Don’t Yuck My Yum!
I so much prefer eating principles over rules; however, I have one steadfast rule:
Don’t yuck my yum.
Truthfully, the rule isn’t about what I like as an individual, but the idea that yuck is not an appropriate response to tasting or smelling a food. Why? It boils down to three reasons.
#1. As Emily Post points out, every kid should know not to make bad comments about food. Teaching table manners is a process and a task that begins at home. Exclamations of “Yuck!” are discourteous not only to the cook, but also other diners who may actually love that food.
#2 "Yuck" cuts off curiosity. Learning to like new foods can't happen if there is no mental space for that to happen. As Elephant and Piggie teach us in the book I Really Like Slop, curiosity and friendship can lead us to try new things.
#3 "Yuck" doesn't describe anything about the food, only one's reaction to the food. Being able to describe flavor is an important skill for learning to like new foods and decreasing fear of new foods. In addition, yuck-ing cuts off reflection on how our flavor perceptions change over time.
Instead of "yuck" ask your child to describe one or two characteristics about the food. Is it too salty, sweet, stringy, bitter, lumpy, spicy, bland, creamy? Even little kids can learn to describe or at least say that they don't like the flavor vs how it feels on their tongue.
A child may need to use several words to describe a taste experience. For example, I had a 5th grader smell natural cocoa butter used for making chocolate. When I won’t let his “yuck” stand, he said that the thought is smelled like, “pork pot roast fat that had gone bad.” In other words, he thought it smelled rancid. He learned a new word. And I learned I need to buy a new cocoa butter sample. (His young sensitive nose was protecting him from eating anything that may have spoiled, an important natural safety mechanism for a developing immune system! Aren't our bodies amazing!)
Have you tried to enforce a "No Yuck" policy? Tell me about it!