Last week their topic was "Why you should bribe your kids". (transcript here).
This was timely because I have just recently started paying my kids to eat vegetables.
I tend to think like an economist, so I have no problem with this. That is, I believe that (a) people respond to incentives, and (b) it is very, very difficult to get people to do things that they don't want to do, without them.
Of course, I am slightly uncomfortable with it. I would prefer to have my kids eat vegetables because I have modelled healthy eating, because I am a tough parent ("eat it or starve"), and because I have structured our lives and our menus in a way that the kids have learned naturally to enjoy their vegetables. But I have tried all of these things - some of them even consistently - and I know only that they involve a constant uphill battle for correspondingly little payoff. (See? economic thinking).
Bribery is not my only MO.
I hide vegies too. My kids love mashed potato. They only recently found out that I have always made it with half potato, half cauliflower. I have chopped up green and orange vegetables so tiny you can barely see them, and mashed them into mincemeat burgers, only to have eagle-eyed seven-year-olds screech "What's that?" after taking one bite. I have mixed too many pureed vegies into bolognaise sauce and made an unappetizing grey gloop that even I didn't want to eat.
I heard a CSIRO scientist on the radio a couple of years ago say he lets his kids pour chocolate sauce on their vegetables, because eating vegetables is that important. I've never done that (my kids have enough chocolate in their lives), but I have simmered green beans in butter and honey (delicious!) and served broccoli with honey drizzled over the top (meh).
I've coated Brussels sprouts in breadcrumbs and toasted them - or fried them. I've made fritters out of flour, vegetables and cheese that are goddamn delicious - all to fairly unenthusiastic reception.
I have kept up serving vegetables, and tried to keep them varied, and I've tried to keep mealtimes light-hearted and natural (don't want to create an eating disorder!) I've put various vegies on the table and said "You just have to eat one green thing and one yellow thing."
I've taught them how vegetables make them strong, and keep their innards working, and help them go to the toilet. I've told them stories about people who didn't eat vegies and got sick, or didn't grow. I've waxed lyrical on the satisfying crunch of a lettuce slice in a burger, or the tangy sweetness of red capsicum in a taco.
I've served up something I know they won't want, but might actually like, and said "You just have to have one bite. But if you like it, you can eat more, if you want."
And all of these things work a bit, and so I keep going with them all.
But I've had the most success yet the times when I've piled up their plates and announced: "I'm paying 50c per vegetable today", or "Three bucks to whoever eats ALL their vegetables tonight."
I am quite sure that many people will think - or comment - "Wow, when I was a kid we just ate what we were given", or "I don't offer my kids any alternative" or "If they don't eat it for dinner I give them the leftovers for breakfast". All that is great, and if these are your methods and they work, then that's great.
I too, as a kid, ate what I was given for dinner, and I didn't always like it. I can't remember if I ate all my vegetables. I probably did, or at least ate most of them. I don't remember complaining.
But times have changed and the way we run our lives and food has changed. Kids get more to eat now, and more variety, and yes, that makes healthy dinners harder.
So I'll stick to my mix of tricks: all the things mentioned above, plus bribery a couple of times a week, until the healthy habits stick.
Do you / did you bribe your kids?