There is so much mumbo jumbo, advice, and analysis available concerning parenting it's just about worth winging it and risking the consequences.
Nutrition: Should your kids drink juice? No. But if it's hot, juice is better than dehydration.
Entertainment: Should your kids watch TV? Not before the age of two; after that, TV should be limited to two hours and be monitored by a parent. Unless, as a parent, you're close to a nervous breakdown. Then, sitting the kid in front of the TV while you clear your head is better than venting your psychosis to a 3-year-old.
Discipline: The "Time-Out"; put little Jimmy on the stairs while he logically considers the consequences of his misbehavior. How long? One minute for every year of your child's age. 3-year-old Jimmy should spend 3 minutes by himself. It's the quickest three minutes of a parent's day.
I loved the Time Out as an effective method of personality management when my kids were naive, simple, smurfy toddlers. Now, they're 7 and 5 and have achieved that maddeningly reckless level of intelligence. They are now obstinate enough once their time out is over to remember what they were angry about, and carry the argument through. They are also aware enough of my personality to understand which button they can keep pressing to get me riled up all over again after the time out. But, they are still ignorant enough not to understand the futility of carrying on. For instance:
They don't eat a proper supper, nor do they touch their veggies. "I'm not hungry." they say.
"No supper; no veggies; no dessert." I assert.
And we're off to the races.
Tantrum, tantrum, go to your room.
We soon (relatively) heal and go about our business.
An hour later: the kitchen is clean, pyjamas are on:
"Can I have a popsicle?"
"Are you kidding?"
"We just went through this, no supper; no veggies; no dessert!"
"You said no ice cream. I don't want ice cream, just a popsicle. It's not even food; it's juice."
You get the idea.
Two nights ago...Groundhog Day. Here we go again.
I served baked cod topped with stir-fried, shredded carrot and onion and (way too much) mozzarella cheese.
It came out of the oven looking exactly like a slice of pizza. To keep it company on the plate: roasted potatoes.
Neither of them would touch the fish. The fish was rejected purely for being fish the way you reject advice simply because it came from your parents. No logic, all spite.
With my best "Terms of Endearment" lilt, I appealed to their humanity:
"You know, kids, when I'm done working and put a lot of effort into preparing a meal for you - not only that I think you'll like, but is good for you - and you don't even try it, it really hurts my feelings."
Silence....for 18 seconds.
"So? What else is there?"
"Nothing! This is supper! You can eat it or not, but this is the food that's available until breakfast!"
And we're off to the races. Heat 2.
Except this time, I remember the actual theory behind the Time Out:
What kids want most is their parents' attention; when deprived of it, they realize the behavior isn't worth it. They consequently modify that behavior.
BTW, I also found a cure for cancer last Wednesday.
Although they desperately needed to be taught a lesson, I was not up to pouring my energy into seeing to it they stayed in their rooms - and didn't scream at me or at each other - while I tried to find Tupperware lids and room in the fridge for a bunch of leftover cod (which, let's be honest, I would end up throwing out...leftover cod - yuck!).
So, how could I reap the benefits of the Time Out without fighting through the exercise of the time out?
If the point is to deprive them of my presence; that's exactly what I'll do.
I sent myself to my room.
"Where are you going?"
"Because, I'm angry, and I don't want to be at this table right now."
They were stunned. I grabbed my smartphone (the Gin Rummy app was made for situations such as these), and retired to my quarters.
For two full minutes, I was in heaven: the house was quiet, I was lying on my bed in peace, I was dealt three 3's and a 9 and 10 of diamonds right off the top.
Then, a sweet little knock on the door; my daughter.
"We want you to come back down."
"Not if you're going to fight about supper."
"We won't. We promise."
She was right. They didn't fight about supper.
They still didn't eat it, but they didn't fight about it.
It was then I realized I worried less about their nutrition than about my exasperation.
After all, pediatricians will tell you: kids will never starve themselves. Eventually they will eat what their body needs if it's made available to them.
Full disclosure: my son did eat what was given to him: at 8pm he welled up with real crocodile tears because he was hungry. He asked for a second chance at the carrot/cheese/cod. I warmed it up and served it to him.
"This is delicious!" he said.
....I did my best not to vent my psychosis.