these with my picky, picky two year old.

Krista said...

I love this. And for the most part it is how our family functions. I have a four year old and a two year old. These rules apply (with the exception of snacks-they do get one between meals). Just last week I made a butternut squash curry. My son KNEW he didn't like squash but he also knew he had to eat it. He tasted it and marvelled, "Oh, I like this!" Knock on wood, my kids eat almost anything and it makes life...especially going out, much easier.

stephanie said...

Yes, I love it! I agree with all of them. I don't have kids yet but how I'm going to feed them is actually something I think about a lot. These are all rules I want to go by! Great post :)

Stephanie said...

I love this!! This is pretty much how I was raised. I didn't get a special, separate meal. I ate what was offered. If I didn't want it, my mom put it in the fridge for later, and if I got hungry, that was what I ate.

I did, however, have to snack out of necessity. Low bloodsugar meant that a hunger pang could quickly turn into a loss of consciousness. On the bright side, I had a doctor-mandated mid-morning snack all the way through 8th grade. ;-)

stefanie hurtado said...

this seems like great advice for adults too! ;)

the missis said...

I just finished _Bringing up Bebe_ and it had a bit about feeding kiddos. I am going to check out _French Kids Eat Everything_. I love checking out your blog!

Paula said...

I love these. It'll be some time before my child (due in July) gets to this stage but I bought this book after reading about it on Marion Nestle's Food Politics blog. I like #5. I used to volunteer for a children's cooking class and no one was forced to eat the food but they had to taste it. You'd be surprised at what they thought they didn't like but did.

kate said...

I love this strategy, it totally makes sense. As I sat here reading this with my afternoon snack of kettlecorn the only thing I questioned was no snacking. I love snacks and I don't think people would want to be around me if I didn't get one. I might knock them over with my eye rolling. I think when it comes to metabolizing food and the need for a snack to tide you over, everyone's a bit different.

ps. I'm anxiously awaiting my copy of French Women for All Seasons :)

skemiloo said...

I just bought this last week! Looking forward to continuing to encourage my 19 month old with healthy eating habits. He does so great now, eats what we do, and I want him to continue to be a well-rounded eater.

KristiMcMurry said...

Not a parent yet, but I'm so interested in the eating habits we develop as kids. Some of these points are just fascinating (eye opening) to me! I am definitely adding this to my wish-list, even though I don't have a kid :)

Stacy said...

My mum followed a lot of these rules. My favourite is the one about eating together. Some of the best times we had as children with our parents were at the dinner table, you learn to appreciate each other more when you are interacting at a time when you are most human (eating!).
:)

Jessica Thiessen said...

I think I screamed 'AMEN' with every rule!

Pegah said...

so true, i kept giving my baby snacks also, whenever she fussed, we also eat food in front of the TV. I know, so bad, but the last week, we have been sitting as a family at the dinner table, and eating together. it has revolutionized how my almost 2 year old eats. we give her a fork and spoon and let her do her thing, she has actually been eating very well, and chimes into the conversation with her random words.

Amanda // Paper & Crush Design said...

I love this. I have a very picky eater but sneaks in the pantry to eat unlimited amounts of cereal or chips. We are considering a lock on the pantry. We leave for Europe next week. It will be a perfect time to implement these rules because he will have no other choice! I absolutely want to buy this book! Hugs to you for sharing this! :-)

Liz said...

I agree with a previous poster that this is how I was raised and how I am raising my children. I will occasionally have my one year old eat something different if we are having something spicy or soup that I don't want to feed her etc. but otherwise I totally agree with this. It amazes me when people allow their toddlers to rule their own diet and I believe that picky eaters are made, not born.

Elise said...

I I have a friend who implements these ideas as her baby is just beginning to eat solid foods. I'm interested to see how it changes his palette.

yen said...

This one was so much more helpful to me than Bringing up Bebe though I read them both. We've been trying some of the ideas out and I have to say the no-snacking thing is working! We make the 4pm snack a thing and now they look forward to it. Now if only they would eat more veggies. :)

Nisha said...

Oh boy, I don't have a kid as yet but this post sure has been enlightening for me for my future child.

Some excellent advice in there.

I have seen my cousins and aunts running after their children and playing, thinking the more playful and funny they try to be the easier the child will eat. And also with all the "please baby, please eat....okay just one last bite...then i'll take you there, and there"...

So the children never sat at the table along with family to have food normally. Becoming more of a brat as they grew up.

And why, I must look at myself too. Back when I was studying, I used to have my breakfast, lunch, dinner, any juice or snacks in between - all at my computer desk at home while I just surfed around internet all day without doing anything important.

I sure wouldn't want my child to do this. I will include more family time and less fuss during meals.

I will keep the tips from this post in my mind.
Thanks for sharing, Joanna!


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Lisa Degliantoni said...

Great synopsis of a book I must read. I struggle with the amount of food that my ravenous boys consume each day and it's got to be caused by my feeding them A. the wrong foods and B. too many snacks! I'm off to Barnes & Noble to but this book! Merci!

Joanna Goddard said...

krista, that is awesome!

kat78 said...

Hi there! (;
This is also the way I was brought up!
And I was born and raised in Germany.
Maybe its the traditional European way?

Although there are less and less people living that way in Europe, we forget how to cook, too...

Lisa V said...

We have a similar philosophy in our home. It is up to the parent to provide nutritious, balanced meals, and it is up to the child how much he/she chooses to eat of it. We insist that our little guy tastes each thing, but he doesn't need to continue eating it nor finish anything. He can have control over his own dinner in that way, which is empowering, and yet we know that no matter what he eats, he is getting good quality food with nutritional value. This doesn't mean meals are always without battles, however... sometimes getting him to "taste it!" is just as hard as getting some kids to eat everything!

It can be especially challenging when I've prepared a big meal and he doesn't eat... but I have to let go of my own associations and emotions with this. It's not the end of the world.

Oh, and why is it that every single group activity in North America seems to involve "snack time"?! We enroll him in programs and if we don't give him a snack, he is the only kid left out! In these situations we have to include something, usually something that's mostly water such as celery or cucumber, just so he isn't sitting there while the other kids eat!

Margoulette said...

As a French mother of two living in the US I found the post most interesting. My youngest son is now almost 9 months old, and I started 'diversification' when he turned 6 months, introducing fruits and vegetables. I have to say he's a really good eater and so is my other son, now 14 years old. He has always enjoyed good food and was lucky enough to attend public schools in Paris where food was made from scratch on site everyday.
Food is such an important part of French culture ... I must admit I cringed last night when I saw parents pacifying their kids with Utz cheese balls at the grocery store ... but so did my husband, and he's American !

Joanna Goddard said...

haha, jessica :)

Giulia said...

We've always eat as a family, we never cook different food for the kids and they must try before they say they don't like it.
My pediatrician told us not to use food(bottle at the time) to comfort the child when it pain or otherwise, so we try not to use it as an award, however, they do get a little dessert as a reward if they ate their dinner well. Snacking is tricky I find...there is also a belief that you should eat smaller meals every couple of hours, rather than 3 larger meals.

Hilary Nicole said...

After studying abroad in France last summer, I realized how wonderful dinner time was. I sat with my host parents for two hours most nights. It was so wonderful to relax and chat while eating delicious food. Not snacking + eating three meals a day plus a snack at four pm are the best words of advice. We definitely followed these rules unknowingly while in France. Their portions are much smaller as well. I actually could finish a meal at a restaurant.. it was a miracle.

Thanks for sharing!

XX Hilary

Meadow said...

I'm actually quite surprised that these rules would be new to anyone. Maybe it's because I was raised by European parents, but we did the majority of these "rules" each day. I don't get the constant snacking thing or the not eating meals together. From as early as I can remember I ate pretty much the same stuff as my parents did (unless I really didn't like it, then I wasn't forced to eat it).

I grew up to appreciate food and home cooking, and I really enjoy cooking as an adult. I used to spend hours watching my mom prepare meals from scratch and learned a lot from her.

Jill GG (good life for less) said...

I recently read Bringing Up BeBe... I know not everyone loved it, but I felt like it was just what I needed/wanted to hear as a parent in a lot of ways. One tip that I gleaned from that book is the same as #4 - to serve the veggies first as an appetizer almost. My kids just devour their veggies this way - such an easy tip! Plus, usually the veggies take less time to cook than the meat so it works great. Or I just serve a little side salad to my kids before "serving" dinner. So easy!

Katie said...

I'm adding this to my mental list of things to remember when I become a mom. I'm sure it's much easier said than done, but it makes so much sense!

Emikos Werid Unexplained thoughts said...

Well I was never made to eat water I didnt like but had to taste it that made me like weird food now as an adult. We also ate all of what everyone ate here in nyc there are alot of cultures as so back then so I acquired a tatse for different culture foods.and I pass that on to the little ones around me

clarissel said...

I am not quite sure I understand the current American obsession with French parenting. Growing up in French speaking Switzerland and going to a French school, the major French trend was parents slaping their kids around or just totally ignoring them as they cried. Slaping is totally run of the mill parenting in French culture. Yes, we ate adult food and were taught to wait for meals but come on, it cannot be that bad in the States!

Let's get real and not overgeneralize or overidealize the French...

http://www.ramblingmuse.com

Victoria said...

A great read. I agree with all these ideas and try to put many of them into practice with my kiddos too. Doesn't always work especially the odd snack here and there (but when they go without the snack, meals are devoured with relish and hunger and that makes everyone feel good). I definitely use the bribe / reward situation a bit too often! Sometimes a mum's gotta do what a mum's gotta do right!

