Feb 27, 2012

How I got my Daughter to Choose Broccoli

Kids like choices.  In control and independent they feel when you let them decide. 

I take full advantage of this and pull a parental fast one on my daughter using the weapon of choice.

The brat's giving whinny-lip about eating Brussels sprouts?  Give her a choice.

"Hey little punk, I'll let you pick the side tonight.  You want carrots or broccoli?" 

She probably detests both, but let her decide and she'll pick broccoli with only mild hissing. 

I extend the choosing game to the grocery store, she helps shop meals.  If we come across something she pretend vomits at, I let her pull a healthy alternative.  Girl is more likely to eat raw spinach when she's the one plucking it off the shelf and arcing it into the cart like a b-ball.   

Pigtails has her own library card, which opens a heap of healthy choices.  Rather than fighting to finish a book, I let her pick out 5 items at the library, books and movies.  She's more motivated to sink a book if she checked it out.  Or maybe she just likes the self-checkout lane and the beep-beep sound it makes when she swipes her card.    

Girl doesn't realize I limit her choice range. 

I enrolled her in a school where her friend selection list is mostly made up of kids with involved parents.  Involved parents often leads to good kids.  She chooses her friends, but I had a hand in the overall friend pool by the school she's in.  Schoolhouse expects students to dress in a respectable manner, which stifles clothing spats.  Pigtails knows the dress code:  khakis and polo.  Bam, end of story, no arguments.  The kids look sharp, even the high schoolers.  No droopy ass-crack jeans.  They'll get an infraction if missing a belt, bubblegum is prohibited, and don't even think about bringing a cell phone to class.  I like that.

I hope my daughter will let me help her choose college in 10 years.  Young adults often find their eventual spouse there, so I care about where she enrolls.

Loving dad or sheltered upbringing that could backfire.  What say you? 



  1. Loving Dad...no doubt!

  2. Could go either way if you're not careful, Beard. I know you're a good Dad, with Pigtails' best interest in mind here.

    "Involved parents often leads to good kids."

    Okay maybe in your neck of the woods, but that isn't always the case. I have 3 schools under my belt with my kids and have seen my share, and the parents can be so involved that they forget what is important, and that is their child and their child's best interest. I think it would be foolish to think because you chose a better school, Pigtails would be shielded from 'bad kids'. Not sure what your definition of a bad kid would be exactly. Bullies and smart-asses come in all shapes, sizes and dress codes. Doesn't matter if the school is public or private. Each kind of school has its own unique flavor it brings to the table; could argue either way. I don't want to ever judge an individual by the school they attend, elementary, high school or college. Not everyone has that choice.

    We give our kids the skills to make good choices, not by manipulating them into making one, but by allowing them to see the consequences of their actions to a certain extent, or even explaining why a different choice would be better. This will be important when they are choosing schools or a mate, and I hope you help Pigtails choose a college that would be right for her, not for finding a mate.

    No child is immune to any peer pressure, it is there where ever they are. Although my daughter did attend a school with less involved parents, which was sad, those were wonderful kids. Some of the sweetest and caring, she learned about diversity, she doesn't even see color when she sees people and that is a lesson she learned all on her own, thanks to that school. I suppose we need to make a choice based on what is best for our child, as an individual, not all kids should be raised the same way; same things don't work for different kids. I attended public high school by choice growing up, because it was academically superior to the the Lutheran High School my sisters attended. My parents were equally involved across the board.

    Sorry long winded, I haven't a clue when it comes to parenting and feel like I'm making it all up as I go everyday; so what do I know. Good luck.

    1. Hi Cari,

      "I think it would be foolish to think because you chose a better school, Pigtails would be shielded from 'bad kids'."

      For sure, all types of students in all schools. One of her classmates brought a baggy of 'candy' to the playground to share. Another kid spat it out, turns out it was dog food. Whoops, not good.

      "This will be important when they are choosing schools or a mate, and I hope you help Pigtails choose a college that would be right for her, not for finding a mate. "

      We'll hopefully find a college that covers both. Too early to know where she'll enroll, but there are certainly schools I don't want her in. I'll be paying part of her tuition, so is reasonable that I have some input on where she's going.

      "Some of the sweetest and caring, she learned about diversity, she doesn't even see color when she sees people and that is a lesson she learned all on her own, thanks to that school."

      Yep, lots of diversity in her school. Kids attend from 8 different towns/suburbs, with a wide range of ethnic and income backgrounds.

