Forcing Children to be vegetarian - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 06-25-2014, 04:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Forcing Children to be vegetarian

Hello, I have been vegetarian for over 11 years now. I started when I was pg with my second child. I have 5 children now (pg with my 6th). All but my oldest, I had vegetarian for sometime (anywhere from 2 years to 6+ years). With each child the time has gotten longer. My two youngest ( ages 6 and 2) are still vegetarian and my others are not. Recently my 6 yo has been begging to eat meat (as she sees her siblings and dad eat it). I used to always say that once they asked (and understood) then we would talk about it and I would let them make their own decision. I don't think she fully understands, although I have explained it (somewhat) to her and she says she understands. I have thought about showing all of my children the process in which meat comes from....but I really don't want to scar them with such graphic images. But I am reasonably sure they would all be vegetarian after that. My dh is a meat eater and even though he doesn't give the vegetarians meat, he openly voices that he believes that they should be eating it. I jokingly say then that he should eat more veggies (which he hates) but he says at least he has the right to decide and that our kids should have that right too. I really don't want them eating meat! Am I just being selfish or a bad parent?
I do know with my 3rd child (the last one I let eat meat), even after I let him decide (at maybe 4 or 5) he didn't want it for a long time. But finally his dad and siblings kind of badgered him into it and now he is a big meat eater. My oldest child who I never had vegetarian, has recently decided that she doesn't prefer meat in most instances....although she still likes meat based gravies and things like ravioli (not that she has it much) ....but as for just eating a hunk of meat or even meat on a pizza, she doesn't want it. She is 12 and I think finally is starting to get it....without me forcing her. It would not surprise me if she ends up entirely vegetarian at some point by her own choice. The surprising thing is that she knows how supportive I am of being vegetarian, but yet she hasn't talked to me about her decision. I really wish she would...maybe I should start the convo? The only way I know she doesnt want to eat meat is because when I offer it to her, she declines.

A part of me wishes I never gave up on my two other older children being vegetarian......but the past is past. I just hate getting made to look like a bad parent because I don't allow my two youngest to eat meat. But in reality, I would be just fine with them all being vegetarian....but I think it would almost take a miracle for that to happen! I will say that I don't make a lot of meat in the house.....most of our options are vegetarian friendly...such as a lot of pastas and cheese pizza. I typically only make meat maybe once or twice a week.....and typically it is chicken. Beef rarely enters our house and neither does pork. Maybe if I just start to phase it out completely, no one will notice...lol. Although there are only so many variations of pasta that one can eat before they want something else! lol

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#2 of 17 Old 06-26-2014, 08:48 AM
 
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I think at 6 they can learn to appreciate that different people eat different ways. I wouldn't necessarily jump into the factory farming aspect because in reality, albeit a small percentage, there are responsible people out there who don't use these methods. So perhaps in the interest of keeping an open discussion with her, talk about the different ways that meat is produced and that way if she does chose to eat meat, at least doing so in a responsible way would be the better option. So local farmers, grass fed, free ranging....basically allowing the animals to be animals and treating them with respect. I've toyed with vegetarian/vegan but I don't tolerate soy or dairy, or beans in excess and so it's very hard for me to get enough protein to feel good. DD was mostly veg her first year, and we've always let her chose the foods she eats. Now she's only 2.5 and already her preference is veggies first over all other things, so I know the bulk of her diet is plant based. For us DH is a big time meat eater so we've made the switch to more responsibly farmed options, and some meals I skip the meat and just make some for him. In a mixed house it's def more about finding balance rather than forcing everyone to do the same thing which can cause some resentment in the long run.

DD is sensitive to gluten/dairy/soy and allergic to oats and so even though she's too young to fully understand I have begun talking with her about her needs and why at parties she can't always eat what the other kids are eating. So similar in that she sees others doing something that I really don't want her to be doing for her own health, but ultimately she will grow up and make those choices for herself so my focus now is on how good she feels when she eats certain foods and hopefully she will prefer that feeling to feeling like crap just to fit in.
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#3 of 17 Old 06-26-2014, 02:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks for your input =)
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#4 of 17 Old 06-26-2014, 02:56 PM
 
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Hi blessed, I'm fairy new here with posting, so please forgive me if I say something that isn't part of the culture here. I'll start by saying I am not a vegetarian, but in my old age (of 40,lol) have learned to appreciate the lifestyle and foods that vegetarians eat. I love vegetable, eggplant and mushroom based meals- something I would have scoffed at in my 20s. But I still eat my share of meat.