Joanna Goddard said...

lisa, i agree!!! it's so tricky to not let your child snack when other children are. when we're at the playground and other kids are carrying around plastic containers of cheerios, it's hard to explain to toby why he can't have any. the second half of this book actually talks about that -- the family moves back to canada and they struggle with keeping their french style of eating. super interesting.

Joanna Goddard said...

yen, i agree! i thought this was way more helpful than bringing up bebe -- and also i thought the writer was much more likable.

J+H @ Beyond The Stoop said...

i love this. though i don't have children, i can't imagine feeding them "kid" processed food while i eat homemade, natural food.

i also think that routinely eating at the dinner table helps. this is how i grew up, not knowing any differently, and just ate what was put in front of me. my parents must have done something right i suppose!!

Alyssa said...

I agree with everything except the snacking rule. I have major physical problems if I go too long between my meals. Usually between breakfast and lunch, I can become very sick if I don't eat something midway through. My body just cant make it with so many hours between. That being said, I don't much on something constantly. And I feel like that may definitely be true for kids who are still growing.

Stephanie Marie said...

I am currently reading this with my husband (baby is due in 3 weeks)!

We also read Bringing Up Bebe. Both books were SO GREAT. Both examples of common sense approaches to raising healthy and happy kids.

I love Le Billion's "rules" and how she has incorporated these into their life without sugar-coating their experience in France. In a down-to-earth style she recounts their life in France and what she learned.

Love this!

Dora said...

Honestly, the fact that all of these "great" parenting skills gets credited to the French all the time frustrates me. My mother, who is Slovak owns a daycare in Canada, and this is exactly what her policy is when dealing with children who are fussy eaters. She brought me up on the same principles---and NEVER gave me crackers or cheerios as a form of snack or a meal! Countless times, she's had children come in with their parents insisting that they will most likely not eat anything else but crackers because that is how they are at home---spending 3 consecutive days at the day care will usually cure the picky eaters.
It is not just the French, I think it's all of Europe that has the same habits when bringing up kids.

leigh said...

this is how i was raised - my mom used to split food into two piles and we'd have to eat at least one of them. Even though she know we'd sneak some of it back into the second pile... we were still trying it ;) We never ate different from my parents, we ate mostly real food, and it was never used as a bribe, and always always - meals were at the table - together.

I don't necessarily agree with eating only 3 meals and one snack though. We don't have kids - but we eat breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. Our snacks are a babybel light and piece of fruit, or peanut butter and jam (all sugar-free) on toast.

Amy Powell said...

just trying to put some of these rules into place for me & my husband is hard! but correcting ourselves now for the eventual kids we're going to have is so important.

Dana said...

This is really intriguing to me. My son is 2 1/2 and we've been encountering some (expected, but challenging nonetheless) behavioral issues lately. I sometimes find myself wondering if it's because he hasn't eaten much, so I, like you, push the snacks. I think his nutrition suffers because of it, though.

I'll definitly be experimenting with some of these tips. Thanks for the post!

Jo said...

As a chef working in fine dining restaurants, I spent years cooking buttered noodles for youngsters while their parents ate steak, venison, sea bass and lobster. I vowed that when I had a child he or she would eat real food. Today my 15 month old son eats everything from Japanese to Middle Eastern to Indian cuisine. He eats exactly what we eat, unless it's very spicy. Teaching my son to enjoy and respect food is such a pleasure and reminds me to slow down and model that behavior as well.

Carolanne said...

I know that it's unfair as a person with no children to criticize friends... so let's just say a whole lot of North Americans (and one or two in particular) let their kids completely dictate during meal times. I've watched my friend feed her kids yogourt and cheese strings every 30 minutes... or just on demand and they never eat their dinners. She and her husband would complain bitterly if they were invited anywhere where there weren't chicken fingers served to their kids - including at a Christmas dinner. I eventually stopped going to their house because I nearly had a 5 year relieve himself on my salmon fillet because, "no you don't have to wear clothes during dinner". My boyfriend's niece is french in the making - 4 years old, eats with a fork and just gets a smaller portion of whatever the adults eat. She makes us pick the basil of her pizza but, she's definitely tasted it. It really is up to parents to re-envision their own relationships with food.

Beth said...

Great article! Completely agree with these rules. Sometimes it's hard to remember that YOU are the parent and set the rules. It might not work the first time, but by the 2nd or 3rd, it is starting to sink in. Variety is also definitely key. I've noticed that even some of Olivia's favorites start getting ignored if I serve them too many times in a row (i.e. peas and carrots). But if I give them a break for a while, she always starts eating them with enthusiasm!

Kipin said...

I don't have kids, but I realize i should use these tips on myself and my picky new husband. I snack, eat when I'm bored or as a reward and harbor practically all the other terrible habits she mentions.

Ana said...

I really like this post. I don't have kids but hope to in the future and have thought about raising kids and food in particular. I feel i was raised similarly in many ways. We never had special kid meals, we ate what was made and my mom never really food shopped for us kids, she basically bought what she liked and we ate it (adult food). The only real kid food or junk food we had in the house was kid cereals, think coco puffs, captain crunch. I distinctly remember there always being Haagen Dazs rum raisin ice cream in the freezer -- not so kid friendly, it was obviously for my mom. However, we were never deprived, we were allowed soda, ice cream, potato chips, hard candy, whatever we wanted, but we only ate that stuff outside the house. Another thing I distinctly remember is never being forced to eat everything on our plate or something we didn't like, though we were encouraged to try. And my mother always served us smaller portions. Even when we'd ask for larger helpings, she'd always say "eat what you have first and if you want more, i'll serve you more". She hated the thought of wasting food and knew we could only eat so much.

Jules said...

I have to say, I'm sick of hearing about how French people do everything perfectly, too. I think these ideas are more European than French. The Italians also celebrate their food and occasions to share a family meal. Here, not so much. Americans it seems will eat anywhere, any time. I like number six, that it's okay for kids to feel hungry between meals--people don't go around saying that too much.

Pamela said...

Frankly I think it's stupid that this is touted as a "new" thing, esp. for Americans. It's common sense. Many cultures (in fact, I'd say most if not all aside from over-indulgent Americans) interact this same way with kids and food. Out of everyone I know in my life, the only picky eaters and the ppl who admit to being spoiled by food (picky eaters, specially prepared meals for them, etc.) are all Americans. Strange coincidence.

Marissa said...

I'm 24 and living on my own and these are just some good tips for myself! Haha

Kuky said...

This book has been on my to read list since I first heard about it on the illustrator's website. My daughter is a very picky eater and my son is not. I'm so worried he'll go his sister's route though and start refusing food. Hopefully I can get her to follow in his footsteps and get them both eating right.

Ellen said...

I am Belgian (Flemish, not the French side ;) ), and I was raised with the exact same rules. When I and my sisters were kids I think we sometimes might have had more "kiddy" food, like fish sticks, but those disappeared by the time we were all over ten. And if we did have "simple" food, my parents ate it too, so it didn't ever seem like we were eating something less fancy than our parents. And definitely the "you have to taste it" thing resonates!
The rule "Food is not a reward, punishment or bribe." sounds so normal to me, as in it would never even occur to me! Haha, that goes to show how much influence your culture can have on day to day issues. :)

LC Taylor said...

Thanks for sharing Joanna! This is great advice, not only for dealing with kids, but for our adult selves as well.

Lotus Blossom Design said...

Thank you for this. I too have picky eaters. One mostly b/c of food sensitivities/allergies which made me expand my way of cooking meals, I think for the better. But I was still making many different options. Now he's almost 4 so I need to try to incorporate those French suggestions to make my life easier-LOL! Thanks again.
Bianca

Kathryn said...

This is just not true. This is how older French families worked (note in the book that all of this was coming from her in-laws). Yes, they have more and better food at schools. Yes children don't snack. But as some one who nannyed (nannied?)extensively in Paris, parents fed the kids, put them to bed and then had a leisurely French dinner ALONE. The kids ate lots of pasta, sausages, and kid foods. And on weekends, they would put the cereal and milk out on the table the night before so the kids could make their breakfast and let the parents sleep in a while longer!

There are even restaurants in Paris with a glass, sound-proof play room so parents can supervise their children while eating dinner and the kids go play!

They may be more reasonable generally about food, but families where both parents work do things pretty similar, in the US and France.

Sarah H. said...

Like most of the French parenting books popular these days, it seems like so much the advice is just common sense parenting. (I'm with you that I'm kind of tired of being told that American parents need to learn the "French" way.) I'm American, as is my husband, and this is pretty much the way we've approached food for our child. She eats what we do, when we do, and she loves food! I really think all of these tips are wonderful but not uniquely French. Maybe I'm just being a defensive American here, but enough all ready with good parenting = European parenting books. Sigh...

Kate said...

Great list! I'm so happy my parents made us try whatever was on the table and din't give us alternatives if we didn't like something (although I'm sure I hated it then). It was okay to be little picky, but I learned to appreciate so many wonderful foods.
I realized when I babysat a lot that vegetables get such a bad reputation from cartoons and toys and books and other kids in school, and it can seriously mess up trying to feed a good, healthy meal. They may have never even tried something themselves, but because their favorite character hates peas, they're going to hate peas, too.

Camille said...

I agree. It is crucial to have an appreciation for foods at early age, then you will easily develop appreciation and feel grateful to many other things in life. Excellent post!

Marcy said...

we do a lot of these things. For the eating meals together thing... I think it's easy for us because we always ate dinner at a geriatric time anyway so we didn't have to adjust much to eat early so our daughter can go to bed by 7. We give her what we eat though sometimes it's deconstructed - tacos and things like that don't work great for tiny hands. Her new thing is that she wants it in a bowl or on a plate with her spoon even though she hasn't figured out how to spoon things out and into her mouth yet (she's got no problems if we load the spoon for her) and still ends up eating with her fingers (she's 13 mon).

gec said...

