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Mar 11, 2012 01:25 PM

So WHY were we forced to sit at the table till the food was gone??

I've read this in several threads about parents poor cooking or disliking a food & having to sit at the table till it was eaten so matter how poorly cooked & how long that took.

So knowing what we know now, kids won't starve if they miss a meal and doing this serves no real purpose as the uneaten food can't be mailed to the starving kids in China (my idea as a kid).

So really, WHY did our parents do this? Just a simple control issue??

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  1. because 20-30-40 years ago, that's how you were supposed to deal with picky eaters. Nothing psychological or evil -- that's just what all the doctors and magazines said you were supposed to do. Kids were supposed to clean their plate -- end of story.

    and no, I don't hate my parents for it -- they were doing what they thought was best. Kids don't come with instruction manuals, so you have to scrounge around and decide what the next best thing is...sometimes it IS the best thing, and sometimes we learn a few years or a few decades later that it maybe wasn't so great, after all.

    5 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      My parents tried this with the older kids, but by the time I came along, they had softened. My mother would put a tiny bit on our plates if we were the picky ones or it was something she remembered we didn't like, and she'd just say, "Try to eat a few bites. Even if you don't like it, it's good for you and you need your [vegetables, usually]." It worked, for me. And also, to anyone who makes exuceses for the good-intentioned forcing, I've noticed that the older kids in my family who were forced/rewarded with food have stronger food aversions and "issues" than the younger ones in my family. I think the important thing at the table is that you don't make a scene about likes/dislikes--or later on, the politics of the food. As I've gotten older, nothing is more annoying than some ranting vegan or snooty, holier-than-thou "green" (local/organic) or Martha Stewart devotee who uses the table as their soapbox to preach about all the errors of what other people eat. I'd rather sit down to a dinner of Cheez Doodles and Dr. Pepper with people who know how to have a conversation.

        1. re: staughton

          I drink milk, use butter, and eat eggs. Back in the 80's when the cholesterol scare was at its height (all shown to be much less significant than they thought by now), I was regularly lectured about my "poor dietary habits" by Coke/Pepsi-swilling, Whopper chomping, French-fry snarfing co-workers.

          Where I live now it's SUPER "liberal" - brains falling out of your head sort of liberal. This is the first place I've ever lived where I have been told I'm a "conservative"


          My son says of the area, "There's no prejudice about food choices here. You're perfectly free to be a Vegan or a Vegetarian."


          1. re: KitchenBarbarian

            Heh. LOL. Where would that be, I'm curious? :-) I get the impression that carnivore or omnivore might not be a choice in the area? ;-D

            1. re: huiray

              Let's just say it's a super-liberal college town in the middle of a largely conservative rural hinterland and leave it at that.

              Yah, omnivores/carnivores exist, but we try to keep in the shadows, LOL!

      1. Interesting question. I ate most everything as a child but my brothers were picky. Led to some strife with my bull headed dad and one equally bull headed brother.

        The other picky brother has nearly grown children now and since they were infants their parents insisted that they didn't have to eat anything they didn't want or eat anything at all if they didn't want it. On the other hand, if they didn't want to eat anything that was served they didn't get to have cookies for supper either.

        I can't imagine complaining about mom's poor cooking would have gone over very well as a child.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kengk

          I was a good eater as a child as well - I LOVED spinach & kale! I only didn't want to eat very certain things, but got the "sit there till you eat it thing."

          And no, complaining would have gotten me nowhere, agree. My mom cooked how my dad liked food - NO seasoning, PLAIN & mushy/overcooked....bleh!

        2. I gather I was in a high chair still when my dad tried this line on me. According to mom, I stared right at him, crossed my arms over my chest, put my head back - and fell sound asleep. Mom said to dad "well dear, he's definitely your son" and began to clear the table. I was still sitting there sound asleep an hour later, plate of cold food still sititng there when they picked me up and put me to bed. I was often encouraged to clean my plate after that, but I don't beleive they ever tried an ultimatum on me again.

          2 Replies
            1. re: LindaWhit

              funny how early children display their true character isn't it.
              thanks linda

          1. Respect.

            Many times dinner was not about eating what you *liked" (that's what McDonald's was for, for example).

            When mom made you something it was to feed you -- i.e., to make sure you were properly nourished and well-fed.

            Simply refusing to eat and leaving the dinner table because you did not *like* the food was the ultimate slap in the face of your mom -- as if to say, "I look at your love on a plate and spit at you!"

            13 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              OK I can see that....and I ate most of what I was given...spinach, kale - all boiled to death.....I think I even choked down w/o complaint the boiled canned asparagus tho I don't remember liking the brussel sprouts.