      "I suppose we need to make a choice based on what is best for our child, as an individual, not all kids should be raised the same way; same things don't work for different kids. I attended public high school..."

      Agree. I was in public school K - college, overall it was a decent experience.

  3. I agree with Cari. My girls attend a private school because it's a) cheap here in France, b) an excellent school and c) 5 minutes' walk from where we live. Most of the kids have involved parents, most are good kids. But in her first year there (2nd grade, she's in 5th now), my elder daughter (who is very shy, and the youngest in her class pretty much every year) "made friends" with a kid who almost destroyed her. I'll spare the details, but we had to intervene, the teacher had to intervene and it was all very unpleasant. Now she has "nice" friends, but the other kid is still there, still makes fun of my daughter (from a distance) and is undoubtedly a "bad element" from our point of view.
    I think we try to protect our kids as much as we can, but it doesn't always work. We can only do our best.
    That said, I think you've made good choices and are clearly more "loving dad" than "over-protective dad", so obviously things are weighted in your favour.

    1. Yuck, sorry to hear about that. Do you know why the school allowed the punk to continue harassing your daughter? Have the other parents been contacted?

  4. Loving dad. We all need someone to limit our choices. Our children need to know how to make choices on their own, obviously, but heaven help us if there's no direction. I think it's also our responsibility to make sure the good choices are always available to be had and experienced and owned, not just recommended. "Train up a child in the way he should go...."

    Our lives are shaped so much by our surroundings. Kids can't see the bigger picture enough to choose their own surroundings wisely. That's our job. And they will have their own ideas; we all know that. Ideas are welcome. This isn't about stifling; it's about guiding.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. P.S. I can't even see the bigger picture enough to choose wisely half the time. I'm in the same shoes my daughter is, just a little bigger size.

    2. Thanks!

      An important part of parenting is to help our kids make good choices, but also presenting them with a good choice selection list. This is especially true the younger they are. As they age, we have to let them go and allow them to take on more and more of the decision making process. That is hard but necessary.

      This parenting gig is a bit unsettling something. We don't know how things will turn out, but I sleep well at night knowing I have little regret so far.

  5. First, I do think you are a loving dad. I don't think you meant for this to sound exactly the way it does. (or maybe you did) I find your theory that kids and parents are better in private schools a bit generalized as well as condescending to those of us whose children are not in private schools.

    I really hope you're kidding about the college thing. Women don't go to college anymore just to get married and I'm curious as to where you would find the data required in determining which one has good spouses. None of this is letting Pigtails choose anything, it's simply manipulating the options, which I do understand a certain need for when dealing with children. However, in real life, once we've grown up, there is no one to weed out the bad choices and only present the two that are good for us. And then what?

    1. "I find your theory that kids and parents are better in private schools a bit generalized as well as condescending..."?

      Who said that? I certainly didn't. In fact, this post never mentions my daughter attends private school. How/why are you making this false premise?

      "Women don't go to college anymore just to get married"

      Huh? I never said that. This is what I wrote:

      "I hope my daughter will let me help her choose college in 10 years. Young adults often find their eventual spouse there, so I care about where she enrolls."

      Many kids DO find their spouse in college. Fact of life. But obviously that's not why they are there. Hoping we can find a school that has both excellent academic credentials for her major, along with a solid social reputation. 18-year-olds are teens, not adults, so of course I'm going to assist her with selecting a school.

      I don't mind when people disagree with things I write, but you are disagreeing on things I didn't write or imply.

  6. Okay, so apparently everyone assumed your daughter was in a private school, not just me and by saying that you handpicked this school because of its parents and dress code and students who are more likely to be good people, you are saying it is better. Which is fine to believe but at least stand by it. There is no false premise, you stated clear reasons for choosing the school and the people who Pigtails may be friends with.

    By mentioning college and that you care about where she enrolls because of the possibility of finding a spouse you are making this a factor in choosing the school. If there is no connection, then why mention it? I'm just saying that quality of spouse is not usually a factor in choosing colleges anymore and if it is, how on earth will you determine which schools have crappy spousal candidates?

    1. You know that some public schools have dress codes, right? It's not just a private school thing. Dress codes are great!

      Yep, I did handpick the school, and parents would be wise to do so. I shopped all options: home school, public in the district, public outside the district, religious private, secular private and Montessori. Doing so is prudent.

