Parents: you are in charge of your children’s food education.
The belief that parents should actively educate their children in a gently authoritative way is at the heart of the French approach. French parents are provided with very different information about food, and about children’s eating habits. This is because French doctors and nutritionists view the relationship between children, food and parenting very differently. They assume for example that all children will learn to like vegetables. They have carefully studied strategies strategies for getting them to do so. French psychologists have systematically assessed the average number of times a child will need to taste a new food before they accept it. They came up with seven times. The French simply assume a child hasn’t tried it enough times vs the child doesn’t like the food. How exactly do the French manage this? What strategies do French parents use? What do they cook? And what do they say ( or what do they not say?) firstly lets understand how the French define education. They define education not only as formal schooling but also the manners and behaviors, habits and tastes developed through discipline in the home. They believe healthy eating is one of the most important skills that parents help their children develop. Underlying the focus on food education is a simple yet powerful principle.
“Chances are, my children are not going to grow up to go to Harvard, or be a major league sports star, concert musician or NASA astronauts. But no matter who they grow up to be, how and what my children eat will be of great importance to their health, happiness, success and longevity. ‘
From the French perspective, western cultures often cram schedules so full that little time is spent teaching kids some off the most basic and important things they need to know like the proper way to prepare, cook and eat healthy food. Is this just another version of the Asian tiger mother syndrome. Not at all, it is well accepted that fights over food are extremely rare in France. French parents never force their kids to eat. So maybe it is the recipes. However if you look at French baby and toddler foods the recipes are bland and simple.
So what do French parents know that we don’t ? What do they do and say that we don’t? And how exactly do they get their kids to eat everything and enjoy it.
The answer lies not only in the what, but also the how, when and ( most important) why French kids eat.
…………. Next week blogs takes us deeper into the heart of French food parenting.