Q&A | What if a kid says “yuck” at the dinner table?

What if your kid says “yuck” at the dinner table. Cooking a meal for your family is hard work and when your kids express distaste, it can really get under your skin. The truth is that most kids think in black and white: they either love a food or they hate it. Not only do they think in black and white, but they also speak in simplistic terms as well. Today we are talking about letting go of the need to constantly instruct and correct our kids, and instead, giving our kids new (more socially-appropriate) language to communicate their needs and feelings.

Show Notes/Links

Hi, there it's episode 195. And today I am answering the question. What do you do at the dinner table when your child constantly says yuck? Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my Ph.D. In child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.

Hello, and thank you for tuning in this is episode 195. Today we are going to be answering the question. What do you do at the dinner table when your child constantly says yuck and spits? So we'll get to that. But first I want to bring you something simple that I'm loving this week. Now. I don't know where you are in the world, but here in New York, it is pretty cold. We here in the depths of winter and I'm a huge advocate for outdoor play in all types of weather. My kids were outside quite a bit today, despite it being freezing cold, we have learned to dress really warm. And when I say we me, most importantly, because I am definitely more adverse to cold weather than my kids are. So as long as I am dressed properly, usually we can stick it out and stay outside for a good amount of time.

But let's be honest. I know that there are certain barriers to playing outside when the weather isn't ideal, there's certain barriers to playing outside at any given time of the year. Maybe you have a baby who needs to nap and an older child who needs to be inside while that happens, or maybe you're not feeling well, maybe your child isn't feeling well. And if you have a kid, that's anything like either of mine when they're not feeling well, they're still full of boundless energy. So what do you do when they're full of energy indoors now for this something simple. And remember, these are never sponsored. These are just things that I do authentically love. I'm going to give you two examples of gross motor or big body play type toys that you can use in smaller spaces. The first is plastic scooter boards. Now we used to use these when I was in elementary school, in gym class.

And it was my favorite day when they would get out the Scooters that we could sit on and scoot around. Now, I bought these for my kids. A couple of years ago, really hard plastic. I'm going to link up the ones that we have on Amazon, that we keep at our house. The best thing about them is they're very very easy to store and an excellent way to get energy out. If you have hard floors, if you don't have hard floors, this just isn't going to work for you. We do have hardwood floors and my kids love scooting around on them. But these scooter boards get much more play rather than just scooting around. And another way that they get used frequently is if my kids have constructed something out of a box, like an airplane or a boat or whatever, they're pretending it to be, we will put the scooter boards underneath the box.

If it's a really big box, we'll do two scooter boards side by side. And that box suddenly comes to life and we'll roll around the house. And it truly is a moving boat or airplane or car or whatever it is. They want it to be. We've done trains where we've had multiple boxes tied to each other with scooter boards underneath where I'm pulling the train with the two boxes, both sitting on scooter boards around the house. They're inexpensive, durable and great for many different uses. They run about $15. If you just have one child, I would get two because you can use one, get a really good core workout in. And because it is something new, your child might need some new ideas about how to play with it when they're first adjusting to it. And you might just need one because you're feeling nostalgic from your own childhood, which I know that I was, but really we just have to, I have two kids and I have two scooters and that has been more than enough for us.

And like I said, very easy to store, slide them under the sofa. Some are small and you don't have to look at them. The rest of the time. We know that our kids need to be moving their bodies all the time, all year round, despite the weather. So if you don't have hardwood floors, another one of my favorite things are like gonge hilltops. I'm going to put a link to that in the show notes too. That's G O N G E. These are not cheap, but target does make an alternative. That is much cheaper. I have not used those myself, but I do know that that is a good viable alternative. If you want to look into those, I'll put the link to the gonge version and also the target version in the show notes at simplefamilies.com/episode195. These are great for obstacle courses and for stepping and jumping around.

