Do you remember hating the vegetables that your parents tried to serve you growing up? Broccoli. Green beans. Brussels sprouts. Cauliflower. You hated them and you looked for any way to get out of it.
It’s a timeless power struggle between father and child: Don’t get up from the table until you’ve eaten your ______. If you don’t eat at least _____ bites of your ______ you can’t have any dessert. It’s basically a cliche now, captured in countless movies and children’s books.
But here’s something you might have noticed about your life as an adult: You now pay lots of money to eat some of those same dishes. It’s its own cliche—you can’t throw a dart at the menu of a farm-to-table restaurant these days without hitting Brussels sprouts or broccoli rabe, or a beet salad, or a half-dozen other deliciously prepared vegetable dishes.
How did this happen? According to the show Portlandia, it’s all a giant conspiracy by food lobbies. The truth is simpler but still pretty funny: It’s just that these dishes are actually edible now! Turns out there are amazing ways to cook vegetables that don’t involve boiling all the flavor and texture out of them.
Point is: A lot of things kids don’t want to do, they’re right about. They don’t want to go to school because school boring and they’re not actually learning much. They don’t want to practice piano because the teacher hasn’t bothered to think about what kind of songs would make a kid want to practice. They can’t sleep because their bed is uncomfortable—you wouldn’t tolerate such a low budget mattress. Or whatever.
Don’t just assume force or bribery or recalcitrance is the way to get your kids to do what you think is right. Stop. Think about Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Maybe there is a better way to do this. Maybe you’re the one that’s been doing it wrong the whole time. Maybe you’re cooking it wrong. Maybe with a few tweaks, with a little care and finesse, they—like you do now—will actually be excited to “eat their vegetables.”