My 14-year-old daughter recently declared, “I don’t like anything you cook in this house.” I take a lot of trouble over the food, whether it’s made by me or the cook. Not only does her comment hurt, I don’t know what to do—we can’t order in all the time. She often tells me that the food in friends’ houses is much better. Nowadays, she brings back her school tiffin untouched.
Well, one of the perfect weapons in an adolescent’s armoury is to hit out at mom’s cooking. And see how it gets most mothers right where it hurts! While all of us want our children to eat well and enjoy home food, it is not possible to please the fast-expanding mind and palate of a 14-year-old at all meals. Yes, you could sit her down and ask her what she would like in her tiffin box, but I would urge you not to feel so deeply hurt by her comments. Seeking brownie points—constant and comprehensive approval—from our children on this count is a bit of a pointless exercise on two counts. One, you can’t win when they compare your cooking with that made in someone else’s home and in fast-food places; rest assured that your youngster will keep changing the goalpost if you try to reach the “other people’s cooking” goal! Two, they really need to understand that their homes are not places fine-tuned to fulfil their every whim and demand. Nutritious, tasty food on time and in adequate quantities is what it’s about at most meals, and fun and fast food for some meals.
Food can be fun: Try to involve your child in the process of cooking. Photo by Thinkstock.
The next time she talks about someone else’s tasty food, try not to be defensive. In fact, you could join in her admiration for that food. You could even suggest she find out exactly how it is made and perhaps try her hand at making it herself or help you make it that way. Just for fun, and not to “improve” your cooking skills in her eyes, please.
Do not appear hurt, defensive or lecturing about the food made in your home. Going into injured pride mode is pointless too—many parents in your situation take recourse to sulky responses such as “I’m sorry, that’s the best I can do, and what can I do if it doesn’t measure up to your standards?” Avoid that totally.
Some parents fall into the zone where they go on the offensive and list all the sheer hard work that goes into keeping house and generating meals, and also go into the nasty area of saying, “Well, you’re comparing me with so-and-so’s mother, I will compare you with so-and-so’s child and tell you the many things that that child does better than you.” These are avoidable ways of handling a youngster complaining about her home situation.
I urge you to give yourself the approbation you seek from your child—for being a parent who provides food and thought-out meals. Also, take heart in the fact that one fine day in the not-too-distant future, the same child will miss your food and remember home meals with extreme fondness and yearning, and will be waiting to come home to your cooking!
Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting.
Write to Gouri at email@example.com