I don't know that a phrase is "special" if it's exactly the same as we say it in English?

Lauren E. said...

this is absolutely fascinating. i don't even have kids (yet) but i think i'm going to buy and read this.

ohdizzle said...

I love these rules! I'm not a mom, but I really would want to use these guidelines with my kids one day. And, to be honest, with myself! I still need to work on that "not using food as a reward" rule...

FrancesVettergreenVisualArtist said...

While I agree this is a fairly common-sense approach, and certainly not exclusive to the French (I'm Canadian, no French background at all, and this is how everyone I know was raised) but I also agree with other posts above that many kids need a morning snack as well.

And I disagree vehemently with the "picky kids are made, not born" idea! I've always had sit-down meals with my boy, and except for the few months of purée as an infant, never cooked him a separate meal...but he honestly prefers that his food is not mixed up. He says, reasonably, that he can't see what's in it. Is it really such a bad thing that he gets noodles, sliced chicken and tomato slices while we enjoy our pasta in rose sauce?

nak244 said...

I had the opportunity to study in Paris for a month last year, and I stayed with a wonderful French lady. Her little grandson who was one year old was always at the apartment, and I was amazed to see that every time they were eating something, they would first pop a little taste of that food in the baby's mouth. The baby seemed to love it. They said that it helps him get used to different flavors, and they also said that it prevents food allergies if kids get used to foods early. I don't know if that's true or not, but it's an interesting though!

Anonymous said...

Neither I nor my parents are French, and we did not grow up in France, but the book describes exactly how I grew up eating with my family. Many commenters said, and I agree, that this is probably how most other non-American cultures raise their kids vis a vis food.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the french thing has gotten a little old, but I live in paris now and I used to live in ny and there are differences. Like you'll see a mom spank her kid FOR REAL on the playground. I think you'd get arrested for that in Park Slope ;) And the snacking thing is very true. Walk into any park in Paris and there will 100s of kids playing and not a single sippy or apple or "snack trap". None. I just had a friend visiting from SF and I had forgotten about the food thing -- every time we got in a car or a cab or sat down on a bench she pulled out the organic puffs and dried fruit. I mean, her hand was in her bag getting the snack the MOMENT seat belts were on. It's bizarre.

(I felt the same thing pre-kids when I realized people could not physically walk into a 30-minute meeting without a water bottle or a cup of coffee. Why is everyone so thirsty!)

Micaila Wow! said...

About a year ago you posted a blog about a cookbook for 'real food' for babies. I remember because the post was so timely as my now 18-month daughter was about to begin solids. I didn't end up buying the book you mentioned but instead got Baby Led Weaning by Murkett, and introduced solids to my infant in this way.
Now my daughter has a wonderful appetite and palate. We love meal times. She rarely has empty snacks or "kid" food.
I will add though, in my opinion, for the little ones conforming to a rigid three meal-a-day with one snack doesn't feel intuitive. My toddler's day could look like this, 1 sm. home-made apricot muffin for breakfast. 1 hard-boiled egg as a late morning snack. Leftover lamb and green beans for lunch. Rice cracker and goat cheese as a late afternoon snack. White beans and kale for dinner (large portion, as this is when her appetite is greatest). A hungry toddler is an unwinding toddler.
I love the idea of the dressing the table (more laundry :-/) and making it fancy! Yay!

lisacng said...

I think the only thing we have to work on is not praising him if he eats, reprimanding when he doesn't. Great review of the book. I am also sick of hearing that french do everything better ;)

Shannon said...

Would you please post an update in a few weeks on how this is working for your family? My son is 23 months and we are in a similar eating pattern with him. It was mostly fine because he'd eat a variety of mostly healthy foods but all of a sudden he is accepting fewer and fewer of the foods he used to like and throwing tantrums if I even put them on the table. I'm losing my mind with frustration. I hate that feeding him has become so stressful! Of course all "maintenance" (diaper change, bath, teeth brushing, nail clipping...) has become a battle lately, so maybe it is just a phase. Some days I feel like just letting him live on cheese and crackers and letting him be a grubby mess with gross opium den fingernails. :)

Meredith said...

Both my parents are excellent cooks, and even now our social activities when I'm home with them revolve around putting together a delicious meal, pouring some wine and eating around the table together. When I visit homes where that is not the case, it always feels like something is missing.
Also, interesting to think that so often you hear, "eat small meals many times per day." Ie, snacking is healthy and good for you. Nice to remember the other side of it, too!

OliviaKyle said...

Love this, except for the fact I feel like my almost 2 year old is always been fed better and healthier than we feed ourselves, he eats healthy, us, not so much!

Sara Wetmore said...

Great post! I often find my myself using food as a reward/bribe for my 14 month old, knowing full well that it could lead to emotional eating when he's older. I try to limit his snacking to one in the late afternoon, but he knows where we keep the crackers and stuff and he just pulls at the cupboard doors until either my husband or I gives in. It's not easy to say no to a child who is telling you he's hungry for something. Ignoring that seems just as wrong as allowing him to snack!

Sneaky Magpie said...

These are great rules, I do worry about my son not getting enough food but I did cut out snacking before meals and now we cook dinner together and he chomps on veggies while I chop them, he will experiment with everything, cucumber (big love), celery, even raw broccoli. He also loves fruit but he only gets it after dinner or lunch or as a late morning snack. I need to stop praising him though, I tend to do it when he is eating with a fork or spoon (he is 17 months and it's a new thing).

Florence said...

I am French and this is how I was raised but for me it's just common sense.
One thing though: we do have snack. But like the other meals it's at fixed hour (usually 4pm) for what we call "le goûter". I studied for one year in the US and the main difference found was that people was snacking all day long and none of my american friends was cooking!

Debra said...

I have four children (2 boys & 2 girls) ages 9-15. Some are picky eaters and some are adventurous. We eat meals together. If they don't want to eat something I made I don't take offense. Even my developmentally delayed child has expanded his food choices with age.

Merrilyn said...

This is a very interesting topic for me. I don't think there is anything particularly "French" about helping kids learn to appreciate good food and meals. Most of the suggestions listed were true in my home growing up, and we are not even a little bit French! I find that when my kids and I are out and about, especially with a group of friends, I am usually the only one who doesn't pack a snack. Now, we do usually have bottles of water, but we live in Florida, and it is so flipping hot most of the year that it is foolish to leave home without water. But the really eye-opening thing for me was subbing in the pre-K room at my daughter's school a few weeks ago. Those kids absolutely cannot handle the feeling of hunger. School starts at 8, then around 9:30, they have a snack, and then after morning dismissal at 11, the remaining students have lunch. They are constantly clamoring for a snack. And when it was actually time for a snack, their parents pack a whole meal's worth of food. I asked them if they ate breakfast, and they all said that they did. So they are getting what amounts to 6 meals a day (breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner), and all of it was processed garbage, like Lunchables. I was horrified. No wonder we as a nation are so obese.

Erika said...

i think i am the odd one out - my five year old has autism and a pediatric feeding disorder, sensory issues, anxiety disorder (and some other random things, too). getting her to eat is VERY hard and we have spent years in occupational therapy trying to get her to eat. if only it was so easy to just implement these rules (yes, i have tried).

for my two year old (almost three year old)- she is generally a good eater, and these rules really do apply.

i think if you have a typical child, these rules are great. if you have a child who - for whatever reason- operates outside "the norm" - these sweeping generalizations don't really fit.

i often feel judged and alienated because of my five year old's eating habits. it is what it is. she is alive. she is healthy. she may only eat 10 different foods, but she is thriving anyway.

:-)

Aubrey said...

Perfect. My mom didn't let my brother and me be picky eaters. We ate what we were given or we didn't eat. Simple!
Side note: always best to eat veggies at the beginning of the meal because they break down quick, otherwise they putrefy on top of all the other food in the stomach and cause all kinds of indigestion/gas problems. ;]

Anonymous said...

A lot of people say, That's not French! That's how we were raised.
And I agree! But TODAY in america, people eat very differently than 25-35-45 years ago when we were kids. People eat while walking now. Babies in strollers eating and drinking. A snack in every purse. A stop in every cafe for a quick coffee and a muffin. We didn't do this then, and do do it now. There's a reason why childhood obesity is up x00% in the last 15 years.

Did anyone read Mark Bittman's op ed in the Times a couple of weeks ago. Kids in NY can now have breakfast at home, again for free at school, and then AGAIN for a mid-morning breakfast in case kids on the bus didn't make it to the free breakfast. Then lunch, of course, served promptly at 11am!

Shannon B said...

Growing up, dinner was the most important time of day. And except for on rare occasions, we always ate together as a family of 5. Everybody had their special place at the table, which we took turns setting. Sometimes my parents talked about their day, sometimes we talked about our days. Some dinners were better than others (ie, schnitzel was better than stirfry), but my siblings and I always just ate whatever was served to us... because we were hungry, and because we weren't given any other options. ...Worked like a charm! I now eat almost everything, and some of my most vivid childhood memories are of sitting around the dinner table.

Anonymous said...

i love the 5:42 pm anonymous comment--i think it seems very true that it's not just french, it's how many americans of a certain age were also raised as children. america's attitude toward food has changed enormously in the past 10/25/50 years and we are increasingly eager to fill any kind of hunger and snack all the time.
i am young and don't have children, but i think i will adopt a few of these rules for myself :) i love the idea of setting the table with a tablecloth anytime you eat anything. i am a grad student and i so often just grab a quick snack instead of eating a real meal. i think i would feel better to stop and pay more attention to food, its presentation, and taking care of myself.
anyway, this was such a great and thought-provoking post! i love that it engaged potentially controversial issues with such aplomb and i look forward to coming back and reading all the comments, always such a great part of your posts.
--tania

Anonymous said...

