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"When I get bigger, I can eat meat, and cow's milk, and cow's cheese, and it will be so yummy!"

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
"When I get bigger, I can eat meat, and cow's milk, and cow's cheese, and it will be so yummy!" -- this is what my 2.5yo DS has been saying all the time lately. I think he seriously feels deprived or something that he isn't 'allowed' to eat those things yet. We are raising him vegan and a lot of our friends are vegetarian so our dietary choices are always respected and accommodated (almost everyone in our circle provides vegan cupcakes at birthday parties, for example). But DS just LOVES food and has never tried a food he didn't like so I think he is just eager to have what everyone else is having. He really wants to try it.

I don't know what age is a good age for him to start making some of these decisions for himself. I really don't feel that dairy is healthy. I'm a little less opposed to him eating meat but I still have a lot of concerns with it. (We aren't exactly 'ethical vegans', though obviously ethics do play into it). I guess ideally he would be old enough to fully understand what he is eating at least. We try hard to honor his requests, and I'm very worried about being too controlling, but I'm not sure at what age he can take some responsibility for the food he eats. I'm talking more about trying things outside the house (at friends' houses etc.) because in our house we only have vegan food.

Thoughts? What has worked (or backfired!) with your kids?
post #2 of 13

That's a curious statement for a 2.5 year old to make.  Have you, DH, other family or friends said something to that effect to DS?  Like, in response to a question about why someone else is eating cheese/meat, has anyone said something like, "this is how we choose to eat now, you can decide how to eat when you're older?" 

 

I have a friend who has explained food like that to her DD, mainly because mommy goes back and forth between vegetarian and vegan, while daddy is decidedly a meat-eater.  So she has to kinda toe the line, she can't just say "this is the decision that was made that is right for our family," she has to allow room for multiple points of view.  But, that has resulted in her DD trying foods that daddy was eating that my friend really really really didn't want her DD to eat, ever.

 

If you or others have said things like that, I'd stop, and instead just focus on what dietary choices your family makes.  The end.  Nothing about changes in the future.  This is what we do with our DD, who will be 3 next month.  She understands that other people eat meat, and she'll often list through the people she knows- grandma eats meat, cousin eats meat, friend doesn't eat meat, we don't eat meat.  I think the reason she hasn't followed it through to the "but when I'm older I can make my own decisions" point is because no one has done or said anything to her to suggest that there would be a reason to re-evaluate that decision at any point.  Basically, it is what it is. 

 

To your main question- when to let kids make their own food choices- I don't have an exact answer, but I will say, not now.  Not at 2.5.  He's too young to understand health issues, ethical issues, financial issues, environmental issues, etc- all the things that influence our choices we make for our families food sources.  So, I guess, whenever a child can begin to discuss and understand these issues- then I would consider letting the child make his/her own decisions.

 

But one last thing, which might seem to contradict what I just said- I don't freak out if DD has something I would not want her to have when she is not in my presence.  Meaning, if I am with her at a party, and she sees and asks for Jello, I say no, that has animals in it and we don't eat animals.  And that's the end of that.  But when she came home from daycare and said that she had Jello, I didn't freak out, at her or the daycare people.  I just said "oh, that's nice" to her and made a mental note to tell the daycare that the whole "no animals" thing includes seemingly benign products as Jello and certain fruit snacks. 

post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hmm yes we did say something to him about when he's older he can try it if he wants... mostly because we weren't sure how else to respond to him (he added in all the stuff about yummy and goat's cheese and spicy meat, he loves spices lol). He sees other kids eating stuff and he wants to try it. I tell him no, that's made from cows (or whatever animal) and he gets upset because he really wants to try it. So we just said yes, when he's older, he can try it. I guess I'll have to figure out another way to address it.

Of course I think 2.5 is too young but it's just tough to see him feeling left out or deprived, you know? He just loves to try things, he has never met a food he didn't like. So I had always thought I wouldn't have to deal with this until he was older, and it's kind of taken me by surprise that it's already an issue, especially since he didn't even really eat table food until about 6mos ago!!

I am learning to be a little more laid back about him accidentally eating things and all though. I am so, so controlling of what goes into my own mouth (I don't know why, maybe has to do with being a 'recovered' anorexic or maybe it's just how I feel about animal products) and I'm trying very hard not to pass that on to him and any future kids we have. It's hard for me to know if I'm going too far with "making" him be vegan and all.
post #4 of 13

It sounds like this is a situation that could backfire...like the kid who was strictly forbidden to watch any tv, and then would long to go to a friend's house where he could watch hours and hours and hours. That sort of thing.

 

My situation: I am lacto-ovo vegetarian, DH is a meat eater. Seeing as I run the kitchen in this house, we eat veg here. DS is 14 months and so far veg. However, meat is everywhere and sooner or later he will see DH eating meat (when we're out, as he does) and I suspect he'll want to try it.

 

I am terrified, TBH! However, the one thing I keep falling back on is this: I am his primary caretaker and one of the main influences in his life. I will clearly explain to him why I don't eat meat. I don't want to guilt-trip him or traumatize him by telling him the awful things about factory farms before he's ready or that or anything, but I can only hope I will serve as a role model for him and maybe he'll want to follow in my path of vegetarianism. Maybe hearing me say again and again that I don't eat meat because I love animals , maybe something will click and he will eventually do the same......even if he has a phase of having to try meat, even if he has a phase of rebelliously needing to eat meat to distance himself from me.

 

Then again, maybe not. We aren't there yet. Look for my thread freaking out when DS decides he just HAS to have meat, lol!