              BUT I HATED AND WOULD NOT EAT the steak cooked for me XXXXXXXXX-well done....had to sit at the table till I ate it and I would NOT. Funny, once they figured out I liked my steak pretty rare, the problems abated & I ate all my food.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                i agree with this. my mom simply didnt just order up some KFC or Dominos pizza and dumped it on a plate in front of me (of course, as a kid, i probably would have loved that). she took the time to make what she thought was a well balanced meal. not only does it *teach* you to know what a well balanced, nourishing meal is supposed to be (taste) like, it also teaches you to respect and show gratitude towards the people that are there to support you. now, if your mom took a bat out and started beating you with it until you ate your food - or, if your mom threatened you with a machete and all you had left was 5 or 6 peas left on the plate....then that may be too extreme. additionally, if the issue is simply too much salt, too less salt, too rare, or too well done - then i think the parent should attempt to figure out the problem as it may not simply just be the case of hard headedness.

                it's a lesson not just in food nutrition - but manners, respect, gratitude for your parents time, resources - and gratitude that you have food in your plate three meals a day in the first place. if food was merely just for fuel - my mom could have made as many shortcuts as possible to create a maximally nutritious meal - in this day in age, that's possible. but, food isnt just about fuel - it's about culture, sharing, family, gratitude, understanding - things i think people dont inherently have, at last through the medium/lens of food, but is developed growing up.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    That's a lesson I wish more parents would teach their kids now: being thankful for the care put into feeding them. I know lots of parents do, and I appreciate them!

                    1. re: SAHCook

                      If I had a friend over for dinner and I made soemthing they didn't like, too much spicy hot, had liver or whatever, I'd adjust that dish next time I made it for them. Why should I treat my friends better than my own children?


                      1. re: JuniorBalloon

                        Because parents are not only feeding and entertaining their children, but also teaching them lessons no one else will teach them.

                        That doesn't mean you can't adjust the dish for your children. But if you did it every time, the children have missed the opportunity for the important lesson that the world - even at the dinner table - does not adjust to their wants and even needs. That's not a lesson that can be learned merely intellectually but only by experience. It's better to be first experienced in a loving and nurturing context than in a thoughtless or cruel context.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          I know that is the "Standard" bit of wisdom on this, but I just don't buy it. That lesson, that we don't always get our way, is learned almost everywhere we go and in everything we do. I don't see that it needs to be overly reinforced at home. Home should be a place where we learn there are some people who will, within reason, listen to what we think and feel and work with us. Of course that can be overdone and some kids will turn out spoiled, but that's just bad parenting. Bottom line is children should be fed a balanced diet. That's where you draw the line. Pizza and french fires every night ain't gonna happen. But if they like peas and beef and not liver and broccoli, that should be fine.


                          1. re: JuniorBalloon

                            As a parent, you don't do it because you want to avoid a sense of entitlement with your children.

                            As a host, you do make adjustments because you are being polite.

                            The former is about rearing children; the latter about entertaining guests. The two are not the same, nor should they be.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I agree there is a difference, but isnt there some middle ground where you don't completely capitulate to your children while not forcing them to eat food they don't like. Perhaps we should treat our children a bit more like guests and not indentured servants who need nothing more than gruel?


                              1. re: JuniorBalloon


                                At least not until your children have earned that right to be treated like guests. That right has to be earned, and not just something that's expected.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  I agree that kids shouldn't be treated like guests, but I also agree that dinner on a nightly basis should not be a battleground over every dish served. It's tiring, it puts an enormous amount of stress on the family bonds, and it creates kids with lifelong food issues.

                                  There has to be some give and take on both sides.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    I think were saying pretty much the same thing. You would treat them with that respect if they proved to you that they understood what was expected. I would treat them with that respect until they proved they didnt understand what was expected. Same result, just a different route.


                      2. re: ipsedixit

                        You are 100% right.

                        I'm going to print this out and put it on my fridge.

                      3. My parents never forced me to finish anything I didn't like, after their somewhat disasterous attempt at feeding my sister and I "healthy blender drinks". As long as I was willing to try some of it, they didn't crow about it. I credit that change of attitude to allowing me to grow into an adventurous eater, even though I'm still maimed by the memory of "pink drink" and "green drink". (My blender only whizzes up pina coladas, and nothing else, as a result.) I even ate tofu when we had meatless night in the 60s, as long as it wasn't too often.

                        It was the same deal if I wanted to order the same chow mein over and over again when we went out. That's what I liked, and it wasn't ever a problem.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: RelishPDX

                          "my blender only whizzes up pina coladas, and nothing else"

                          You say that like it's a bad thing..... :D

                          I am, by the way, the most adventurous eater I know -- the list of things I won't eat is very, very short.