This is how I've raised my child and most of us South Africans do too. We've just moved to the UK and the differences in how people here raise/feed/discipline their children is fascinating. It's quite unpleasant actually and I think we'll be moving to France!

stacy said...

I def. want to get the book- I think these are awesome points and we follow some of them currently but could definately work on a few others, like using treats as a reward for our 3 yr old., and snacking. Thanks for this post!

Abby - Bright Yellow World said...

Even as a childless adult, this really resonated. I need to take some of these rules to heart, myself!

Rebecca said...

I'm french too and yes, this is pretty much the way we were brought up !
It's funny to read it analysed down like that because for us it kind of goes without saying I guess :)
"Le goûter" is indeed vvvvery important, and thank god because we have so many good stuff to eat here :)

Anonymous said...

Would you suggest this book for a parent who has a child low on the weight percentage? Our daughter eats like a bird. She's been falling on the weight growth curve. I've thought about this book, but wasn't sure if it was a waste as every calorie for her counts. We follow the daycare three meals with two snack schedule.

junebug said...

Having kids has really made me realize how wrong-thinking I am, personally, about food.

I am trying to not treat food as a reward/bribe, or . . . as an excuse. Yes, there are definitely times when I have let my child get too tired/hungry/frustrated and they lose it. I mean lose it. But there's also that place where we're uncomfortable and we have to keep it together, regardless.

Letting our children by any sort of uncomfortable (hunger included) lets them learn that things aren't always going to be perfect, but we are the master of our circumstances.

I think lately it's not just snacking all of the time that is our problem, but doing anything we want all of the time. And it is good for our kids to see that they don't have to give into their smallest whim in order to be happy but, in fact, the opposite is often true.

mö said...

joanna - I live in germany and this is exactly, EXACTLY! what I´ve done with our three year old son. and it really works great! he´s such a good eater, enjoys his meals pretty much. yesterday we were in a good restaurant - he liked to choose his meal and drinks and decided pasta with some salmon and a glass of hot milk. SO SWEET!!!

by the way: he refuses to eat if he´s not hungry - I´m so glad about that, I´m such an emotional eater...

and he does´nt like sweets at all. I often wonder, if he´s really my son *smile*.

thank you for posting this - it encouraged me to go on! feeding children in a healthy, scheduled way isn´t accepted by all - even in the kindergarden we got problems because he refuses birthday cakea and sweets and all that snacking...

herzgruß

smile2grace said...

I most definitely agree with EVERYTHING you just posted. I wish I could keep it somewhere safe so that when I have my kids in the future, I can use this as a reminder.

-Grace

M said...

All ideas that make sense, generally speaking. Some kids and even adults might need a morning snack as well. What I dislike seeing in some of the comments is the judgement of parents who do give their toddlers or small children lots of little snacks. Is that really inconveniencing you so much? Different strokes, you know?

Maike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rachel @ blackeiffel said...

What great insights Joanna. Loved reading this and need to make some changes. No more food bribes for the carseat and highchair!

Maike said...

is that the french style? well, I'm german and was exactly raised like this. No extra meals, I always had to try and if I didn't like it, I was offered a slice of bread with cheese or such (like we have our dinner over here).
For me, the most important thing seems to sit at a table togehter - with no tv and everyone eating at the same time. It is such a special thing to - which I realized when my fiance met my family, as he expierenced eating together at a table for the first time in his life...!!
Also, i do think it is nothing wrong with snacks, aslong there are healty, like fresh fruit or something like that.

Laura said...

I really agree with the person who noted that Americans' eating habits today are very different than they were when a lot of us were raised. I don't have kids, but I find that I tend to fall into the trap of never wanting to be the slightest bit hungry. I never noticed how odd it was until I moved in with my boyfriend who pointed out how much I snack throughout the day (not in a mean way, just like...an interesting observation). The flip side is that I always sit at the table for meals, even if it's just me, where he likes to eat while watching TV/movies. We weren't allowed to eat in the TV room when I was growing up, so this is one really good habit that was instilled in me, I guess! I do think it's nice to sit and have a minute to yourself or with your loved ones while you eat, and reflect on or talk about the day.

Teryn said...

I once listened to an interview of Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, and he described how his entire household (I think he has 4 kids) is run on bribery. Ha! As he explained, it is just how kids (and adults, for that matter) are incentivized. Though he is not a parenting expert, neither are most of the people who write these types of books. Regardless, after I heard him say that, I stopped feeling guilty about bribing my kids with strawberries or raisins. As long as you are raising them in a healthy, supportive household, I truly don't believe you are going to raise an emotional eater.
Just my thoughts -- very interesting post!

paige parkhill said...

I love this! Getting the book on my ipad as I type! I have a 14 month old who is ALWAYS on the run, he is in a stage where he screams when I put him in a highchair and he's a picky eater...looks like i need to get the highchair thing down first! :)

Aya said...

I LOVED these!! I think I was actually raised with many of these. We have all these ideas about "kid foods" but really there's no reason kids should eat differently. My cousin's favorite food at age 4 was "spicy kim chee!" There's no reason to implement limitations on kids because we think they're supposed to be finicky. I also agree with rituals for kids--they seem to love structure and being able to predict things. I also loved the idea of eating veggies when they're most hungry. GENIUS! (I should start doing that now)!

Amy Klepser said...

I know a lot of people are saying that Americans shouldn't credit the French with this no-nonsense eating approach, and I agree, I'm sure many, many people use this common sense strategy! My American parents did!

But, for those of us who this seems like perfect, common sense to, please notice the number of commenters who have been so enlightened by this, Joanna included! I don't think all Americans feed their kids in bad ways (emotional eating, food as a reward, etc.) but so many do. American culture encourages food consumption and parenting magazines are littered with advice about how to "feed picky eaters" and "make your child like food." Food is a big deal in America. It's a big deal everywhere, actually, it's how humans stay alive.

I think this strategy should be the norm, but unfortunately, in America, it's not :( Hopefully those who read this book help bring some change to parenting!

Kirsten said...

I love these rules. One of my biggest frustrations while watching other people's children is when a child is picky and refuses to eat certain foods.

I think the rule that I don't necessarily agree with is just removing the food. But, giving bite size servings for new foods will allow food to not be wasted.

Bravo to the french for not raising picky eaters!

annie leavitt said...

My parents taught my large family about the importance of mealtime and we still follow it with our own 4 kids. But over the yrs I have let breakfast and lunch slip into hurried dashes.

Thanks for the review!

annie leavitt said...

My parents taught my large family about the importance of mealtime and we still follow it with our own 4 kids. But over the yrs I have let breakfast and lunch slip into hurried dashes.

Thanks for the review!

Aya said...

ps--I agree with your comment about getting tired of the French doing everything better. Sometimes I feel disappointed at not being born French. They seem to do everything better! Le sigh.

Marie said...

Lol, it is the first time I comment on your blog but I read it quite often (ok everyday!) but this made me laugh!
How you guys Americans think that us, french people, do everything right! Actually, I think that everything is not that pink like described in the book, i mean ok, in french schools, they try to put a special effort on the meals maybe in some schools but i can tell you that it is not the case in every school and most kids that eat at school every day can tell you that it's not that tasty ... But true, at least they try to put something healthy in the plates.
I also didn't know about the 30' at the school lunch table, but i think that in every school, lunch time is always pretty much anarchy (when i was there about 7 years, it actually was) and i don't think that things have changed, we speak about children/teenagers after all! ;)
Great blog by the way!

Hayley said...

I wish I were better at implementing these rules. We snack too much and I bribe my child to eat. Both things I am working on.

A European child we know is raised this way- no snacks, eat what adults eat, etc. BUT, since he is in an American environment- when he has the opportunity to snack he cannot control himself. While I do believe these rules make for better eaters- we do need to be cautious that children need to learn how to navigate within this snack obsessed "cheese puff" culture.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Engracia said...

I'm sorry, but this is not a french phenomenom, my parents are portuguese and this was how we were brought up in relation to food. But I actually think the real probelm is that the new genration of parents tend to pander to their children, I am portuguese background but grew up in Australia in the 70s and all my anglo-saxon background friends were brought up the same way. I have 2 young sons and I decided not to pander to them and they eat most things but of course there are some things they genuinely don't like, so they just don't eat it. That's fine as they have a healthy and varied diet.

American Mom in Bordeaux said...

I don't think all the rules are necessarily French...I am American and was raised with many of those rules. The one thing I will say about the French and living in France...where we presently live is that meal time is social time..and it's about sitting down and enjoying food - course by course. Even a typical every day meal is started with a small first course or entree...this is often vegetable or something light..then that is removed and the main dish is served, followed by cheese and dessert. It's a slower process - it's savored and enjoyed - Families talk and laugh and are together. Yes, snacking is also not as common in France - kids do get a small snack when they get home from school at 4:30 or 5 pm = as dinner is not usually until 7 pm or later. I think kids eat better as they are also hungry and have just been raised around enjoying food and savoring it! As an American, I also feel the quality of food here is better - it's easier to get farm fresh food - without paying a huge price or feeling like you have to buy it organically - farmers stand and market abound! Great post!

Cherry Blossoms said...

We have started veggies before anything else with my daughter Elle. She now goes crazy over peas. I am also guilty as using food as a bribe. oops
Thanks for sharing these tips with us.

Amielle said...

I've read countless blog posts about this book and how so many people are so awed and inspired by all the 'simple rules'.