      I attempted to enroll her in a public school in the next district, but they wouldn't let me in. So I home-schooled her in Kindergarten. I'd continue doing that if I had the time and aptitude, but don't, so finally found a school I felt comfortable in. It has been excellent, and best meets the academic (teachers and test scores), social (parental involvement and school environment) and religious criteria I was looking for.

      We'll look for a college that has solid academic scores for the major she'll pick, plus one with a good social reputation. There's a university in this state that consistently makes the top-10 party school list. I'm fairly sure she won't be enrolling there.

    2. Putting semantics aside, I’m not going tit for tat; just going to say my peace and be done. But honestly I did feel the same way Christina did when I read the post. The TONE of the post is what fired me up. When you look at the meat of the post, it wasn’t really about anything specific, it wasn’t about kids making choices, good vs. bad schools or marriage. Words invoke feelings, there is always some sort of tone to a body of work, there will always be bias no matter what.

      Really, the bearded coupon lady could figure out what you meant by “good school”. Aside from the fact that we are friendly outside of blogland, anyone who reads could probably make the same assumption.

      After I first read it I did think it was a bit hurtful. I’m sure it wasn’t your intent. But what parent would NOT want to send their child to a better school? Sometimes that is not an option, despite what they want. You can research all you want, if you can’t afford it, or make it work with your work schedule, you have to go to plan B. Gets trickier when you have more than one child or you are a single parent. I also do not think parent involvement in the school is in any way connected to the character of the child. But agreed can’t hurt. We all have our own definition of what “better” is, depends on our kids; the three of us raise our kids differently too and we all have remarkable kids.

      The entire husband/social reputation thing baffles me still. Pretty sure all colleges are party schools. I’ve been to three, and my parents chose one of them for me. Perhaps you mean the same religious views or values? Let me know if you find the good hubs school, I should go back; I obviously chose wrong the first time.

      I’m sure you didn’t think it would strike a nerve, but sometimes being overly vague will lead to interpretation.

      Pigtails looks to be a smart well-adjusted kid, she would do well no matter where she went to school because she has a Dad that loves her. And not loves her enough to send her “to a good school”, just loves her. Sometimes the parents stuck with kids in bad schools just have to believe that’s enough; I think it is.

    3. Bearded coupon lady! :-)

      There are good, bad and ugly public and private schools. That's why I encourage ALL parents to do their research. Each town is different, but in this area, there are many options. Want public school? There are 8 elementary schools within a few miles. So then research those 8 schools and find the one that you feel will work best for your kid.

      Our school offers scholarships and does not turn away students for being unable to afford tuition. Again, each town and school is different, but this one, the people that want to get in do.

      "I also do not think parent involvement in the school is in any way connected to the character of the child."

      Parental involvement with their child is absolutely connected to the character of their child. My daughter is fairly sweet (despite me), and I attribute that directly to my involvement with her.

      "The entire husband/social reputation thing baffles me still...Perhaps you mean the same religious views or values?"

      Getting closer, that is part of the equation and you articulated it better than I did.

      "Pigtails looks to be a smart well-adjusted kid..."

      Have you seen her room? A disaster.

    4. Anyone who thinks that "all colleges are party schools" has obviously never visited the beautiful campus of Grove City College, in Grove City PA! ;) Never met a more straight-laced group of young adults.

      I don't feel that Beard's post was in any way overstepping boundaries, infringing on the rights of his child, or asserting superiority over an individual or group of individuals. Sometimes, it is difficult to leave out our own insecurities, biases, and assumptions when reading posts, and I feel like this just might be a case of misunderstanding for many readers.

  7. Anonymous2/28/2012

    Influence is a HUGE part of parenting. 'nough said.

    Ah, the private vs. public school debate. I'm a product of both. No guarantees with either, of course. There are sweeping assumptions made here though - some on the mark, others not so much. Not every private, nor public, institution is created equal. I commend parents who DO put a great deal of thought into where their kids go to school though. I have a co-worker who has her son in a bilingual school (he's English speaking) and likewise another family I know that is opting to move out of the big city for a smaller town school experience (place value on school enrollment size). One's private, the other public - care to guess which is which? It doesn't matter to me. All I know is that they each chose the way they did because it's important to them (aka, in their opinion, better for them) which I respect. So, in the interest of supporting Beard's freedom of choice, kudos for choosing what you feel is an appropriate educational path for your child.