But they're also great to be turned over, to be used as basketball hoops, or if you're a child of the eighties early nineties, you might be familiar with Bozo's grand prize game, which I loved as a kid where you throw little bean bags or things into one. And the next, if you don't know what I'm talking about, when I say bozos grand prize game, I feel sorry that you missed that on this part of the eighties, nineties childhood. And I'm going to put a link to a YouTube video so you can see exactly what I'm talking about, because this is important. Definitely one of my unfulfilled childhood dreams to go on the bozo show and play the grand prize game coming clean today. Anyways, I digress. There's lots of ways that you can use these guns, whole tops or the target alternative in new creative ways with your kids, and more than likely your kids are going to have more ideas than you do before we go any further.

And I get into the question for today. Here is a quick 62nd word from our sponsor. The sponsor for today's episode is ButcherBox ButcherBox is a meat delivery, subscription service, which curates a high quality selection of meat and sends them right to your door. All the meat is free of antibiotics and added hormones, and you can customize your box or go with one of their preset options. For me personally, it lightens my load a little bit to have access to this high quality meat that I feel good about feeding my family. I think that most people can agree that an occasional steak night is a real treat. And when we do have it, I feel better knowing that this meat from ButcherBox is healthy and humanely raised. Right now, you can get two Philemon Yon, a pack of bacon plus $20 off your first box.

When you sign up butcherbox.com/families, or use the promo code "families" at checkout. Again, that's two free filet mignon, a pack of bacon, plus $20 off your first box. Go to butcherbox.com/families, or use the promo code "families" at checkout. My question today comes from Sarah in Jerusalem, Israel, she wrote, what do you do at the dinner table? When a child spits and constantly says, yuck, I don't want to give it too much attention because they know it's a normal phase, but I wanted to know that it's rude. I'm also afraid she might do it. When we're invited out FYI, we go by the feeding method of Ellyn. Satter thank you. Thanks so much for your questions, Sarah. So for anyone who's not familiar with Ellyn, Satter, I'm a huge fan of Ellyn. Satter. She has something that is, she is famous for called the division of responsibilities, which means she divides the responsibility.

The parent has a job in the feeding process and the child has a job in the feeding process and Ellen believes. And the research shows that when it comes to dividing responsibilities and feeding, the parents should choose the food and the child should choose how much, if any, they want to eat. So you're picking the food. Your child is reserving the right to say no, and to choose what the quantity they want to put into their body is. Sarah. I think you're right on and not giving this too much attention, because if she does see that this gets a rise out of you, it might motivate her to do it more often. I will say that I've had kids come to my house and eat dinner with us and say, yuck. And I don't like this about my food and it doesn't bother me in the least.

Now I'm sure that it might bother some, but I guess I have an understanding of what is typical behavior in childhood. And I do think that this is typical behavior in childhood, particularly for it two and a half year old, a big part of growing up is socialization and learning. What's okay. And what's not okay. And when she's saying yuck and she's spitting out the food, what she's trying to do is she's trying to communicate that she doesn't want it. So instead of saying, don't say yuck, don't spit. You've got to give her an alternative behavior. You've got to give her some alternative language to communicate the same thing. And then you got to give her a lot of time and a lot of chance to internalize it in the early days of communication. And I would consider a two and a half year old to be in the early days of communication.

It is pretty primitive. What is in their mind comes out of their mouth. They don't sensor it on behalf of anyone, whether it be us or someone who's hosting us at their house. Censorship just isn't a thing yet. Therefore, the words and the language that they choose, it comes from a variety of places. Maybe they've seen it from other children if they go to school or if they have siblings, maybe they've heard it from another adult in the home. Maybe they've just improvised and came up with it somewhere unknown. That happens all the time too. But they're using what's automatic to them. The food goes into their mouth. They don't like the way that it tastes. The first word that comes to mind is yuck. Therefore, that's the first word that comes out of their mouth. It's going to take a lot of exposure to new language and to a kinder expression in order for her to really internalize it and to use it more regularly.

So in our house, if one of my kids says, yuck, I don't want this. I will say back to them, Oh, it sounds like you don't prefer this today because that's what I want them to say. Right? I don't stop and say, no, don't say that, say this instead. I'll just paraphrase back to them the better way to say it, or the kinder more socialized way of saying it. So if I hear them say, no, I don't like this. Yuck. If they spit it out, whatever I'll simply calmly say, Oh, it sounds like you don't prefer this today. Now I've been doing this for a long time. They still say yuck. Sometimes I'll be honest. But sometimes they say, Oh, I don't prefer this today. And when they do, it's beautiful. It's so great. It doesn't always happen, but it's a slow and steady process as they're growing and they're developing that filter and they had that new option of language programmed into their brain.