On one hand, I'm glad that people are reading this and having an, "Ah-hah!" moment, but on the other, it gets me a little worried. No, I'm not a mother, but I'm the oldest of eight and part of a big family on both sides and all these little 'rules' are things that my parents have done my whole life.

That means that, yes, the littlest, whoever that has been at the time, has eaten what they can from what the 'big kids' eat, that we all (yes, all) eat together as a family, at least once a day, if not up to all three meals on the weekend, and for us older ones: no cellphones/laptops/books/etc at the table. 'You eat what's in front of you' has been in effect as long as I remember, and, if you don't like it, that's all you get.

It could lead back to the fact that, ironically, my mother is French, but I would put it more to what both my parents were raised with.

Amielle said...

I've read countless blog posts about this book and how so many people are so awed and inspired by all the 'simple rules'.

On one hand, I'm glad that people are reading this and having an, "Ah-hah!" moment, but on the other, it gets me a little worried. No, I'm not a mother, but I'm the oldest of eight and part of a big family on both sides and all these little 'rules' are things that my parents have done my whole life.

That means that, yes, the littlest, whoever that has been at the time, has eaten what they can from what the 'big kids' eat, that we all (yes, all) eat together as a family, at least once a day, if not up to all three meals on the weekend, and for us older ones: no cellphones/laptops/books/etc at the table. 'You eat what's in front of you' has been in effect as long as I remember, and, if you don't like it, that's all you get.

It could lead back to the fact that, ironically, my mother is French, but I would put it more to what both my parents were raised with.

straightlines said...

I'm not French, although I do reside in Montreal, but I was already implementing similar rules just out of sheer logic than anything else. And I've noticed that my kids eating habits are much healthier and better than others: at get togethers they were the only ones conscientiously eating their veggies and sitting through the entire meal as opposed to running off after one bite. I also always educate them on why the food they are eating is beneficial for them, and why we avoid other types. Yet I do not competely deprive them of junk food or chocolate, but rather limit it along with an educational explanation, and it always comes only after they've had their regular meal, and never more an once a day. I hope that one day all the "education" will stick in their minds. But most of all we need to teach by example!

I read reviews of this book and quickly downloaded the ebook and soon after reading was so happy to realize that my so called logic was already successfully in use in another culture.

Martie* said...

I worked as an Aupair several years ago for a family in NY and I never came to understand this whole snacking thing. I also find it rude to just throw a few Cheerios in front of your kid. It´s not an animal, you have plates, use them!

Also chasing your kid with food around the apartment is comical. If your kid doesn´t want to eat, it´s not hungry and it will get used to the fact that every family member sits down to eat. Why should you if someone chases you with food, right?!

Last but not least let me say it´s not only the French who do it right :)

Great post!

MsSecAF said...

Great to hear a review for this book. I've seen it mentioned a few times and always wondered about it!

Anonymous said...

This is so silly. This is not FRENCH - it's common sense!! And EUROPEAN much more so than just French I'm British with Polish parents, and this is the way I was brought up!

Im going to be mean and say, do Americans not realize there are other European countries out there??

Consuelo Saah Baehr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CoisaseCoisas said...

Joanna i am so happy with this post. My parents always made sure we tried everything and today we still have all our meals together when we're all home (we are 7 siblings). Now that I live with my boyfriend I make sure we eat together almost every night and prepare a real dinner and set the table instead of just snacking until we're not hungry anymore. I really hope I can do this with my kids one day. I love food and I think an early education 'in food' is the key to loving food later in life :)

chandra ~ oh lovely day said...

great ideas and so true! I've rewarded with food, praised when my picky eater ate well, and get stuck in food ruts. thanks for sharing some new ways to try things!

Nina said...

Interesting, and it's always good to learn about other ways of doing things. I personally get a bit tired of books that generalise about whole countries like this, though - wouldn't you take it with a considerable pinch of salt if someone told you that all the families in the US (or even just in one state) did things the same way? And I really had to laugh about the "special phrase" for setting the table - do you know what it means? I means 'to set the table'. Just because it's in French, doesn't make it a "special phrase"!!

C. said...

One thing I was amazed about was that you shouldn't praise your little one for eating. I've been noticing just recently that when my 16 month old is being fussy or acting out at the table, it's only because we are watching her. The minute we ignore what she's doing and just chat and act normally, she will tuck in to her food and seem to enjoy it.

Agree with all the others that it's just common sense. I sometimes give my little one a couple of strawberries between meals, or a few pieces of cheese, but otherwise she eats exactly what we eat. She always eats better when she can see we're all eating the same thing.

Sarah and lily said...

I think that these are key to healthy eating patterns! Going along with no snacks is another rule my parents had --no snacks after dinner! This caused a lot of stress (what if we're really hungry and can't sleep??!) but made it so my siblings and I better understood that dinner was our chance for food.
For me, snacks during the day are sometimes necessary because I (and children I know) get irritable and find myself unable to focus on schoolwork. However, I don't think one needs to feel full all of the time.

Anonymous said...

fascinating! i love the idea of taking the time to really set the table, even for weeknight meals. relishing the day to day really does make such a difference.

Amy said...

Haha, I have no children but I felt like reading this was super beneficial for ME! Thanks so much for sharing.

Emma said...

I don't have children but this is how I was raised - call it being Australian and growing up in the 70s and 80s I guess ;). Also, if us bigger kids (not as young as your cutie) got too picky and refused to eat what was in front of us back then, well no dinner! (I'm not advocating this, just saying it's my experience and it didn't hurt me any - most of us eat way too much now anyway).

Put it this way, I never starved, was full of energy and as an adult, now enjoy cooking and love all kinds of food.

Sarah @ Williamsburg Baby said...

I think those organic baby "puff" things and those tubes of pureed fruit embody this. They are basically like Pirate's Booty or an easy convenience food for kids. Sure, they may be better than Lunchables, but they are still processed food snacks. Puffed rice with, what? fake cheesy coating and some vitamin powder? Preserved fruit in a vacuum pack? I feel like moms take them everywhere just in case of a meltdown so they can distract the baby with them. While I get that everyone has their coping tactics, it seems kind of silly. Surely the baby can eat a little of what you eat instead and you dont have to soothe them or distract them with food constantly. I know I have issues with food myself and I am sure some of it is down to the snacking I did as a kid (back in the '80s heyday of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and Utz potato chips.)

Laura said...

This is so funny, because just today my nanny said another little girl offered my 10 month old son some of her snack while they were at the park, and he acted totally confused and refused it. The nanny said she thinks it's because he's used to sitting in his chair and having a plate of food in front of him--the concept of eating while standing in the park was just foreign to him. Ha!

Courtney said...

I have made a real effort to feed my daughter real adult food. She always eats what we eat, and she has from the time she started eating solids. I'm happy to say she isn't picky! (Of course I realize some kids are naturally pickier than others.)
I go back and forth on whether having firm meal times and one snack is a good idea. It irritates me to no end when my daughter doesn't eat much dinner and then is hungry at bedtime, but I also want her to listen to her body, and eat when she is hungry. But this is probably my fault a lot of the time because (I'm embarrassed to admit) I'll use food to cure boredom or the grumps. Not great. My daughter is super sensitive to hunger-- like she is soooo grumpy when she's hungry. but if I trained her to eat more at mealtime, I don't think it would be such a concern, because it would be a predictable schedule. Clearly I feel conflicted about this. :) Maybe I'll give the book a try!

Al said...

Totally agree with the anonymous comment of 5:50 PM

Americans, do you realize that what you call French is 99% of the times EUROPEAN? (actually I'd say is common sense , but maybe it's european common sense?)
I'm Italian, living in Belgium, working in an international environment and everyone I've been knowing, from childhood to now, has been raised like this.

Seriously, all these "French" books are becoming ridiculous. They even feel a bit racist and ignorant, that's why I sound so annoyed.
It's like the authors don't even bother to acknowledge the existence of other European countries or realities and everything is just called (erroneously) "French".
Probably it makes everything easier?

Also, EUROPEAN kids DON'T eat everything. They are annoying with food like any other kid in the western world.

In my experience the only kids in the rich part of the world that really do eat everything (from seaweeds to raw fish) are Japanese kids... They seriously are amazing!

Seriously, stop to read this hideous stuff and listen to the wise words of your grandmas: those are real gems (that's basically what French, no wait, European :p people do)

Al

Jennifer said...

I read the article about the book in the WSJ and wrote my own blog post about how much I agree with it. I actually teach an Eating Together program about creating family dinner rituals and include many of the same principles. Not only does following these rules create healthy eaters, it helps to create a sense of community in your family.

While family dinners make for healthier kids, the true magic of family meals is that it feeds the feelings of trust, acceptance and belonging that are at the heart of the family. A secure, confident kid with self control is more likely to be kind, considerate, to share and to take turns. A meal time ritual, that incorporates these rules, creates a rhythm within your family that allows you to enjoy each other.

Aurora Ulysses said...

I think this is the way to go. For me as a child growing up, mealtimes were always special family times. We all ate together at the table, and there was no separate cooking for kids! So I would eat everything they ate, including curries and offal, from a young age. I'm really appreciative to have grown up with a huge love for food thanks to them, and I hope to pass this onto my kids.

My 6 year old stepdaughter can be a bit fussy with food, but my partner and I invented a game that helps her try all the food on her plate (the adult food, no separate cooking!). She closes her eyes and one of us puts a sample of food in her mouth, and she has to guess what it is. We all take it in turns to guess. It may make dinners a bit long but we all have fun and she ends up trying all sorts of new foods she would have said no to!

Aurora Ulysses said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Estelle said...

