There is an undercurrent of conflict. The Toddler does not want to eat her Big Soup.

“I cooked that for you especially,” I warn her. “You said that you wanted some soup, so I went to the cupboard, and I got out a tin of soup, and I showed you the tin, which has a picture of soup on it and the word ‘SOUP’, which I spelled out letter by letter, and I put it into a saucepan, and I cooked it.”

“I went to all that effort,” I continue. “So you are going to eat it.”

The Toddler dons her strop expression, sitting motionless with a face like a slapped arse. I am not prepared to compromise, especially as her contribution is just “don’t want my soup.” If she had bothered to be a bit more articulate with something like “daddy, this soup is essentially shit and a truly worthless nutritional exercise,” then I would be more sympathetic. But no.

I do not back down. She does not back down.

“I’m sorry,” I state finally. “You have to eat your soup. There are children starving in Africa.”

I have used the children starving in Africa line!!! This is a first for me. I immediately worry that I am being culturally imperialist, and perpetuating negative stereotypes which will stick with her for the rest of her life. I wander over to the laptop and put on ‘Drive’ by The Cars to emphasise the soup point.

The Toddler picks at her soup. “I tell you what,” I say. “If you eat your soup, I’ll change the music to that song from Disneyland about dreaming it.”

She eats her soup. I put on the song from Disneyland about dreaming it. I die inside.

29 thoughts on “We sit down to lunch.

  1. kelly says:

    I can’t believe you gave in so easily. Surely after the “starving people in Africa” line one moves on to the “stay there until you eat it” approach?

  2. AndrewM says:

    What about “If you don’t eat it now, you will have it cold for tea.”?

    COME ON!!

  3. Acornman says:

    My Mum liked “You’ll eat it before it eats you”.
    I reckon the “Through the teeth and round the comes,watch out tummy,here it comes” approach would be far more effective….

  4. Sam says:

    It was always the ‘if you don’t eat it you can go to bed’ line for us, but I guess that’s a little harsh at lunchtime. You’ve got to be pragmatic, I suppose, and tread the fine line of being walked all over.

    I imagine it feels great to be bested by a little girl, though.

  5. Nancy says:

    Ahh, parental bribery. I’ve done that with kids. And I’m not even a parent!!!

  6. “I immediately worry that I am being culturally imperialist, and perpectuating (sic)negative stereotypes which will stick with her for the rest of her life.”

    Not to worry, Jonny – you can salve your sensitive liberal soul with the certain knowledge that Africa will continue to perpetuate those self-same stereotypes long after we’re all dead and gone, without any help from you.

    Do they still make Big Soup, then? That stuff got me through University. You’re just starting her sixteen years too early. I recommend switching to Alphabetti Spaghetti for now. Just ‘cos you like it doesn’t mean your kid will, as I recently discovered with Glenmorangie…

  7. Holly says:

    Haha! I remember the first time my Dad used the Africa line on me. I damn sure finished my food after that kind of smack talk.

    My Google reader recommended your blog and thus far I’m very much enjoying it. Keep up the good work!

    – Holly

  8. admin says:

    Hullo Acornman and Nancy and welcome!!!

    D’oh – thanks Ivan. I’m making shedloads of typos these days, which is a bit worrying. It comes from only reading Meg and Mog.

  9. admin says:

    And hullo Holly and welcome!!!

  10. tillylil says:

    As super nanny will tell you – never fight a toddler over food and don’t resort to bribery.

  11. pinklea says:

    It’s not really bribery, it’s more negociation: “you do this for me, I do this for you”. A very important life skill to teach kids.
    And I like your choice of music!

  12. Z says:

    Bribery is fine, what’s the problem? Threats, real or empty, are the real problem. My father was not allowed to eat his pudding with just a spoon when he was 6 (this was in 1916 and it wasn’t his parents) and to the end of his life he could not eat pudding with a spoon but had to use a fork. You cannot be ‘too’ kind but you can be not kind enough.

  13. maria says:

    But… but… surely that’s the correct approach?

    Not the Africa thing (it’s AN approach, I don’t know how effective it is, it never worked on me – and yes, they use “the children in Africa” in Mexico, too, so I think you can sleep at ease), but the bribery. It’s a reward. Positive behaviour (leads to) reward. It’s perfect.

  14. Ellie says:

    I was on your side until you resorted to Drive by The Cars. Cruel! Funny but cruel none the less. Made me chuckle though. Stand firm.

  15. john malpas says:

    Hasn’t the toddler learned to spill the soup on the floor and them scream?
    Or as a passive resistance – to just vomit.
    Beat that if you can.

  16. So far as the typos go, that’s just another point in favour of the Alphabetti Spaghetti. Imagine all the spelling practice you could be getting in at lunchtimes! Just think of it as a form of multi-tasking, which is exactly the kind of excitingly dynamic, proactive new economy skill we’ve come to associate you with…

  17. Diana says:

    My answer, as a child, to that line from my mother was “they can have it – send it to them”. I didn’t try it on my own kids.

    I have friends who had 3 toddlers and all 3 ate their soup with long bibs tied round their necks and their bowls of soup placed on the bib on the table. To this day I can’t understand why not one of them ever lifted his head away in rebellion.

  18. carnalis says:

    i tell my children what is for pudding .. and then say they don’t get any until they eat their mashed potato/carrots/whatevers. I shall probably be reprimanded by social services soon.

  19. Megan says:

    So it begins. For a small victory over a meaningless act you give away a small piece of your soul. Which is why, by the time one is a teen, parents are either utterly passive, choosing not to relinquish that final, shriveled bit of immortality – or they can do that really excellent head-spinning thing with the eyeballs that shoot green acid. Personally I’m going for option two.

  20. zed says:

    Crikey, what a well-behaved child. My kids as toddlers were to scared to disobey me. It’s now that they are too damn fussy and extremely picky. I went through years where they’d eat everything.

    Oh christ – they were terrified of me for …. about 14 years! OH NOOOOES.

  21. Laura says:

    Awwww I love this blog. So funny :-)))

  22. Pat says:

    I gave up when ‘cowboys love baked beans’ didn’t work. Children can be a great

  23. Richard says:

    I feel dreadfully old. When I was a toddler I can remember my mother telling me to eat my greens because of the starving children in India.

  24. nn says:

    as an expecting mother I have to say that every day I hear from my mouth my mother’s words. it fells like a scene from a horror movie. what will be when the baby is born…. it will be a horror movie marathon. :/

  25. laughykate says:

    I am still chuckling about the time a friend told me that her boyfriend said as she was about to leave a third of a glass of wine in a bar, ‘Drink up! There are thousands of sober children in Africa.’

  26. AndyB says:

    “worthless nutritional exercise”? Be fair, JOnny, she’s only a toddler – more to the point, your toddler – she won’t know words like !exercise”

  27. admin says:

    Hullo laughykate and welcome. I will use the ‘sober children’ line myself. (Not steal it, just use it in the Village Pub, if somebody doesn’t drink their drink, like a gurl).

  28. guyana gyal says:

    You should’ve just given the child some curry and roti.

  29. Matt C says:

    Blimey – bribery?
    Never got that when I were a lad.

    My parents had two methods – eat it or it’s the only thing you get until you do (and MEANT it), and the threat of immediate physical violence.

    I grew up in the Thatcher years. There was no pudding to bribe me with, and there were starving kids in our street, never mind Africa.

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