Every so often I receive a question that I think might be of interest to my readers. Sometimes I receive a question to which I simply do not have the knowledge or personal experience to provide a good answer. I’d like to start sharing some of these questions on my blog, in the hopes of generating dialogue and soliciting a variety of different viewpoints. My first such question comes from L., whose relatives are sabotaging her attempts to feed her children a Paleo diet.
Please note that all correspondence I receive is considered confidential unless I have received explicit permission from the sender to share it with my readers.
Dear One Fit Mom: What are your thoughts on how to deal with relatives who provide free child care but are reluctant to follow a parent’s wishes regarding nutrition? I’ve tried to get them to understand, with no success. Many times when I come to pick up my kids, they have a peanut butter and jam sandwich or a cookie in hand. It drives me insane.
Grandma’s house is close by our house and she is always willing and able to watch kids for me. I am really thankful for this and I don’t want to come across as ungrateful. Some days I just want to tell her my kids are allergic to these things so that she’ll stop, but I can’t bring myself to lie.
If my kids really want a piece of toast or some ice cream, I’d rather it be my decision and not the grandparents’. It’s tough with all these treats, and with so many relatives who aren’t on board with Paleo. How can I help them understand how important this is to me, and stop them from feeding my children garbage?
Dear L: That is such a tough dilemma! I am honestly very lucky that both my family and J’s are respectful of our dietary choices for Oliver. Though even if they weren’t, they all live out of town anyway, so it wouldn’t be an ongoing problem.
I guess my first suggestion would be to sit down with them and ask them (calmly, politely, unemotionally) why they are giving these foods to your children against your wishes. Maybe they don’t fully understand the concept of Paleo, and feel that they are providing what they consider to be “healthy” food. Maybe they feel that they know best because they already raised children who grew up healthy, and are feeding your children the same things they fed theirs. Maybe they feel that you are somehow depriving your children of foods that children ought to be allowed to have, and so they think they’re doing the kids a favour. Maybe they feel that it’s their job to “spoil” their grandchildren. Understanding why they are doing what they’re doing would be the first step in trying to change the behaviour.
Perhaps they just need some more explicit guidance. Would it help if you gave them a written list of approved and prohibited foods, to which they could refer if they had any questions?
Would they be offended if you sent your own lunches and snacks for your children?
I can certainly see how you are in a difficult position, not wanting to seem unappreciative for all of their childcare help by criticizing what they’ve been feeding your kids!
What would you suggest to L? How can she get her relatives on board with her children’s nutrition plan without seeming ungrateful for their help? Or should she just accept that her kids will eat what they eat when they’re in their grandparents’ care?