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Jay finally "earned" his dessert by eating his dinner. He doesn't even remember the mini-tantrum it took to get to this moment.

Jay finally “earned” his dessert by eating his dinner. He doesn’t even remember the mini-tantrum it took to get to this moment.

My House, My Rules

Back before there were lengthy discussions about bottle vs. breast or what was “good parenting” and what was “bad parenting” was my parents’ hardcore parenting style. No sugar coating or being your child’s friend. My parents were great, but by today’s standards they’d be hardcore. Only because today I think a lot of parents live in fear of their children’s tantrums, disapproval or hearing the words “I hate you.” To me, if I don’t hear that once a week at least it means I’m not doing my job. I think our parents’ generation was more concerned that we had full bellies, a roof over our heads, good grades, and acted respectfully, especially to our elders. They didn’t concern themselves so much with the organic not organic debate or whether or not to vaccinate. I think my generation sometimes can’t see the proverbial forest for the trees.

Inspired by my Step-dad’s immortal words, “If you don’t like what’s for dinner, the diner is down the street,” here are three hardcore parenting lessons we should have learned to make our lives a whole lot easier.

1. You Eat What I Make – Did we like every dish put in front of us? No. But we ate it because there was no separate kids meal to choose from. I honestly don’t know how moms manage to put together multiple meals each night, but I simply refuse. If my kids don’t like something they are still required to eat a little of it. I think as moms it’s easy to get tired of the fight, but in my house it’s “No dinner, No dessert.” Not eating is not a choice. Kids aren’t going to like what they are given sometimes, but I want them to learn to make the best of it. A boss will not simply take an assignment off their plate (pun intended) because they don’t like it. I don’t ask that they clean their plates, only that they make a decent effort.

2. No Means No – Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one? What it really means is quit asking me because my decision is final. Being a parent is sometimes like being subjected to terrorist level manipulation tactics. The screaming, the complaining, the nagging, all in an effort to wear down your patience so you’ll give in. We all want to be the “good parent,” but it’s so important that we are people of our word whether they want to hear it or not. If no means maybe, we’ll spend our lives arguing with our kids.

3. You Can Do It Yourself – As soon as my kids master a new skill I say a silent prayer of thanks. Why? Because it’s one less thing I need to do for them. I was making my own lunches in elementary school and could cook and do laundry long before high school, things that don’t seem to happen much anymore. Our parents taught us self-reliance and trust when they told us to do things for ourselves. While my kids are still young and can’t do a lot of things on their own, giving them ownership over the things they can do teaches them responsibility. They get themselves dressed and brush their teeth, hang up their backpacks and put their dishes in the dishwasher. Doing the little things for your kids may seem quicker and easier, but in the long run encouraging them to do things for themselves will give them independence and you a much needed break.

No Drama Mama

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Marshmallows: Great for hot chocolate, s’mores, and, if you are one of the baby birds living in the Colucci nest, dinner. Wish I could insert a cute little ‘lol’ here, but sadly I speaketh the truth. Before you call CPS on my malnutritional mothering skills, lemme explain.

While I was pregnant with Bells, I read every How to be the most perfect mother book that Amazon sells. I was SURE that I would be making my own baby food (from organic fruits and vegetables, of course). My precious little kumquat was going to get three well-balanced meals a day, and I was DEFINITELY not going to give her juice, chocolate milk, or anything that contained that sneaky little four-letter enemy, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).

A little background information

Growing up, dinnertime was a war zone in our house, and looking back, I’m 100% certain that my mother should be awarded a Purple Heart. She cooked dinner every night for the six of us, only to hear, “EWWWWW!!!! I’m not eating that!!” or “Mommmmm, why don’t you ever make anything I like???” This poor woman, a SAHM (stay-at-home-Mom), made a nutritious meal each night, only to be pelted with whines and demands. Then someone would spill their drink. Then my dad would yell…and about 5 minutes later, someone else would spill their drink. Don’t get me wrong, I had the most AH-MAAAZ-ING childhood, and I probably have a slightly skewed memory of dinner, since I was the one doing most of the whining and demanding. I pretty much hated everything my mom could’ve possibly cooked, with the exception of pizza and pancakes.

Knowing what a royal pain-in-da-tush I was as a child, I was determined to raise ‘good eaters.’ Forget peanut butter and jelly, my little culinary geniuses were going to be eating roasted butternut squash ravioli with a sage brown butter sauce, made with free range, organic, hormone-free squash.

Child nutrition

I will say, I started off strong. I nursed both of my kiddies for one year (Luca, a total boobaholic, a tad bit longer). That’s pretty much where my career as a child nutrition expert hit a brick wall. When my fussy 9-month-old wouldn’t eat his peas, I sprinkled just a teeny-weeny bit of sugar on them. When my 2-year old-curly girl wouldn’t eat anything….ANYTHING…we would clap and cheer when she would finally eat a handful of M&M’s and half a slice of cheese. And so, the bad habits were born.

The whole “feed your child what you’re eating” idea went straight into the garbage, along with my sanity and my super sexy nursing bras. My personal chef/husband would grill up a delicious steak, cut it up in those tiny, safe little pieces- only to have it smushed all over the high chair tray and then thrown to the landsharks, aka our Boston Terrors. (No, there’s no typo there, our terriers are terrors!) Panicked, we started what is now known as the Mac and Cheese Era. I’m no financial genius, but I’m pretty sure that we should have invested our life’s savings in several shares of Kraft stock. What’s better than powdered cheese? According to my little monsters, apparently nothing.

Things are improving

These days, we’ve made some small strides. We’ve graduated from the orange Kraft crack to actual, real live pasta. We’ve had glimmers of hope. Over the summer, Bella ate a hot dog. You would’ve thought someone granted my husband a starting position on the Jets. She has Cocoa Pebbles most mornings for breakfast (Don’t judge; they’re made with whole grain.) Luca is our champion eater who will actually eat what we are eating most nights for which we are very, very grateful. But on those nights when the dinner table is starting to resemble the Peloponnesian War, a few deep breaths and a handful of marshmallows can work a small miracle.

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