I have a very good friend and two cousins who are, as well as a friend who is kosher (so when we dine out, she is essentially a vegetarian). One of my cousins is a strict, hard core vegan. Her child is 5, and she is raising him to be vegetarian (not vegan). I never asked her why not vegan, but I suspect she wants to make sure a) he is not as limited in social situations, and b) receiving enough dairy and protein and such. At his age, he definitely has an understating of why his family doesn't eat meat (yet his cousins who he spends a great deal of time with, eat it regularly). I don't know how she handles that, if and and when he asks why.
My other cousins child is also vegetarian, and my best friends kids eat meat (as does her husband).

As parents, we always want to instill good, positive values in our children. With the excretion of people who are BAD parents (and even though I don't know you, I'm guessing you don't fall into that category), like drug addicts and criminals, most of us believe we are doing the right thing and want our children to model our behaviors.

In your household, dad eats meat, and mom doesn't. And you are both good parents, who do what you do for your own reasons. You paved the way early, and guided them in a direction you believed was best. Then gave all of your other children the option of opting out.
I know it's a stretch, but it's kind of like religion (please, I'm not looking for a religion discussion here, just using it as a loose analogy). We raise our children in the same faith as ours, but when they grow up, it is their choice to continue in that faith, or turn to another (or none at all).

There's a discussion in the teen forum going on about kids not liking the same foods as we eat, and how some people have trouble with that. We provide them with the tools they need as children; the ground rules. No snacking before dinner, no pizza for breakfast, no meat on Fridays during Lent (in my house), soda only on special occasions, no meat mixed with dairy in my friends house, and no pork or shellfish ever!! As parents, we generally take issue when our kids want to do things we don't want them to. It's human nature. I'm assuming your other children are happy and healthy, right? And who's to say one or more of them won't go back to this lifestyle later on? They will still be influenced by you, and your reasoning for choosing this lifestyle, but they are also influenced by their peers. As they enter the teen years, it is likely that they may change their minds again (I'm surprised mine hasn't, at 14).
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#5 of 17 Old 06-26-2014, 05:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your input. Yes, I do believe that my 3 oldest children are happy and healthy. Although, I do believe that I am going to ask my oldest if she does want to take a step towards vegetarianism...as it appears she does. But either way, I will support her decision. It is primarily my 6 year old that is in question at this point. The interesting thing is that she really likes the vegetarian meals I cook....she just has hated to feel left out on the meals that are not vegetarian. I guess it is just rough letting go in the beginning =S It was with all my kids that I had to eventually let go of their eating decisions.
And my youngest (2 yo) doesn't care most of the time...although has been known to get mad when we tell him he cant have something (no matter what it is).
It would be nice if I could just get my whole family on the same page (at least while at home) =S
I think I am going to plan a week full of veg meals and then go from there. =) My husband eats out for lunch every day Mon-Thurs and certain nights (Wed)...so he can get his meat from there. I don't think my boys would even notice and I am sure my other kids would be fine with it. So that might be a plan. =S I would like to talk to my hubby about this decision, but I don't think it would go over very well with him....so I will probably just try to see how long I can go before the family realizes that I haven't been making meat. ;P Thankfully, I only make it about once or twice a week as it is.....so I don't think it will be THAT big of a deal.
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#6 of 17 Old 06-27-2014, 07:48 AM
 
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When there is meat in the house for dad it does make sense to offer the choice. 6 is old enough to be familiar with the fact that animals are slaughtered. If you must show it, go for the small scale natural farmer image, a youtuber showing how to butcher a chicken perhaps. We are meat eaters (we lean toward primal actually, lots of veggies and the most naturally raised meat we can buy or produce), and my kids aged 5 and 8 are familiar with home butchering, peeking at the spectacle a few times throughout.
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#7 of 17 Old 06-27-2014, 08:10 AM
 
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Do your kids help with the food prep? That's also another great way to get them to see what they are eating. Maybe have everyone write their favorite meals on a slip of paper and put them into a jar, then pull them out for the week. You can always modify meals for those who are strict vegetarian so they don't feel put out at any requested meat meals (you know, eggplant parm if someone requests chicken parm). And if you want to encourage more vegetarian based meals, ask the meat eaters to pick a meal then involve them in helping to convert that meal so everyone can enjoy it! It's definitely easier to have the whole house on the same page - totally get that! What we've done in our house of food sensitivities is gone gluten/dairy/soy free for everyone. If we have a party that's about the only time DH is allowed to purchase "normal" items (ie bread, butter) otherwise he's ok with eating that way at home. Out of the house he's free to eat as he likes, even if it does make him feel crappy That way I don't need to create two separate shopping lists and I don't need to worry about what foods are off limits to who!
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#8 of 17 Old 06-27-2014, 08:20 AM
 