They're going to start using it more frequently. So whenever I'm trying to change language and behavior and reactions like this, instead of shaming them and saying what not to do, I always focus on echoing what I want them to do, but not always in such a bossy straightforward kind of way. I don't personally think there's anything wrong with saying, it's rude for you to say, yuck, it's rude for you to spit. Instead, you should say this. If you want to do that, that's fine. The research shows that kids learn better in vivo in their environment naturally rather than through direct instruction. So whenever we can weave in the instruction into regular life, regular conversation, they're more likely to internalize it than if we're telling them exactly what we want them to do. Now, this can be really hard for us as parents, because we have the tendency to really want to correct our children.

It feels like we're doing our job when we're correcting them. And we're telling them exactly what we want them to do, because if the grandparents are visiting or somebody else who might be a little bit judgy about this process, if they witnessed this go down and they saw your daughter say yuck, and you said, Oh, you don't prefer this today. They're going to be like, Oh, you're just letting her get away with that rude behavior. Right. I can totally see that. So we put pressure on ourselves to quote unquote, deal with it. Whether or not the way that we're dealing with it is actually efficient. And when I say efficient, is it actually going to get the job done effective, efficient, perhaps a little bit of both part of using an approach like this in parenting more positively and more intentionally is trusting in the process, trusting that this example that you're setting and the intentional way that you're using your language is actually teaching passively in the process that we do have to let go of that need to constantly be correcting and instructing our kids.

Now, for sure, there are absolutely times, lots and lots of times where we need to instruct and correct our kids. But when we can get away with just helping them find new words and modeling new language and better, more socially appropriate ways to communicate, I think we should always lean on that. And if you do go out and she does this at a friend's house and you never get invited back, I would just say that you probably didn't need that friend anyways, because the truth is parenting a two and a half year old is going to be full of unpredictable moments. Parenting a child of any age is going to be full of unpredictable moments. And Sarah, it sounds like you're not giving it too much attention. You're following the division of responsibilities. You are absolutely on the right track already. So now it's just a matter of finding new ways for her to communicate her feelings that are more socially appropriate, instead of saying yuck saying, Oh, you don't prefer this today.

And it will come with time. What will take more time is to get her just to keep her mouth shut and not comment on the food at all. If she doesn't like it, that type of filter is going to take much, much longer to develop. So in the meantime, let's give her language that is more socially appropriate to communicate how she feels about the food. And as she gets older, moving towards just not commenting period. I actually think that when kids are young, they're more inclined to comment on the tastes of food because we're always asking them, do you like it? How does it taste? Is it good? Yum, don't you like it? We're asking for commentary out of them frequently. And the result is that we get the commentary. We don't always like the commentary that we're getting, but I think kids are more likely to vocalize sometimes because they're really encouraged to do it.

I'm a big advocate for not really talking about the tastes of food with my kids. Rather just putting the food in front of them and saying, let's eat and talking about other things at the dinner table. Otherwise we can fall into this pattern of over-analyzing likes and dislikes. And because our kids are black and white thinkers, they do tend to love or hate most foods. There's very little gray area. There's very little in between. So if you're asking a kid, if they like a food, unless they love it, chances are they're going to tell you. They hate it, even if it's just, okay. So something I work to do with my kids is to teach them about the gray area when it comes to food, because there are foods that we absolutely love, and there are fruits that we absolutely hate, but a good, probably 80 to 90% of foods fall right in that middle gray area, which it's okay, we eat it.

It's healthy. It fills up our stomach. We don't love it. We don't hate it. It's just okay. But because of the way that their brains are working in the early years, that idea of Food just being okay, falling in that gray area, that's foreign to them. So if we can start talking about that and introducing those ideas too, that can be really helpful. And if you have questions for me, you can leave those at simplefamilies.com/question. Thanks again for tuning in and go to simple families.com/episode195, for the links to the things I talked about today, have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.