Did/does shaming children ever work to get them to eat?

I think everyone of us grew up with someone saying “Their are starving children” somewhere out here (China? India? Ethiopia?) when we would not clean our plates or eat our vegetables.

Did it ever work for any of you? Does it work now?

My parents never shamed. They used fear. When you get smacked enough times at the dinner table for gagging over brocolli, you learn.

I loved vegetables as a kid. What I didn’t like was meat. When I was 10, and I learned there was the option of being a vegetarian, I heard angels sing. Became one when I was 19. So no, it doesn’t work. Neither does making your kid sit at the table until bedtime. Nor explaining how expensive kosher meat is.

FWIW, I think some parents today go overboard with something different for every kid, although, my parents didn’t have access to a microwave.

My mother was perfectly happy to let me have eggs at breakfast, and peanut butter or cheese at lunch, but she had this “thing” about people “needing” meat, in spite of the fact that she gave me an iron-fortified vitamin every day, so I got plenty of iron and vitamin B-12, and I liked eggs and green vegetables anyway.

When I lived with my aunt and uncle, the rule was that you ate from what was on the table, but if you didn’t like something, you didn’t take it. If you were hungry later because you didn’t eat enough, and you were older than 6, it was your problem. You were old enough to make a PB sandwich, and grab a piece of fruit. We have a similar rule for our son. We never shame him into eating, or cajole, or threaten, or bribe.

When I was a kid, we were given all kinds of food, and were expected to eat it and enjoy it. No shaming, no threats, no begging, no bribes. The only thing I remember not especially liking was fish, but in time I liked that too. I also remember getting yelled at for putting ketchup “on everything.” To this day, the only foods I don’t like are the few we never had, like kidneys and Limburger cheese.

My parents put food down and said it’s ready. If you didn’t want to eat it you were free to go hungry. Why would you want to work to get kids to eat?

I was having dinner once with some friends. One of the mothers tried the “Children are starving bit” on her 8(ish) year old. To which she replied: “Are you aware that America has a growing obesity problem?”

Everyone at the table laughed. Clearly, the girl had been coached. Still though, it is funny to see a mother get bested by her 8yo daughter.

I was never shamed about food. It wasn’t an issue at all. I generally ate what was there, but if I didn’t like something, I didn’t eat it and it was NEVER a problem or an issue. For example, my mother would make stuffed green peppers or stuffed cabbage, and I’d eat the filling but not the veggie wrapper. When she made bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, I’d skip the lettuce.

Thank you, Mama! :slight_smile: Today I’m an omnivore who loves to eat and cook all cuisines. (Except cilantro.)

One time I sat at dinner at a my best friend’s house and watched her reduce her 10-year old son to tears because he wouldn’t eat his carrots. Not to mention that my boyfriend and I were visiting from out of town–so she did this shaming in front of out of town company. Today that kid is approaching 40 and that one missed plate of carrots did him no harm. But an overcontrolling mother (in all areas of his life) has screwed him up royally.

I heard the starving child phrase, but whate I heard more was “You’re not leaving the table until you eat at least one bite of that.” And “If you don’t try that, you won’t get dessert.”

Since I was a very picky eater, there wasn’t much food I did like, and even a bite seemed like child abuse to me, but I could usually take one for the sake of dessert. i haven’t found that either of those approaches has done any damage to me.

Heh they had to shame me to get me to stop eating.

Come to think of it, that didn’t work, either. :smiley:

My parents combined fear with shame. “There are children starving to death in China, and if you don’t shut up and eat that NOW, you will wish you were one of them.”

My grandparents didn’t do it to “shame” me. They grew up during the Depression, and they viewed the idea of wasting food with great horror.

I guess going hungry because there’s no food in the house, and no money to buy food, will do that do you.

I certainly got the “There are starving children in _____” spiel. (Mom most often used Biafra, but she’d use other places on occasion.) It didn’t work; no matter how hungry the children of Biafra were, it wasn’t going to convince me to eat Brussels sprouts or stewed tomatoes. I’d end up at the table, staring at a plate of cold food for hours, until bedtime, when I went to bed without dinner. I could be stubborn (and I guess I still am, in some ways).

Yet somehow, I survived. Today, my tastes are wide and varied, and I enjoy a range of various national cuisines containing things I probably would have refused as a child. But I still will not eat Brussels sprouts or stewed tomatoes.

It was threats, in my case.

And well, I did eat the cauliflower.

And throw it up.

And I did eat the liver.

And throw it up.

And I did eat the swiss chard.

But that one manages to stay down.

The closest I’ve ever been to jumping over somebody’s desk to give them a hug was when Doctor Imaz told my mother to stop forcing me to eat liver and cauliflower. I still hate them (and swiss chard).

We don’t use that strategy, but some of y’all may not be aware of how hard it is to have a kid with poor appetite. One of my kids went through a year when she never felt hungry, but did feel weak and cranky and sad because she wasn’t eating. We all knew–including five-year-old her–that if she ate, she’d feel better, but getting her to take those first couple of bites was insanely hard. And if we didn’t, she’d lie on the floor weeping. SUCKED.

Nowadays, we try to go by a simple rule: dessert is for those in the clean plate club. No bargaining, no nagging; but if you want a dessert, eat your dinner.

Several people have mentioned the dessert strategy, and I have two problems with that. One, I am still having that fight with my mother where she wants me to have dessert and I don’t (already full, not much of a sweet tooth and I prefer to have my fruit as a snack). Two, it’s a “food as reward” strategy.

The first time Ed’s wife tried it, he pointed out “uh, honey… you do realize one of the things we have problems pushing into him is dessert?” The Nephews aren’t dessert people either. Oops.

I always used logic with my kids, telling them if they tried a food and could explain what it was that they didn’t like about it, they didn’t have to eat it. Eating was simply the easier option.

My daughter had an epiphany when, as a preteen, she discovered the music of Pink Floyd. Suddenly my admonition about “how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat” when we were having spaghetti and strawberry shortcake made sense.

i wish some of these tactics would work with a picky cat.

My mother used to say this sometimes but it was less about me feeling shame at not eating and more just an alternate way of saying “Shush up and eat your food.” So, if it “worked”, it worked in that I knew I still had to eat.

My parents did this. I always had to clean my plate before I could leave the table. To this day I can’t stand wasting food. It’s sort of a blessing and a curse. I like that I don’t waste food, but it often leads to overeating.

I used to speak to my cats of starving kitties in China, but it never did any good.