Turning water into whine

Dara Squires
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Dara Squires

We have a rule in our house. OK, we have a few rules.

At least a handful. I’m not saying the kids obey them or anything, but they are rules.

This one in particular, though, is bolstered by the Canada Food Guide. My rule is that the children get one glass of juice a day. That’s it. They get to pick when they drink it — breakfast, lunch or supper. On school days it’s usually a juice box at recess. Other days it’s a larger glass of watered down juice. They consider that a treat.

Some days they wind up with more than one cup of juice — their school lunch lets them pick between milk and juice. I get tricked into supplying a second glass by children who claim they had none ... someone else supplies them with that illicit “extra.”

Still, it’s a rule that my kids can quote back to you and even explain why: “because juice has just as much sugar as soda!” My eldest son tries to use that tidbit of info to bargain for soda instead of juice, but he’s been taught about nutritive value as a result — thus boring him so much that he doesn’t attempt those kinds of negotiations any longer.

We have a rule about candy too. It’s freely available one day a week. By freely, I mean I do little to limit how much they eat as long as they eat their proper meals. It doesn’t mean I let them gorge, but if they want a lollipop, chocolate bar and bag of chips, as long as it’s all finished before sundown and they don’t turn their nose up at the “real” food I serve that day, they can have it.

The kids know this rule pretty well too. They’ll still try, though, to convince me to let them finish their unfinished candy horde before the next candy day. Or try to sneak it. I’m considering instituting a “what’s left gets tossed” rule, but I can’t afford that one.

So, they know both these rules, inside and out. They know the exact wording of the family statute that prevents overconsumption of juice or candy. They know the criteria and the reasoning behind the institution of these laws.

And yet, still, they try to bargain. “Milk or water?” they’re asked at supper time. “Can’t I have something else? Something other than milk or water?” They know better than to ask for the forbidden nectar by name, but they still treat the juice rule as a surprise everytime it’s used to limit their choices.

The same with the candy.

Oh, and bedtime — though it’s been the exact same time for the last three years with the same routine leading up to it — still seems to come as a surprise to them every night.

I guess it’s great that I’m raising my kids to question authority, negotiate, assess the value of rules and taboos. But do they have to use those skills against me?

It is literally a whinefest every night when despite the “only water after brushing your teeth” rule that they all understand, they still ask for me to deliver a glass of juice to their bedrooms.

Who knew water was such a horrid option? I’ve always kind of liked it myself. Sometimes I even make it fancy with wedges of lemon or lime. Or I supply club soda, even.

I know all the parenting experts say that consistency is key — but has anyone explained that to my children? It’s been at least three years that each of them can quote these rules back verbatim, and yet they still argue with them every single day.

How long does it take to reach the consistency stage? Is there a gauge, like a candy thermometer, I can use to measure how close they are?

I seriously think I’ll be instituting rules about alcohol consumption before they accept the ones about juice consumption. Or candy. Or the water at bedtime rule ... or bedtime itself.

I admit, there’s been a couple of special occasions when the rules were bent but one day versus 364 days shouldn’t make that difference.

It actually got to the point where I refused to buy juice because I knew it would create battles. Even then, when the only options physically available were water or milk, they still asked for juice as if they thought I had a secret stash. They still whined every time I presented their options.

But they can tell you that juice has just as much sugar as soda and Canada’s dietitians suggest only one serving of juice a day and a serving is 250 ml which is how much is in a juice box.

So, despite the whining, they are learning. I just wish they’d apply the learning to their whineboxes.

I know that in 10 years we’ll be challenging each other over much more heady and important rules, but I’m hoping that at least they’ll have outgrown the whining by then, even if they’re still questioning, defiant and doubtful.

For now, it’s water and whine. And milk and whine. And one cup of juice a day. Somehow I feel like if I can just be consistent with this, despite the whining, for as many years as it takes to sink it, perhaps they’ll accept those more important rules when they’re older with a little less defiance.


You can comment on this column or access previous editions of Readily A Parent using the following short link: http://bit.ly/DaraSquires.

Organizations: Canada Food Guide

Geographic location: Canada

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