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Also, my very good friend is vegan - her DH initially was but now eats meat. In their home they are pretty strict vegan. Their lil bub will be raised mostly vegan (certainly in the home) although I believe she intends for him to have more flexibility outside the home (dairy and eggs) for the ease of family so something like 80% vegetarian and the rest they will decide as they go.
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#9 of 17 Old 06-27-2014, 04:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your input. =)
Yes, my kids do help with the meal sometimes. They enjoy it for the most part. (That is actually how I became a soup fanatic...lol...the kids and I wanted to make a nice autumn meal and figured soup would be great...we made our first soup together as a project and since then I have made a pot almost every week..lol).
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#10 of 17 Old 06-28-2014, 02:15 PM
 
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Hello, I have been vegetarian for over 11 years now. I started when I was pg with my second child. I have 5 children now (pg with my 6th). All but my oldest, I had vegetarian for sometime (anywhere from 2 years to 6+ years). With each child the time has gotten longer. My two youngest ( ages 6 and 2) are still vegetarian and my others are not. Recently my 6 yo has been begging to eat meat (as she sees her siblings and dad eat it). I used to always say that once they asked (and understood) then we would talk about it and I would let them make their own decision. I don't think she fully understands, although I have explained it (somewhat) to her and she says she understands. I have thought about showing all of my children the process in which meat comes from....but I really don't want to scar them with such graphic images. But I am reasonably sure they would all be vegetarian after that. My dh is a meat eater and even though he doesn't give the vegetarians meat, he openly voices that he believes that they should be eating it. I jokingly say then that he should eat more veggies (which he hates) but he says at least he has the right to decide and that our kids should have that right too. I really don't want them eating meat! Am I just being selfish or a bad parent?
I do know with my 3rd child (the last one I let eat meat), even after I let him decide (at maybe 4 or 5) he didn't want it for a long time. But finally his dad and siblings kind of badgered him into it and now he is a big meat eater. My oldest child who I never had vegetarian, has recently decided that she doesn't prefer meat in most instances....although she still likes meat based gravies and things like ravioli (not that she has it much) ....but as for just eating a hunk of meat or even meat on a pizza, she doesn't want it. She is 12 and I think finally is starting to get it....without me forcing her. It would not surprise me if she ends up entirely vegetarian at some point by her own choice. The surprising thing is that she knows how supportive I am of being vegetarian, but yet she hasn't talked to me about her decision. I really wish she would...maybe I should start the convo? The only way I know she doesnt want to eat meat is because when I offer it to her, she declines.

A part of me wishes I never gave up on my two other older children being vegetarian......but the past is past. I just hate getting made to look like a bad parent because I don't allow my two youngest to eat meat. But in reality, I would be just fine with them all being vegetarian....but I think it would almost take a miracle for that to happen! I will say that I don't make a lot of meat in the house.....most of our options are vegetarian friendly...such as a lot of pastas and cheese pizza. I typically only make meat maybe once or twice a week.....and typically it is chicken. Beef rarely enters our house and neither does pork. Maybe if I just start to phase it out completely, no one will notice...lol. Although there are only so many variations of pasta that one can eat before they want something else! lol
Let me frame this from a feminist position.

You have a HUGE amount of power over your kids, and young children crave their mother's love. It would be wrong to exploit that fact.

As an example, how often do you have to hit your children to make them listen to you or to make them behave when they were young?
Very little? None? If you didn't need to use force we can see that your approval or disappointment was enough to influence and change their behaviors.

To wield this mental power over them as their mother would be wrong.

Your daughter (12) is at the age of conformity and seeks approval hence her choice to go down the middle line in front of you and your husband. Don't believe that is what she is doing? Try eating alone with her at a restaurant (just the two of you) and see if she orders more vegetarian based foods. Have your husband take her out a week or two latter and see if her choice is a bit more meaty. Her choice will align closer to the parent she is with.


If you want your kids to make the choice themselves, you and your husband need to stop preaching. Let me repeat BOTH OF YOU STOP PREACHING. No discussion of the subject in front of the kids. Provide both foods at the table and let the children eat as they want.

Making a line if demarcation from their mother's wishes is wrong. Let them just eat what they will and leave it at that. Though you may not see it like this your kids see it as needing to take sides, and that is a painful choice for any child who loves their parents.
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#11 of 17 Old 06-28-2014, 02:23 PM
 
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Originally Posted by JamieCatheryn View Post
When there is meat in the house for dad it does make sense to offer the choice. 6 is old enough to be familiar with the fact that animals are slaughtered. If you must show it, go for the small scale natural farmer image, a youtuber showing how to butcher a chicken perhaps. We are meat eaters (we lean toward primal actually, lots of veggies and the most naturally raised meat we can buy or produce), and my kids aged 5 and 8 are familiar with home butchering, peeking at the spectacle a few times throughout.
I have known six year olds who killed and butchered the animal themselves and were proud to eat it later. Everyone likes to see their hard work come to fruition.

If you are going to eat meat I personally think you owe it to yourself and your food to do the killing and butchering atleast once. Too many people just buy meat in the store and avert their eyes from the killing. People should understand their actions and not act from a position of intentional ignorance.