    Don't be so hard on Beard - he's not so bad! :)

    1. "I commend parents who DO put a great deal of thought into where their kids go to school though."


      Picking a "good" school has nothing to do with private or public, but rather is the informed parent digging and digging, looking at options and cost and location, test scores, school policies, dress code, whatever criteria is important to you. Then selecting the school that fits.

      I had a public school picked out, they wouldn't accept us, home schooled a year, then found a private school that met my academic, social and spiritual preferences. And that's why I say she's in a good school.

    2. Wow! This has stirred quite the discussion! I appreciate good conversation on this subject. I wasn't "taken aback" by Beard's post since my "monkeyboy" shares a classroom with pigtails and I knew exactly how Beard feels about our choice of school. I am the product of public schools and my hubby is a product of private schools. My sons attended what is considered one of the better public schools in the area. Their education was fine, but something was missing. We researched and made a decision to change schools based on what our boys needed. As their parents, we did make that decision for them and we have reaped many benefits from our choice. However, no matter which school is chosen, each one has challenges. There are days when we have issues in our current school, and I handle them with open, honest communication with teachers and administration. I think that is the biggest key. Now, just because I am involved, doesn't mean my child is immune from having issues in school. My kids have experienced being bullied and on occasion, my child has caused trouble. But on either side of the issue, I am always there to advocate for my child or course correct them. No child does everything right all the time. I think what Beard was implying is that when the parents are involved, the likelihood is that there will be follow through discipline at home when issues arise. There are no guarantees, however. I had a meeting with administration just last week about my "middle man". At the conclusion of that meeting, administration said "I wish all parents were as easy to work with as you." I took that as a complement but was puzzled as I assumed most parents collaborated and not fought with administration. Apparently that isn't the case.

      In any case, as parents, as long as we love our kids and teach them to love others and be compassionate, then we have succeeded.

    3. Thanks MoB, well said! You're raising a fine herd of boys/monkeys there.

      P.S. Our school rocks.

  8. For us, the public schools are out, at least for elementary. The two options that we'd consider are home-schooling and the local Catholic school. Our hope is to send all the kids through the Catholic schools, if we can afford it. If not, I guess we'll home-school, though I'm a little overwhelmed at the idea of homeschooling four. Our reasons are this: our local public elementary schools here are guaranteed to expose our young children to things/ideas/language/behaviors that our kids are not equipped to handle ... yet. As they get older, we'll shelter them less and less, but for now, I'll protect their innocence. (Our children are 5.5, 4, 2.5, and 1 ... and there's a bun in the oven.) I know that not everyone has the luxury of making the choices we do, and I'm grateful we can. But I am inclined to think that children whose parents are involved in their lives are more likely to be well-grounded, well-behaved, and "successful" in life. I'll own up to being both a loving mom and a protective momma bear.

    1. I homeschooled my daughter for a year, we enjoyed it. But it was also clear I was running into a time crunch working full time, schooling her and maintaining a 60-year-old home.

      Is there another homeschooling family in your area that could assist you in getting started and perhaps even help with some of the teaching?

      Many Catholic schools offer scholarships. 20% of the children at my daughter's school are receiving financial assistance, so worth looking at that.

      I'm also a protective momma bear, and proud of it.

  9. Anonymous3/22/2012

    As someone who works in the area of child abuse and neglect, it appears to me you are a loving dad who gives your daughter appropriate choices for her age. Your thoughtfulness and guidance and involvement is the best thing you can do for her. Because she is your kid, you know what's best for her and your little family right now. The things I see every day, it's nice to read about a responsible, caring dad.

  10. You sound like a wonderful father. As a product of a caring and loving single mother who handpicked the best school she could afford for me and my sister growing up, I know that I would not be where I am today without those choices. I have thanked her many times, both for her care in choosing that school and for her time spent helping me study. Those influences are why I cared to pick the best college I could get into, which had solid academics, athletics, and social attitude. I hope to do the same for my kids whenever I have them.

    I applaud your efforts, and I know that your daughter will grow up making fantastic choices.

    1. Thanks Lorenna! Crossing my fingers the tender training I'm doing of my daughter will "stick" when she's headed to college. We parents can't really let off the throttle and know how we did until years down the road when they are let out into the wild.