Haha it's just amazingly funny to see how Americans see us, French people ! Most of what is said in this book is true to my experience, except I guess for the table cloth myth :) We always had people (a lot of them) eating at home, whether it would be school friends, family, or even my dad's coworkers, which means a really really large table, for which we could never find a table cloth large enough ! Everything else is true though, the family dinner are a tradition, no cellphones or tv allowed, everybody has to talk about what they did on that day, what they plan for the next, etc, we laugh a lot ! Lunches on sundays basically last for at least 4 hours, adults and kids eat the same food (I had my first slice of camembert when I was around one), and we HAVE TO TASTE ! always ! The thing is that we don't like to eat as much as for the food rather than for the bonds we can create over a good meal ! That's the french way :)

Estelle

Kate said...

I grew up in France and this is spot on. I never really thought about it til I read this, but it's so true that the sacredness of mealtime is something I really miss when I'm with extended family or friends as opposed to my immediate family. why is organized eating only for formal events? it's so enjoyable.

Madison said...

The French (and most of Europe, from what I've seen) have really different work hours, though. I don't have kids, but I don't get home from work until 10pm, so sitting down for dinner with everyone isn't really an option. I go from work (8am) to school to work again, so I basically have to snack all day (healthy snacks, but snacks nonetheless) because I don't have access to a fridge or microwave. I think these rules are great if you have the schedule to follow them, but there are many reasons why Americans are snackers, and work hours are a big part of that.

katgirl said...

When my son chased me down (well, as much as a crawling 7 month old can chase) to have another sip of my V8 juice and my hummus on wasa crackers I realized that maybe he was looking for a little more taste in his food. He now eats all his meals with us, the same food as us. If he doesn't like it then that's ok. There's a great book titled "How To Get Your Kid to Eat: But Not Too Much" by Ellyn Satter. Her advice is spot on (and sounds very much like what is described in the book you referred to). The biggest takeaway is this: It's the parents job to put (healthy, varied) food on the table, and it's your kids job to eat it. We also let our son feed himself and lo and behold, he eats much more than he did when we insisted on holding the spoon or utensil. Yes, it's messy at times, but that's what a good bib is for!

Jewel :) said...

This is so reassuring to read. We have an incredibly picky almost-3 year old who is ready for battle every day at supper. We already follow most of these rules, but it's implementing the others what seems impossible.
How do you make them try a bite of something? This is where my son is the most stubborn. If we try and make him try it, he ends up screaming on the floor, which is what this article and many others say to avoid.
So, it's reassuring to know that what we're doing everything right - but frustrating to know that it's not easy despite that!

katie s. said...

I agree with these rules - and don't think they're especially French (this was my mother's view of food as I grew up in a decidedly un-French Midwestern household) - but all of her points rubbed me wrong after reading that the French have a special term for setting the table. You know what? So do we. It's "setting the table." And that serves as a real reminder that a lot of this is just exoticizing common sense rather than imbuing us with any uniquely French wisdom.

Anonymous said...

I do believe in a lot of these rules. My husband is from France, we are both chefs, and we both enjoy food. We cook, and enjoy meals together as a family, but we also love to eat out, and take our five year old with us often. Sometimes she will be adventurous, and sometimes she is just not in the mood. We try not to stress about it. We put a fruit bowl out on the dining room table, and she is free to help herself to a "snack". Toddlers and Preschoolers like to independent, choosing your battles in par for the course.

Anonymous said...

This is really not a 'French' thing as such but more like a 'almost every country in the world' thing.

I'm definitely not French and we grew up with the same principles. And like a few of the comments, we also say 'set the table'. It means what it means: set everything so that you can start eating with your family.

If anything, these rules are 'family' orientated rules which are followed by families who follow traditional values such as sharing specific times of the day together, which allow family members to talk about their day over a meal.

Sharon said...

I find this so interesting. i have 3 kids all with different tastes. We follow some of the rules, but not all. I will definitely be picking up this book. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

This is how we were raised, and my parents were African-American, not French! It's about time parents took back control of mealtime.

Heather said...

Thanks so much for sharing! Our four-month-old isn't quite ready for solids yet (I think we'll wait until six months), but I'd like to think we'll follow most of these rules once he is. I say 'like to think' because I'm learning that, as a parent, you sometimes do things differently than what you thought you would. :) I'm going to pick this book up - sounds like a great read!

The Bebebirds said...

This is fantastic! I don't have kids yet but I am of course mentally preparing for them always! These rules are good for ME too! I should probably get my act together before I have the little ones around, haha.

Brooke

Aja Lake [the gold hat.] said...

i love this book! i could not agree more with its common sense (+ no nonsense!) approach to eating. fortunately, my son, ace, has always been a good eater but le billon's book really encouraged me to push the limits when it comes to variety. and guess what? it's totally worked for us!

p.s. also check out french kids eat everything on the gold hat.

xx,
Aja Lake
the gold hat.

Laura said...

I don't have children yet so it's not for me to judge but here's recent story you may find interesting. A coworker of mine was just diagnosed with cancer, so for the few weeks she was in the hospital we all picked a night to provide dinner for her husband and 3 young children. I was amazed by the limits people placed on the meals they provided simply because they were feeding toddlers. For example, one coworker said, "Normally I would make grilled chicken, potatoes and vegetables but since her kids are so little maybe I'll just make macaroni and cheese and hotdogs." No wonder we have a weight problem among our nation's kids! Fascinating post, and something I fully intend to do when I become a mother.

laco said...

in the South, as children, you are with adults; adults are not with you. you must sit at the table, eat what they eat and carry on some form of conversation. it is not only rude, but tacky to be unable to perform this basic function. it taught us how to speak with people of all ages and backgrounds and check/reevaluate our "picky" behaviours. i wish i had been raised with the other things from the book!!! if and/or when i have a little bobbin of my own, i will be buying that book!
cheers, joanna!

Anonymous said...

I love this post!!!! I fed my children crackers and fruit and juice all the time to keep them quiet or settle them down during the day. I really think this is a much better idea and puts food in its place.

Lisa Griffin said...

My mom is an absolutely amazing cook, but growing up she never catered down her food for us. We grew up eating and loving almost everything!
in dramatic fashion

Anonymous said...

We had the same rules growing up. My mom ended up with one kid with an eating disorder and another who is extremely picky. For my sister it's a texture thing, I'm the one with the ED. So yeah, not a perfect remedy by any means.

Carol said...

I must agree with those who say these aren't exclusively "French" rules - I was raised in Australia and this is how we ate. One of our jobs was to set the table for dinner, and then we all sat and ate it together. You ate what you were given, and even if you didn't like something it was still put on your plate and you had to eat it.

Some food was used as a reward though - if you didn't eat all your dinner and there was dessert that night, you didn't get any.

This doesn't mean I was perfect - even with tough rules, I would still attempt the occasional tantrum when I didn't want to eat something I didn't like, but mostly we just got on with it.

One thing we did which I've since discovered is not common - we always said "thank you for dinner" to whoever had cooked it that night, no matter how basic it was. When I would sleepover at friend's houses and say thank you to their parents after dinner, they were always surprised and delighted. I think it's a fantastic way to teach children to appreciate the effort their parents (or older siblings) put into taking care of them, and to learn the concept that a family is a team, and each person has to contribute in their own way.

Julia said...

This is amazing and I have so much to say.

I'm 21 years old, live in French speaking Montreal and I've had the please of working in daycares/babysitting these past 5 years.

1)Many of the behaviours mentionned are true to french-speaking children in Montreal. I insist on the term french-speaking as Montreal is very much composed of immigrants. From my background (Russian), I can say the behaviour with food is sooo different from the French. Many Russian parents will make their kids "children food" like cold cuts and cucumbers instead of what the adults are eating. And food is a bribe and kids get praise for eating well!

Yet, in the "locals" environment, children will eat the same food as their parents. In the government-funded daycare, it's ALWAYS a vegetable with carbs and protein and fresh fruit for dessert, organic milk and TASTING is a must. If a child doesn't eat a thing, too bad, as long as he tasted.

2)For me, being an occasionnal babysitter, it's hard not to give praise for eating to the kids I'm with. I want them to eat well so their parents are happy!

Most of the facts are nothing new to me (I agree with them so much). Knowing Canadian English-speaking friends who, in their twenties, haven't ever tasted half the vegetables out there (hello red bell peppers!) it freaks me out to hear things like that!

I have to say though that NOT begging kids to eat is something new, and something I will definetly use from now on!

Thank you for writing posts like this, you are awesome!

Lindsay said...

This is exactly how my mother ran her dining table - even if I didn't want to eat something, a bite of it was still required.

Sally Mae said...

I love this so much. I'm trying so hard to fix my own disordered eating tendencies and I've noticed now that I have my own child, although he's only 6 months old, I really want to sit down as a family for dinner. My husband always tries to bring his computer to the table and I'm working as hard as I can to set the table and chew my food more slowly. It's crazy how hard it is!

line Lemaitre said...

I'm kinda like you I'm soo tired orf the " fench rules to do ....." even if I'm a french girl living in USA .
Most of all is lies to sell books !
no we don't put a tableclothe everyday !! but we try to seat to eat together at fixes hours .
Most of all it is common sense !
no frenchies are not better but publicists are for sure ;)

jhl said...

I think I'm going to dissent a bit here. I have a five year old who is a pretty good eater, willing to try pretty much everything (even though he occasionally voices displeasure with what we're eating, and we eat some pretty odd things). We raised him with these rules, more or less (except for the snack one, which his school broke).

My daughter, at age 16 months, is an entirely different child. She refuses to put things into her mouth to even try them, and there's no cajoling her to do so. She won't even eat pasta. While the 7-15 time experiment is absolutely correct, if your child won't *try* the food in question, you cant ever *get* to 7-15 times. And to top it all off, she's in a pretty low percentile for weight for her age, despite the fact that she is high in everything else. So we worry about making sure she gets enough calories.

