As many parents know, it's not always easy to get a child to listen or to try new things. I've been around a few kids who are willing to attempt new things, but for the most part, it's typically a battle when trying to get them to break outside their comfort zone.
Some parents will just give up and let the kid ease into something new at their own pace, but I've always been a firm believer that the child should at least try the item in question before making a decision. While I don't want to be cramming something down their gullet, I think it's typically good to at least try it. I'm fine to let our son make him mind up for himself either way once our son has experienced something, but until then, I don't like to take no for an answer.
Sometimes - if I can get him to listen - all it takes is a little explaining to get our son in the right frame of mind to try something, do something or to get him to do it correctly. Explaining how to do something or why it's good to do something a particular way often helps him begin to try it on his own, on his own terms, and his own way…they way he wants to do it.
Take for example, wearing our seatbelts. Just the other day, we were moving our car from one parking area to another (since we live in an urban environment and our usual parking lot was filled). It was only about half a block away, and our five-year-old son was wondering why I made him wear his seat belt to go such a short distance. I explained that you just never know what might happen when driving a vehicle, and it's better to be safe than sorry.
Sometimes it's just easier to show him how to do something myself. I can try explaining until I'm blue in the face, but until he actually sees daddy jump off the side of the pool, swing a baseball bat, or similar incredible feat, he's just not quite sure how to attempt it himself.
Go back to my seat belt example in which I had explained to our son how even just driving a short distance can be dangerous. While we were moving our vehicle, as we prepared to pull into our regular parking lot, a wild teen driver came barreling out of the lot entrance, nearly hitting our vehicle on our driver's side right where our son's car seat is located in the backseat. I used this as an example to illustrate to our son exactly what I was talking about with wearing his seatbelt.
I typically like to take realistic approaches to things and reason things out. Therefore, I tend to do the same with my son. Sometimes it just takes a little reasoning with him for him to understand. At times, it could be as easy as asking him, "Does mommy or daddy tell you to do things that will hurt you? No."
Other times - as with new foods - I might try the old, "You have to at least try it to know if you'll like it." Or with specific foods, as with the other night, I might explain that sometimes things taste good or bad depending upon how you cook them, not just what they are. We used mushrooms as an example. I explained that daddy doesn't really like the taste of raw mushrooms - which our son agreed with - but daddy loves them deep fried, which he also agreed with, thereby reasoning out that it just depends upon how a mushroom is cooked, not necessarily that all mushrooms taste yucky.
I'm not typically a deal-maker with our son, as I don't believe that negotiating with children is a good thing; however, every once in a while, it can work, especially when he realizes that he was wrong. "Just take one bite to try it, then you don't have to have any more," is kind of a deal with trying new foods. I'm banking that he'll like the food he's trying, and even if he won't eat the whole thing, the seed will be planted for later that he's had it, and it's not so bad after all.
Take a Break…but be Persistent
However, during the course of my years of fatherhood, I've also learned that most of the time you really just can't force something on a child. Therefore, as I mentioned, sometimes it's best to plant the seed of something new, take a break, and come back to it later. In so doing, I'm not giving up or giving in, I'm just taking smaller steps in the achievement of an overall goal. Rome wasn't build in a day, and properly raising a child doesn't take place in such a timeframe either.
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