  11. duck-billed placelot3/23/2012

    It's clear you're raising your daughter with intention and love. To that end, you might want to spend some time with the thought that you want to select your daughter's college because of potential spouses - with how that would feel for a girl to hear from her father. Even though you might think you'd feel the same way about a son, that idea has some nasty, insidious ideas for a woman; ideas that a lot of society bolsters/reinforces/comes up with in the first place. Beyond the 'college for 'girls' is about landing a husband!' subtext, which is incredibly patronizing and diminishing, there is something supremely icky about a father trying to pre-select a woman's choice in partners (supremely icky is a clinical term, obvs). Seriously, flop the genders, imagine yourself as a young man, and your mother informing you that she wants to limit your world because she wants to make sure you end up with a girl she likes.

    Absolutely, help her pick a school with solid academics (although maybe broadly solid? What if she decides she hates the major she picked before she actually started majoring in it?), but leave the MRS degree out of it. You might not mean it in a condescending/creepy/select-for-you-your-mate kind of way, but that doesn't mean it won't feel that way to her.

    1. Just as I did for Christina in the comments above, I'll copy/paste for you what I wrote regarding college selection:

      "I hope my daughter will let me help her choose college in 10 years. Young adults often find their eventual spouse there, so I care about where she enrolls. "

      There is nothing condescending or creepy in those two sentences as you suggest. The above statement would also apply if I were speaking about selecting a college for my son, so not sure how this is "supremely icky" to a woman's choice.

      My daughter is free to marry who she wishes, if she chooses to marry (although I hope she doesn't get married next week). An 18-year-old is not an adult in my book, I'll be footing part of her tuition bill, and I love her, so I'll absolutely be helping her select a school.

  12. Wow. Such a lot of passionate responses from a post on vegetables! ;-)

    I agree with you, Beard. Children need to feel like they have some say in what happens in their day-to-day lives, but they also need and want boundaries. Those boundaries feel like a safety net to them - a knowledge that "my parents love me and are looking out for me by establishing these rules".

    We homeschooled our only daughter for kindergarten, public schooled for grades 1, 2, and 3. Went back to homeschooling in grade 4 because our local school district was contemplating some changes that we were not happy with and we didn't want to get caught mid-year if the changes went into effect. Truly, if our girl could have had her second grade teacher, Mrs. Campbell, educate her for all 12 years, we would have never taken her out of public school. (Mrs. Campbell was "old school," a disciplinarian who loved her students and taught them well.) Our girl is now a sophomore student and we still homeschool.

    Because we've had "some say" (or "controlled", as some of the other comments may believe) in the path our daughter has walked, she is a bright and well-spoken young woman with an ability to communicate/socialize/interact with a wide range of people. One of my friends told me that her 39 year old husband was so impressed with our daughter that he wants to homeschool any children they may have. I know homeschooling isn't the answer for everyone - it's the involvement you mentioned. I'm not going to say our girl is perfect - she is 16, and with that comes some issues that hormones bear large responsibility for. But our communications lines are open and we are often able to get through things without too much anguish. We never chose to homeschool as a way to put her in a "bubble," and her active life proves this: community theater, piano, dance, a part-time job at a local restaurant, volunteering at our local library (with hopes of paid employment in the future, since she wants to become a librarian someday).

    There's nothing wrong with influencing where your kiddo goes to college (especially if you're paying for part or all of it). There are so many factors to be considered when making that decision and anyone who interpreted your words as meaning you were ONLY looking at colleges as a "husband mart" is being obtuse.

    You go, Beard - sounds to me like you're doing a fine job and Pigtails will thank you for it someday.

  13. Yep, the Broccoli posts always bring out reader rage.

    You've said it well: involved parents look at all the schooling options and pick what works best for their situation, budget and location.

    I chuckle when people call me (and maybe even you) an overprotective and controlling parent. She's 9, not 29. Parents are supposed to train up our children, molding and shaping them with love and discipline. Kids are not born with good decision making skills, it much be taught. Kids feel safe and loved, not controlled, when they know and are held to boundaries.

  14. I don't think I had started reading your blog when this post came out so it is really interesting to see the comments here. I didn't really hear any 'tone' in it at all. I pretty much agree on every point and I am sure you are aware that offering a couple of healthy choices works now but you will probably have to adjust your approach as she gets older. That is the life of a parent. Anyway, this is a long winded way of saying that I think you firmly fall in the 'loving Dad' camp. Parent's need to be in control so children can go about the business of being children.


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!