Do we feed her what we eat? Yes, we do. But there are some days when making sure that her small body has enough calories to function is more important to me than whether she's picky. I hope she grows out of it ... but in the meantime, I will continue to have black beans, chickpeas, avocado, fruit, Cheerios, broccoli, and hummus on hand!

I'd welcome insight from you and from your readers ... perhaps there is a better way to do this!? (And, I should add -- I'm a foodie, which makes this even MORE painful to watch!)

fleur_delicious said...

my mother claims we were never picky eaters. I remember not understanding when children at day care would say, "ew, lima beans!" because I loved them - and spinach and broccoli, etc. I think it is because we were always fed whatever adults were fed and never knew there were other options. However, the one thing on this list she didn't do was make us wait for each meal. I am 5'11" and my brother is about 6'3". We grew fast, and were always hungry - plus, we were kept VERY active - so there was always bread, cheese, fruit, things like that around if you needed to take the edge off (and thank goodness for that; can you imagine coming home, after biking 2 miles to the river and 2 miles back, and swimming for 3 hours - and having to wait to eat something? no way!!)

katemakes said...

I just finished this book and 'Bringing Up Bebe' even though my kids are 18, 7, and 5. They are all very good eaters - we're working on their father's eating habits!
My parents raised my sister and I much like the French, though not entirely by design. They encouraged us to be polite, eat everything at least once, and to find our own entertainment. The rules and expectations of our behaviour were clearly explained to us. It was the '70's and they were out to enjoy their own lives too - we often heard: 'Go find something to do.' and 'Bugger off, this is big people time.'
We rarely ate junk food or in family-style restaurants - but on occasion went to fancy restaurants where my parents would dare us to order frog legs or oysters. I think this was because they didn't want to commit to ordering something they might not like and but could try ours. It was like a competition to see which child could try the most unusual thing.
After recently reading both books, I thanked my mom for raising us the way she did and asked if this was something she conciously did. She said it just seemed like common sense and I have to agree.

ali said...

i think this is all great advice in some ideal universe that is not typical LA family life. my husband is NEVER home for my son's 5:30 dinnertime so it's me and him (19months) at his little table and conversation is sometimes lacking, considering he doesn't speak much. we sometimes look at books while he eats or do a puzzle... maybe i'll try "dressing" his table and see if that holds his interest. i'm the gal running after him with bites of food to put in his mouth. last week we had almost every single meal in the driver's seat of a car because that's the only place he'd accept food. at this point snacking is not our issue, it's getting any food in our skinny minnie at all - like the previous commenter. on the otherhand i figure he'll eat when he's hungry and i refuse to be a short-order cook, especially because i've got another baby coming in 2 months and can imagine cooking 5 different meals a night trying to fatten up my little picky babies. i figure this too shall pass. we are all learning as we go along. even if this advice doesn't work, it's food for thought and worth a try. thanks jo

Gillian said...

Most of these are things my mum did with us - good food, lots of veggies, if you "didn't like" something you had to at least take a "no-thank you helping" (usually about a large spoonful.) We almost always ate as a family, and we rarely were allowed snacks (and they were always fruit or veg). As a result - there are very few foods I really dislike, but even those I can force myself to eat in a social setting if it's impolite to refuse... I certainly plan to raise my kids in a similar way! But I don't see that this sort of behaviour is particularly "French" - seems like common sense to me.

LeahB said...

This is a fantastic post and couldn't be more timely. It was one of those magical moments when one of your favourite blogs gives some perspective around a subject you've been struggling with!

Anonymous said...

I would love to have family meals together but my husband never gets home before 7.30pm, which is too late for a one year old and a six year old to wait for dinner. They eat together, and they eat well (meat/chicken/fish + two steamed veg + pasta/rice/potato) but it is bland compared to our evening meal. We try to have a meal together on Sundays ... as they grow up hopefully they can eat a bit later.

Anonymous said...

My American parents did all of the above listed, in essence, basically teaching us to be respectful towards our dinnermates and the food that was before us, trying new things, etc. But why do the French get all the credit for it? I'm guessing you can find people around the world who do these "French" things and people in France who do not. It irks me just a wee bit.

jen said...

catchy title but not true. it's not just the french, i believe it's really the rest of the world except american kids ;) let's face it no culture spoils there kids as much as americans. and trust me i'm just as guilty. we're trying to incorporate some of the same rules, not because it's the way the french does it but because that's how i was raised.

kate365til30 said...

I loved reading these tips. I am not a mother just yet but I think these are GREAT tips/pointers. Looking forward to hearing how Toby responds!
Kate
www.365til30.com

ashley.graham.and.eden said...

My husband and I are already doing most of these things ... but read a different book than you did. We read Ellyn Satter's "Child of Mine: Feeding with love and good sense" - Found it remarkable and life changing. Cannot say enough good things about this book and her expertise

Camille said...

This is pretty much how I was raised--although I'm not French, but French-Canadian. And I'd really wish the 'slow food' rule would be applied more... I wouldn't be the last one eating (by far!) whenever I meet up with friends!

Kristin said...

I think its very similiar here in switzerland where my husband is from. I have learned a lot from my mother in law in regards to that, but nothing that did not resonate with me before. I would like to have a different food culture than the one I grew up with. So far its working well. Which is not to say my 2 year old eats everything, lets get real!

Cristi said...

Thanks for sharing! I just got done with a book called Bringing up Bebe-which has similar ideas about an american living in France- I'd love to share your post on my blog weedstowishes.com if that is okay?

Cristi said...

Thanks for sharing! I just got done with a book called Bringing up Bebe-which has similar ideas about an american living in France- I'd love to share your post on my blog weedstowishes.com if that is okay?

Anni said...

To be honest I am really surprised by this post! Thank you so much!

Not by the tips and tricks from the French family life, but because I really thought, deep down, took it as a norm, that this way of eating was a standard for everyone.

This was really an eye opener to me. Suddenly I realised, that not everyone is raised to eat the same way as me and my Danish friends. (Obviously we have the same habits as the French)
But more important, now I understand why picky kids - and even adults - exist, which has always been a wonder to me...

Anonymous said...

interesting and some of these make sense.. but im not sure about no snacking. what if they don't eat properly or at all during the meal? then the kids have to starve till the next meal? ive also read that you should let the kids' blood sugar drop too much or they will become cranky etc etc. still think it is ok to have healthy snacks like fresh fruit, milk or sugar free crackers etc. but not less than an hour before the next meal!

Charissa

Anonymous said...

sorry, i meant "shouldn't let the kids' blood sugar drop too much..."

Charissa

This is Nora from Germany. said...

i think this book could also be named "european kids eat everything", because the fact is, that nearly everyone here is eating with his kids together and kids just eat what the adults eat.

Orange Tree said...

As a french girl, i can say that this is a little bit stereotypical especially the tablecloth part: though my mom loved a beautiful table with candles and flowers, and i always LOVED to help with that (even now i'm 23), it was really only for guests or special occasions! However, when i was an exchange student in Australia, which food-wise is a bit like the US (if not worse), what i missed most were real family meals. i would have breakfast alone, a very quick sandwich at school for lunch during our 30 min. around 11.30 break, then a snack of noodles when i'd get home... the only common meal was dinner, in both families that i stayed with. i guess the way we eat in france is just common sense, but i think that what really makes it possible and 'typically french' is the meal we get in school. We usually have a whole hour (if not an hour and a half, from 12.30 to 2 pm) to eat (slowly!) and it is a real three-course meal, with cheese and lettuce. it's a more structured way of eating and though the french school system is criticized for its long hours (8.30 am to 5 or 6 pm in high school) we have less time for raiding the fridge at home in the afternoon! my parents never allowed snacking near the meals, but i think that finally eating when you're really hungry is the best feeling! but then my mum's cooking was great...! but not everyone is a good cook, and not everyone in France feeds their children the same way! there also are bad eating habits here, like there are good ones everywhere!

RuBee said...

This is pretty much how I was raised but it caused huge problems when I turned vegetarian at 13. I was expected to eat what my parents ate which worked great until then. Each day for a year I was presented with meat and expected to eat it. They've come round to the idea now, 16 years later but meals are still a big thing in our family. We always sit down to eat, take out time and often share a bottle of wine.

Luisa from Spain said...

Fortunately, this is not just a French custom. In Spain, the culinary culture is deeply rooted in families. Children learn to enjoy food and cooking soon. Teaching children to cook is fun and instructive.

Lizzi said...

I agree with Pamela (way up there). I don't think this is "new" or "french". It's just good parenting. My family is Puerto Rican. My sisters and I ate what my parents ate, had to try everything on our plate, helped with dishes afterwards, and knew not to complain about it.

Anonymous said...

While on paper these tipps all look reasonable, I think it is a good idea to keep in mind that all children are different and not to beat yourself up about having a child that refuses to do what supposedly "all children do" if only you follow these rules. I grew up in Germany & we had proper family meals with proper home-cooked food at a properly laid table and yet I was a very picky eater for a very, very long time. I now have a 4-year-old who is also very picky. As far as I'm concerned, he'll come round eventually, being surrounded by good food but in the meantime it is all about striking a balance between trying new stuff & offering things that he will eat. So if you've been following these rules & it doesn't work, do things the way it works for your family. Even I started eating cheese and other "exotic" foods eventually - at age 19...!

Sophie Chalumeau said...

