If you are a parent, step parent, grandparent or guardian of a child, then you will instinctively know that teaching children how to prepare food is important. Although a separate entity unto themselves, teenage boys are no exception.
Should Teenage Boys Be In The Kitchen?
Absolutely. All kids and teenagers, both boys and girls, need to learn how to prepare healthy food. Kids in the kitchen get to learn and have an opportunity to practice math when they are measuring ingredients. They also brush up on their vocabulary, grammar and language skills when they read a recipe.
Kids in the kitchen get to try new foods and ingredients when they cook and they get to be creative too. This can only be a positive for teenage boys in particular, as they are full-time eating machines and are ALWAYS hungry.
As a Dietitian I get it. As a mum of three kids I get it. I advise other parents to do it.
A Distinct Lack Of Enthusiasm
As a mum and especially as a Dietitian, I have always been proactive in teaching my three kids to prepare food. I believe that if kids can learn how to make five dishes for dinner, they will be able to look after themselves when (and if!) they move out of home. Of course, its not just about dinner as learning how to prepare other meals and snacks is vital too.
Our three were most definitely more enthusiastic about cooking, especially baking, when they were smaller and really just wanted the ultimate prize of the icing on top of the cupcake. Now as teenagers, I have noticed a distinct downturn in the enthusiasm. To be fair, the lack of enthusiasm is spread very evenly across nearly everything I would like them to do. Sigh.
The Difference Between Teenage Boys And Girls
Miss’s 15 and 17 are both enrolled in cooking classes of various descriptions at school and both can cook. It doesn’t mean that we are treated to five star dinners on a regular basis but the skills are there.
Mr 13 does not have the opportunity to learn how to cook at school but is a veritable Michelin chef in the bacon and eggs department. I am also constantly revising and reteaching him the five meals. This teenage boy like the rest of his cohort is also highly skilled at razing any pantry and fridge within an arms reach.
Apparently there is NO food in there (even when there is). This is because the teenage boy definition of no food, means that no-one has prepared it for him already. Sound familiar?
Whose Job Is It?
In my house, I prepare the snacks and my husband is the lunch king for all three teenagers. Said husband has been hinting both subtly and with a sledgehammer for a few years that the kids should be making their own.
I’ve argued with my Dietitian hat firmly on, that it is VITALLY important that they eat healthy food during the day to focus, concentrate and all the other reasons you can imagine, that a Dietitian might come up with.
My mum made my lunch all the way through school, while my husbands most certainly did not. In my eyes, I was lucky and he just well, wasn’t.
Despite being firmly saddled onto my high horse, I have known deep down for quite a while, that continuing to make snacks and lunches for our kids is not helping them long term. It’s just that so far, the control freak within me has won the argument.
The AHA Moment
With all of the above as context, this week I have had an AHA moment. For the past month or so, I have been reading a very insightful book called ‘He’ll Be Ok’ by Celia Lashlie.
Celia Lashlie wrote this book after years working in the prison service in New Zealand. She also ran the Good Man Project, where she spoke to 180 classes of high school boys, gaining a wealth of insight into what boys need and what parents can do to help them.
‘He’ll Be Ok’ is all about growing gorgeous boys into good men and is particularly useful for mothers of boys. In the book Celia introduces the the concept of the ‘Bridge Of Adolescence’ and the importance of getting mothers off it and fathers on it.
As a mum of a teenage boy, this book can be extremely challenging.
Celia strongly encourages mums of teenage boys in secondary school to stop making their lunches. She quite rightly points out that its a tangible, practical thing that mums (and dads for that matter) can do to begin allowing their teenage boy to learn the link between action and consequence, something he needs to learn as part of his journey to manhood.
How to Let Go?
I’ll be honest, sharing my AHA moment with you today has been uncomfortable. It’s always hard to admit that maybe, just maybe you are not always right.
I do know that being open to learning new things is very important but it often involves great discomfort too. This is all part of a process that results in a better outcome or an improved skill, no matter what you are learning.
The thing is, do I go cold turkey and just leave the kids to it (this will be a very noisy option) or gradually wean them off with a few days here and there until the final reveal?
I feel certain that I am not the only mother of a teenage son (and daughters) making lunches and if you have been there and have some insights – I would love to hear them.