Choosing your battles – Life with teens

kiddosTeen – “Mama, I want Top Ramen so badly. Will you buy me some at the store?”
Me – “Say what? No, I will absolutely not do that. Did you not see that video of how Top Ramen is digested really slowly, because it’s full of crap?”
Teen – “I don’t care. I really love it and I want it. Please bring me some.”
Me – “No!”
Teen – “Uuugh, I have a cold. Will you bring me a can of chicken noodle soup?”
Me – “Dearest child, why don’t you just shoot yourself? It’s a quicker and less painful death.”

Teen rolls her eyes and stomps off. I admit, this may not have been my most glorious parenting moment, and I do make amends to my rules. But Top Ramen and canned chicken noodle soup? Has this child not learned anything about paleo/primal? When will she stop asking for garbage?

And this is, when I remember a lecture from AHS. The speaker reminded us that

Education ≠ Behavior Change

Sure, my kids know plenty about why they shouldn’t eat garbage. But does a smoker quit smoking merely because he knows it can cause cancer? No, of course not! I am faced with serious rebellion, especially from the 12 year old, who makes a point of eating the one most glutenous meal on the menu, when we go out to eat. Why is this? What makes this girl tick? And how will I get her to really think about what goes into her body? According to the AHS lecture, here is what it takes:

Education + Motivation + Ability + Triggers = Behavior Change

Let’s look at my teens:

Education = check… Ability = check…. We are seriously lacking motivation and triggers. Think about it, what caused you to make the switch? The desire to lose weight? An autoimmune disease? Skin problem? What was your trigger? And what ultimately motivated you to keep doing it?

My kids are exceptionally healthy human beings. We haven’t seen a doctor in ages. The last time was for a broken finger. I can’t remember the last time either of them needed any antibiotics. There are no allergies, no weight issues, no autoimmune stuff, no ADD. Even during strict paleo eating they have not seen any results, have not felt any improvements. What makes me think, that simply the knowledge that paleo is right for us, will make them giddy and excited about living like this?

There is another obstacle on their road to perfect health (“but Mom, I already am perfectly healthy!”)… their peers! The one most gigantic road block, if you ask me, are their friends. When they walk to the little coffee house around the corner together, all of them buy cookies and cake, and they order sugary drinks. What young teen wants to be left out? And, to be clear, I have offered the alternative of unbelievably delicious paleo chocolate chip cookies. But, it’s not the same. A paleo chocolate chip cookie from Mom cannot compete with the glutenous goodness from the coffee shop… not because it doesn’t taste equally delicious, but because it’s not bought at the shop like all the other kids’ cookies.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware of the fact, that there are teens out there, who do eat paleo, and who feel passionately about it, although I’ll go out on a limb and say that they are generally older, and that there was, in fact, a trigger.

What to do? It all comes down to choosing your battles. I will absolutely never, ever buy Top Ramen or canned chicken soup. Here’s what keeps peace in the house… most of the time.

– At home you eat what Mom cooks or choose a paleo alternative

– Always be willing to at least consider the paleo alternative to a SAD food

– Enjoy that quinoa pasta, when Mom buys it, because it will remain a treat

– Think twice, before you empty your wallet on junk. Money does not grow on trees. 

And for the parents:

– Know that you are doing your best, all day, every day.

– Be firm with what you bring into the house.

– Show a little flexibility now and then. It won’t hurt you or them if you occasionally cook rice or quinoa pasta, or buy that dreaded sweet milk chocolate. 

– Empower them. The more you make them a part of the decision making process, the more they feel excited about it. Heck, let them sort through your paleo cookbooks and let them check out paleo website, and create a meal plan for a week. You’ll be surprised at the delicious stuff they come up with.

– Keep the information coming at mealtime. There is nothing like kids sitting there with their mouths full of food, unable to interrupt your well informed rant speech on the latest paleo research. It will sink in… eventually.

In conclusion I’d like to say, that I am of course aware, that not all teenagers are alike. I’m going to take a wild guess, that the 15 year old rebel in your house may be a little more resistant to your teachings. In this case, only patience can do the trick. Pay attention to the triggers… I got the 19 year old daughter to at least go gluten free, because she was suffering from frequent stomach aches for years. She has confirmed that she feels better, although she cannot at this time commit to go fully paleo.

As far as empowerment goes, my 12 year old is rather excited about our upcoming new gig, Grokette’s Primal Teen. We’re working hard on getting ready for this new endeavor in our lives, and my daughter is, of course, thrilled at the prospect of sharing the paleo/primal message with the world. Bye bye, Top Ramen!

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