Thanks for this post Joanna.
I’m french, live in Amsterdam the NL and have 3 kids who go to the international school (elementary) and I have to say that I’m struggling with their “we eat healthy policy”. It’s all about ‘bad/unhealthy’ (that is chocolate for them--- but they wouldn’t consider that drinking a fruit juice at lunch is wrong btw, which is for me) and ‘good/healthy’ products (fruits, vegetables) ... But they’d never talk about eating a variety of food (which to me would make more sense), having good eating habits (setting the table, taking the time to eat & at regular hours, etc you mentioned it already) nor about enjoying your food which to me, are key to a good balance.
And don’t get me wrong --- although I try to follow these “rules’, my kids still prefer pasta to green beans;)
Bon appetit everyone!

marta bcn said...

Very good advice! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with some of the other commenters: This is not only something most french families do, but also common in other european, arabian and asian countries. My fondest memories are sitting down with the family each night (without watching tv;o)) and having dinners. And I had to be home for Sunday Lunch until I moved out... No excuses.

Charlie said...

I am a 18 years old french girl, and this is the way I've been raised. It feels really weird to me that you find the way we eat so surprising haha.

I'm reading your blog for a long time, and love it, though I'm only 18.

angharad said...

You're so right Anonymous (at 4:17am) - abiding by these rules does not necessarily mean that kids will immediately become omnivores!

My mum raised us just liks this, and my sister and I were completely okay with pretty much anything she put in front of us. But my little brother was a nightmare. For years he would refuse to eat anything half interesting, and he had all these funny habits, like he hated for different foods to touch each other on the plate! But because we all ate together, he was exposed to the idea of a more adult paalte, even he didn't get on board with it as a kid. Now he is the most adventurous cook I know - even more so than me and my sister. So don't despair, parents, if your kids are still fussy, even though you are doing everything 'properly'! I truly believe that eating together instills a healthy mindset that will eventually prevail in adulthood.

Anonymous said...

youre right joanna im starting to resent all those french people are perfect books... je ne suis pas une imbécile!

I would say that any nutritionist/dietist would cringe at #6. Today we are told you need to have several small meals throughout the day in order to maintain glucose levels and not feel that hungry throughout the day and not to over eat at the dinner table.

number 7 isnt worth it for someone tobys age... a life skill of dinner table conversation can wait until at least kindergarten if you insist!

youre a doll joanna... im certain whatever youre doing to get compliance from a 2 year old is A-OK!

*** KITSCH *** said...

I am spanish, but i think we and all the mediterreans have the same culture for eating. We love meals, sitting with the family, enjoying the food, children eat with adults since they are very little, and we don´t give them snacks (well, sometimes yes, to stop them and so we can talk quietly ; ) ). When i give a chocolate to Jon it is a special moment for him. mmmmm... he loves chocolate, and me too!
I totally agree, kids will do what they see, and if you try new foods, your kids will do

love this blog so much!!!!!

http://mykitschworld.blogspot.com.es

Kim said...

I don't have kids yet, but I need to feed myself this way!

Ashley Hayne said...

I loved this book. I do not have children yet but I am a child development major and have been working in constructivist preschool. The parents can't understand how we get them to eat such a variety of fruits and vegetables and sit at a table and actually have a meal together with conversation. We follow the same principles in this book. I also eat the way the book suggests and live a happy healthy life. Once I read this book I recommended it to all my friends and children's parents. Its the best. *Its also fun to look at the menus that the children eat in France. I want to eat lunches like that!

Ashley Hayne said...

I would also like to disagree with anonymous. It is important to talk to your children at the dinner table and model conversations at the dinner table as early as you can. Children are learning what is acceptable in infancy.

Voni said...

sorry to say it, but the fact, that someone writes a book about it, and you read it and change your mind, makes me shake my head. I live in Germany, and of course I know picky parents as well as picky kids. But I think most of the kids and parents I have around me will just try to bring their love for food to the kids, and don't need a book with "rules" to think about it.
If you yourself are interested in food, in healthy treats instead of chocolate and jelly beans all the time, then, why should there, at any point, be the question, how to feed your kids? Let them try stuff. My son LOVES broccoli as he does love fish (with the head on top) and goat cheese. Of course there are certain things he does not like, just like everybody has certain things they don't like. But, hey, use your head and your intuition and you won't need books about how great the french are. Btw, they are not always, there are also kids in Paris, who don't know, that milk comes from a cow...

Sherrie said...

It's funny because my mom applied all of these to us growing up, and she is by no means French, at all. But I definitely agree with them and think the outcome was great! I'm very interested in reading this book myself now!

Anonymous said...

I second the recommendation above for the Baby-Led Weaning book. I'm a NZer raising my 16 month old in the UK. Here the NHS assigns you to a specialist nurse at birth who is reponsible for the child's health. They help with nursing and give you support after the birth and then continue to give advice about weaning etc. Where I live they all recommend baby-led weaning - basically the baby eats what you eat from the very beginning. The book is hardcore but you can easily modify it. Eg my daughter has only just started getting teeth and couldn't handle big lumps and so we puréed her food instead. The same no fussing about how much is eaten etc applies. You are also supposed to give what you're eating ie cookies etc, which has made us more aware of what snacks we eat. but also means that she knows that treats are part of normal life too which I feel happy about

Historian said...

I have to comment, and I'm sorry if this is a bit of a horror story for people.

My mother did this. She absolutely did. No snacks between meals, we ate what they ate, no food as reward/punishment/etc. And with me, it failed. Failed miserably. As a child, until probably 13, I ate hot dogs, mac & cheese (Kraft, no other kind), and peanut butter and jelly. I started making my meals around 9 or 10, because my mother couldn't handle the knock down, drag out fights that came out of sheer frustration that I would sit at a table for HOURS and refuse to eat. They went to psychologists, they did the whole thing. They pleaded, they cajoled, they commanded.

I honestly don't know if it was my psychological bid for control, or if I just genuinely didn't like the food, or what. I just know that I eventually (and by eventually I mean 20 years old) grew out of it and, oddly enough, am now a huge foodie.

I guess the point is, every child is different, and as much as we try, don't come with instruction manuals.

Anonymous said...

P.S. (NZer anonymous above) I feel you on the snacking. We follow a schedule similar to the one you've posted about. When we go to groups my daughter goes and eats the other children's food off the floor (refusing whatever I've brought, of course). Humiliating.

Alicia said...

I live in France and I must say, I think this reflects a more traditional way of rearing children rather than a specific tendency in the French culture. I've seen some pretty horrific French parenting, including at meal times. Can we please stop addressing French culture as the be-all-end-all? People have been raising their kids this way for centuries all over the world.

Stephanie said...

I find the book's advice interesting and useful, but I have to note that I grew up in an English-speaking household in North America with the same house rules. My mother had a fondness for smelly cheeses and so as a little girl I was exposed to all sorts of "atypical" flavours. Like some other people here, I find the obsession with all things "French" kind of tiring. There are good and bad things in the French culture (I have friends who have recently moved to Paris and some elements of their kids' instruction and treatment at school is definitely suboptimal.) It would be nice to celebrate instead the positive teaching and parenting that is going on on this side of the Atlantic, by people of all different cultural groups!

la Combe du Jardinier said...

as a mother raising my two boys in france i can say these food rules are definitely the norm here and that french children sure eat well for the most part. I love the 'french way' of looking at food, it is such an important part of the culture. My boys are good eaters but to go one step further we try to make them a big part of the entire process of their food, they work in our garden harvesting their own vegetables or choosing their own fresh produce, meats and cheeses from the market. They are always in the kitchen and love cooking our ordinary every day meals with me.(not just cakes for special occasions). I think that this has allowed them to understand from such a young age the real beauty of food. Plus it's so fun to enjoy our every day meals together from a to z.
thanks for such a nice blog!

Unknown said...

I'm going to order this book right now. The snacking part is the big thing for us. When the kids say they're hungry at 3:30 or 4, we try to sit down with a cup of tea instead of food so we now have "Tea Time" before daddy gets home. And I am SOOOOO bad about bribing Jack with popsicles to get him out of the park without any tears. Both kids are now popsicle addicts!

mamalooks said...

Very interesting! I will give it a thought, I have a very picky eater at home.

busana muslim pesta said...

Its the details of our lives I think that in some respects make the impact. Its only once in a while the big picture matters. I loves these photos of the details.

Linda said...

Well, that's the way my brother and I were raised in the US, back in the day when parents weren't so permissive. We ate what was served or not at all.

Katie Lee said...

What inspiring tips. Even though I don't have kids they are tips that I want to implement in my own life. I love the ceremony idea. I'm off to get a table cloth!

Kathy said...

My husband and I don't have children yet, but I grew up in a household that had a similar food environment. My mother is Vietnamese and fed me and my brother Vietnamese food. There was no distinction between "adult food" and "kid food" and we all ate together (no "kid's table" at parties, weddings, or family gatherings). What she ate, we ate, and she wasn't about to cook separate meals for anyone. Food was never used as a bribe or reward.

My mom scoffed at her Vietnamese friends who would cook American foods like hamburgers and hot dogs for their kids and let them eat junk food and candy and said it was why they were overweight. And today we can see proof of this "Westernization" of societies such as China. As they replace their traditional foods of rice, soy and vegetables with more foods such as meat (and as McDonalds rapidly expands there), they become more obese and begin to suffer more of the diseases the US does.

We weren't allowed to be picky. And honestly, picky eaters are a pet peeve of mine. We should be more grateful for what we have and not take the fact that we have so many options for granted.

Kathy said...

Oh, and I forgot to add, after every single meal, my brother and I would thank our mom for the food and tell her that it was good. As others have pointed out, none of these things are exclusive to the French. The children aren't genetically different to be more adventurous eaters or anything. How kids view food comes from how they're raised and what they're taught at home.

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