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#12 of 17 Old 06-30-2014, 10:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't agree. Yesterday my family was at a cook out with friends, I was fixing each of my kids' plates (with them next to me) ...my 12 year old picked a burger and a turkey wrap. ..( my hubby wasn't there). Later in the day, (again no hubby in sight) she ordered only parfait from a restaurant because she wasn't very hungry. I think she bases her decision on what SHE wants to eat at the time, not what mom and dad want. No one is "preaching" at anyone. My husband does not tell her she should be eating meat. With my youngest daughter, if she says she wants meat, he says, "I would give you meat if your mother okayed it." I don't preach at her, it is not as much about words as action. She knows she doesn't get meat... this isn't anything new, I don't have to say a thing to her about it. She has been a vegetarian her whole life. When I make her plate, she just doesn't have meat on it. The only time it is even talked about at my house is when SHE brings it up. The main reason why she even realized that her diet was different, was because of being with my side of the family and them taunting that she should eat meat. And my husband and I never discuss it in front of the kids. Again the only times it even gets brought up at our house is when she brings it up. With my 3rd child, he was badgered just because he had approval to eat meat and still refused to. And it wasn't mean badgering.... more playful. Such as, "It would taste better with chicken on it."
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#13 of 17 Old 07-06-2014, 11:44 PM
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I think that since your six year old has been asking to try meat, and because siblings are allowed to eat meat, that you should go ahead and let her make that choice on the nights you have meals with meat. I wouldn't make a big deal out of it, but when serving the meal, just offer both versions. I wouldn't want this to become a greater desire because it is forbidden. I would continue to serve mostly vegetarian meals--perhaps reducing the meat meals to once a week, if that is what you would like to do.

Regarding the 12 year old (and I realize that your post wasn't really about her), I just wanted to point out that she is probably working out her own feelings about it all. I thought the idea of her trying to please both parents made sense, but then you mentioned the cook out with friends --and, it doesn't seem like that is the case. I could see it happening in a household, but perhaps not with your dd. I don't think pushing her one way or the other would be helpful. My dd has tried all sorts of ways to eat; it is fun to watch her grow into someone who thinks about her impact. I am curious as to whether she will be a vegetarian/vegan/meat eater as an adult.

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#14 of 17 Old 07-07-2014, 03:55 AM
 
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Hi BlessedOne,
Let them eat whatever they want. Don't force them to be vegetarian, for how long you can force them to eat vegetarian only? Once they grow up, they will go for non-veg if they wanted to, and if not they will remain vegetarian. Its not about forcing, it is just telling them the difference.

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#15 of 17 Old 08-11-2014, 03:24 PM
 
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Here is my perspective. . .

I have three vegetarian kids; 7, 5, 2.5. I am vegetarian and DH is not, much like your house. However, we are a meat-free home. DH gets meat when we eat out. My 7yo is vegan by choice, but he has eaten meat before, around when he was 5ish. He went 3 years eating cheese and eggs and decided that he wanted to be vegan all on his own. My kids know why we are vegetarian, and they know our house is vegetarian, but they also know that they can choose for themselves- but I also wait to allow that until they understand what they are eating. When they request to try DH's food, I simply say "Daddy is eating animals, and I don't want you to eat animals. Do you want to eat animals?" They almost always say no

I agree with the religion analogy posted above. We do it because we believe it is the right way to raise our kids, but it is still a choice. It hurts when choose something else, but I believe we should all be able to make our own decisions.

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#16 of 17 Old 09-02-2014, 09:36 AM
 
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I see no reason why a vegetarian should need to cook meat for other people to eat. Make vegetarian meals at home, and let family members choose what they want to eat when away from home. Talk with your younger children about why you choose not to eat meat, but then let them make their own decisions. Here is my article about how I've talked with my son about meat:
http://articles.earthlingshandbook.o...g-to-children/

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#17 of 17 Old 09-27-2014, 11:26 AM
 
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I have known six year olds who killed and butchered the animal themselves and were proud to eat it later. Everyone likes to see their hard work come to fruition.

If you are going to eat meat I personally think you owe it to yourself and your food to do the killing and butchering atleast once. Too many people just buy meat in the store and avert their eyes from the killing. People should understand their actions and not act from a position of intentional ignorance.
i was a vegetarian for 8 years (have been eating meat for 10). once i started eating meat again, i don't scoff at "weird" animal parts. the animal, be it a cow, pig, chicken, et al, gave its life for consumption, therefore, we musn't waste. i will try to teach my DS the importance of nose-to-tail eating, and not to be squeamish about butchering an animal.

i admire those who try to instill their eating (only the good ones, though.. no junk food!) habits to their kids. i love mayim bialik and totally respect her feeding her children a vegan diet. it may not be for me, but hey, we should live harmoniously!
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