cookbooks and meal planner on kitchen counter

When Parenting Food Styles Clash

Different parenting and feeding styles between partners can lead to frustration and conflict.

Key Takeaway: Parenting is a team effort. Through open communication and finding common ground, you can navigate differences and build a supportive family dynamic.

The (infamous) Pizza Story

During a recent keynote, I shared a story about leaving town for four nights. As a control freak, I left elaborate meal plans for my husband (who absolutely did not need them, BTW). When I returned, my 6-year-old excitedly informed me “Dad let us have pizza three nights in a row!”

Common Challenge

Differing parenting and feeding styles between partners is a common challenge. Several women approached me after the keynote, sharing similar experiences of trying to maintain meal plans while their partners far more often opted for easier solutions like pizza.

Embracing Different Approaches

I want to emphasize that I have an incredible partner who supports my efforts to raise happy, healthy, conscientious eaters. When you have three kids under five and are solo parenting for several nights, relying on pizza is understandable and okay.

But in the long-run, differences can be difficult to navigate. So what do you do when you and your partner have different approaches to feeding the kids? Here's what worked for us:

1. Communication is Key: Have an open conversation about why meal plans matter to you and understand your partner's perspective. 

   A Few Key Questions to Consider:

  •  What are your goals with meal planning?
  • What are your partner's preferences or concerns?
  • Which aspects are we willing to compromise on?
  • What do each of our children need?
  • What are our long-term goals for our children’s eating habits?
  • What part of mealtime causes the most stress for us?

2. Find Common Ground: Frameworks like Venn diagrams can help identify overlapping goals and create a collaborative plan.

Elements of the process:

  • List your goals and your partner's goals.
  • Highlight where they overlap and build from there.
  • Rank your goals in order of importance and find common priorities.
  • Define clear, shared objectives that both partners agree on.
  • Develop a step-by-step plan to achieve your shared goals, including who will take on which responsibilities. If step-by-step feels too daunting, at least identify first steps so you know where to start. 
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things that your partner suggests. You might find joy and value in them. Remember, it’s okay to not always know best and to find alternatives that your whole family can enjoy.

Let's Get Personal

For years, my husband wanted a weekly pizza and movie night. Initially, I resisted because I feared it would lead to unhealthy eating habits and mindless screen time. I was so focused on maintaining our family's nutrition and routines that I couldn't see the potential benefits of his idea.

However, I eventually decided to give it a try, and what I discovered was eye-opening. Family pizza and movie night turned out to be vastly different from what I had imagined. It wasn't about mindless eating in front of the TV; it was about creating a shared experience. 

This weekly tradition has become invaluable for our family. It's more than just a meal and a movie; it's a time for us to bond, enjoy each other's company, and have fun together. (Plus, it saves me from having to think about at least one meal each week!) 

Movie nights have provided openings for us to guide our kids through important conversations, to share experiences with them, and to provide a low pressure system for having important or difficult conversations.

They have also led to a lot of inside jokes and family quotes, which bring us closer together and enriched our family dynamic.

Embracing my husband's idea showed me that stepping out of my comfort zone and being open to new traditions can lead to wonderful, unexpected outcomes. It's a reminder that in parenting, and in life, flexibility and willingness to try new things can create meaningful and lasting family bonds.

Conclusion: Parenting is a team effort. By communicating openly and finding common ground, you can navigate differences in parenting styles. Embrace the imperfect moments and cherish the time spent together as a family.

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    © 2024 Kiyah Duffey

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