Monday, August 27, 2012

The PICK FROM TWO System for Back-to-School

These delicious, healthy morsels
would not make the cut if the kids
selected all their favorites
for their school lunch.
As we adapt to the new school-year routine, we are inundated with advice from experts. Well, I’m no expert, but I do have some experience-inspired words of warning regarding what at least one journalist provided as options for your child’s lunch.

The article I read while sipping coffee and signing reams of back-to-school paperwork began by suggesting you allow your child to make some decisions regarding the foods that should be packed in his lunch. What the article did not provide was guidance on how to involve the child in the decision-making process. But it is important to handle such things delicately, lest you unleash the untamed and lose control as a parent.

Unless your child has a basic understanding nutrition, human biology, and is already a skilled decision-maker, please DO NOT simply ask the child the open-ended question, “What would you like in your lunch?” It is also critical that you do not ask for input while at the grocery store. By avoiding these two pitfalls, you avoid your child heading to school with steak flavored chips, cream-filled doughnuts, several toaster pastries, and a Red Bull for lunch. Unless your goal is to make your dentist and pediatrician wealthy, while at the same time driving some poor teacher into early retirement, it is imperative you retain control over what your child eats.

It is a good idea to involve your child in the decision-making process. However, this can be done without the child actually selecting the foods. Here’s how:
1. Without the child’s input, purchase healthy lunch foods.
2. Ask the child to select one of two similar items.
Example A: “Would you like grapes or an apple in your lunch today?”
Example B: “Would you like Swiss cheese or provolone on your sandwich?
This is what I like to call the PICK FROM TWO system. By controlling and limiting choices, you get to control and limit what your child eats while still allowing an opportunity for decision-making by the child.

Worried your child trade his carrots for a cupcake? Put yourself in the other child’s shoes and fear not. Your child’s classmates are highly unlikely to give up a cupcake for some carrot sticks.

The PICK FROM TWO system works for getting dressed on a school morning, as well. It is perfectly acceptable to lay out two shirts and ask the child to select on or the other. What you don’t want to do is let the child come up with his or her own outfit for the sake of giving him creative expression opportunities. Let the child express creativity on the weekend or after school. But on school mornings, maintain control. A child won’t dress for weather or appropriateness on his own.

You must control your child’s wardrobe while you can, as that is how your child learns to dress. Children don’t come into the world knowing what to wear, when, and with what. It’s best they learn from you. Unless, that is, you simply love the way other kids at school, people on TV and in movies, and characters in video games dress and you are hoping your child will emulate such fashions. If, however, you prefer a more modest, practical approach to dressing, employ PICK FROM TWO and manage your family’s fashion. I truly believe schools would not need dress codes if more parents used dressing for school as a learning opportunity.

I have more experience-inspired words of warning directly relating to the food items on the list of suggestions from the article, but I wrote so much on choices that I will have to cover “Foods to Avoid in the Brown Bag School Lunch” in my next blog.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, writer, and content strategist is the author of Thurston T. Turtle books.
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