 

I guess what I'm saying is that, eventually, whether it's when he's 3 or 33, he will have his own free will and be able to eat whatsoever he pleases. I guess the best we can do as parents is serve as role models and make sure the rest of our relationship to them is good enough that they take it into consideration and maybe follow in our footsteps.

post #5 of 13

I let my kids eat whatever they choose.  Usually I tell them whether a food is vegan or not, and then they can choose if they want it.  My older son (age 7) would not touch non-vegan food with a ten foot pole unless it is candy.  When we're with friends, my daughter sometimes chooses things with dairy in them, like whipped cream or goldfish crackers.  But it doesn't happen very often - so she is mostly vegan still.  I don't think either of them would ever choose to try meat. 

 

2.5 does seem a little young to be able to understand what animal products really are.  I can see why you would tell him that he could make the decision for himself when he is older.  But at the same time, it does set up an animal-products-as-a-treat-in-the-future idea.  I guess if I were you, I'd let him try some animal products - maybe some that aren't guaranteed to be tasty to him, so that he feels like he's not missing out on anything.  Then maybe he'd be less desirous of them.  I don't know.  That's a difficult question.....

post #6 of 13

I've been pretty heavy handed with comments. "I don't think that chicken wanted to be eaten."

 

So far my 5.5 year old chooses to be a vegetarian and can't understand why my husband eats meat when we go out. We'll see what happens when he grows up.

 

Some foods we tell our son, "That's not healthy. If you want to be strong enough to ride BMX (his favorite activity) you need to eat healthier foods."

post #7 of 13

     My dd (4.5yo) did this for a while. Sometimes even now, when pretending to eat foods, she says "I'm eating meat." I think she just does it to see how I will respond, because often she proudly proclaims "I don't eat meat." It doesn't bother me at all, and I believe that it will pass, like the "no" stage did.

     Sometimes she likes to ask why some people eat meat, and I tell her that they choose to do so. We have been over why I do not, and why daddy does not etc, and she always agrees with us that killing animals is not nice. She is a very empathetic person for her age, and I don't doubt that she is happy with her diet, but I do think kids are curious about things which they do not know much about, in our case dd is curious about meat eaters, and the meat eating lifestyle she doesn't have.

post #8 of 13



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by familycastle View Post

     My dd (4.5yo) did this for a while. Sometimes even now, when pretending to eat foods, she says "I'm eating meat." I think she just does it to see how I will respond, because often she proudly proclaims "I don't eat meat." It doesn't bother me at all, and I believe that it will pass, like the "no" stage did.

My daughter did something similar to this.  Around age five she said..."When I get older I am going to eat meat - yum, yum, yum, - and open a paper towel factory!"  Her twin brother became upset about her killing animals and trees and as a result she went on with more stories...like making paper plates too. 

 

Now at age seven, I did loosen up a bit and allow them to have marshmallows this summer.  We went to a couple parties where people were roasting marshmallows.  In the past, we brought vegan marshmallows or just didn't have any.  But they really wanted to try them and for various reasons I decided to allow them to eat the marshmallows.  My son doesn't want them again but my daughter does.

 

post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by familycastle View Post

     My dd (4.5yo) did this for a while. Sometimes even now, when pretending to eat foods, she says "I'm eating meat." I think she just does it to see how I will respond, because often she proudly proclaims "I don't eat meat." It doesn't bother me at all, and I believe that it will pass, like the "no" stage did.


Since I posted this, DS has stopped saying the 'when I get bigger I'll eat meat' thing, but has started pretending to eat cow's milk or cow cheese instead when he's playing. But at the same time, when someone gives him [real] food, he asks first if it has cow's milk in it or if it's gluten-free... even though the only people that give him food are me, DH, and one or two friends who know he's vegan lol. So I guess he's just trying to figure out our diet and stuff. I guess I'm glad he's not saying "when I get bigger" anymore because that kind of made me feel guilty, like I was depriving him or something.
post #10 of 13

Yes, I totally agree with you! You're not depriving him of anything, you're teaching him to be conscious about his food- a priceless gift in life. My dd asks "is this vegetarian" all the time, so funny.

post #11 of 13

My kids love to pretend they are eating meat. I think it is pretty funny. I think this is the way they try on different identities, and explore. They also pretend to be dogs and mice. They know where meat comes from. They have seen my firend harvest her chickens, and even got to taste the chicken at her hose.  I used to say that when they were 5 they could make the decision. but i feel knowing where your meat comes from and how it dies to come to you is really important.

post #12 of 13

My DD went through this for a couple of months, so you are not alone, OP!  If it makes you feel better, DD has always been highly opposed to smoking.  She'll tell people on the street straight-out:  "That's gross!" (much to my chagrin).  However, this morning we were walking to school and she started pretending like she was smoking and said:  "I'm not going to smoke until I'm sixteen."  I was like...WTF! (I didn't actually say it but I frowned at her).  Then she goes:  "I'm just pretending!  I'm not going to actually smoke!"  Umph!  Kids....

post #13 of 13

I've always told dd that, if/when she wants to eat meat - we'll be teaching her about it first, when she's older.  She's being raised vegetarian, sure, like I am - and I've always just felt that even if that changes I really want her to be conscious and discriminating about her food choices, so I'd want her to know 'these are the best sources for meat, this is what you'll get and how you cook it, etc. and this meat is cheaper and different and it's probably because . . .' and be making those kind of choices about meat (and other stuff) she eats.  

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