If you give your child a banana, chances are that someday soon they will ask for another. If your child is preferential to consistency, like mine, their daily banana will become routine. If you are running solo on getting ready for the work day in the morning, like me, the banana became my safety blanket for parenting.
When I gave my son a banana for the first time, chaos had erupted. I was late for work, and my son was triggered because he was hungry and there was no time to spoon shovel puree into his mouth. After that, the banana gave me the chance to eek out a few more precious moments of productivity before having to take off for daycare drop-off and work. I would sit him down and crack open a banana. It was the equivalent of parking him in front of the TV. I had brokered calm and peace, even if it was only for a short while. I then worked to quell my guilt of banana pacification by thinking, “At least it’s healthy…”
The banana was always there during my stressful moments of need:
When he refused to leave the house for daycare – I lured him into his carseat with a banana.
On those frantic weekends when I failed as a mother for his lunch – the banana became an easy staple or garnish.
While trying to maintain calm during a run to HyVee or Target – those free bananas were my opportunity at a tantrum armistice.
All too soon the banana started showing side effects. I had given him so many bananas, day after day, that he developed little nuances. The day his banana first broke in two I was 20 minutes late. “Fix it!” he wailed, over and over as large tears pooled and slid down his red cheeks. I tried every explanation I could think of as to why fixing his banana was impossible. “Now you have two bananas!” I theatrically exclaimed, but the wailing went on.
Eventually and predictably, the banana lost its luster. The evidence of this shift was a hand* of browned bananas that had aged in place on my counter. At that moment, we evolved into banana bread. Banana bread had become the breakfast du jour and we later transitioned into banana muffins. As the banana morphed, so did my little one; ever growing taller and becoming more self-aware.
On one chaotic morning, my son sourced his own muffin. With that muffin in his hand I had a moment of panic. How did he get up on the counter? How did he get that Tupperware lid loose? (Spoiler alert, husband left it ajar). How did he do that so quickly? I made a mental note to hunt down the muffin paper to make sure it found its way into the garbage. The ant population has been booming this year. A few days later I was getting ready for work and blow drying my hair. I popped my head out the door, I had a clear line of sight to my kitchen down below, and there he was, on a hunt for his muffin.
After his attempts to reach the muffin container were unsuccessful, he muscled his way up on top of the wooden stools. Crawling onto the counter, he detached the Tupperware lid, selected his muffin and climbed back down off of the counter. While I was proud of his resourcefulness, I gave him his moment to beam up at me when he saw I was looking. He was darn proud of himself and equally excited to show me so. The parenting celebration was short lived however. In too short of time he had returned for yet another muffin. This time, I couldn’t observe from afar, I had to intervene.
“Did you eat all of your muffin?” I inquired. I glanced over and saw the half-eaten muffin on the coffee table downstairs. He looked at me with the face of, “I don’t want to respond to your question.” Part of the joys of exploiting my son’s love of banana muffins meant that he developed a taste for muffin tops. I buckled down, a battle was brewing, and I was already 10 minutes late because I watched his independent muffin sourcing expedition.
As working mothers, we’re at the mercy of our little ones. We never get to select the moments when teaching or discipline are needed. So while I had a half head of wet hair, I had to pause to have a discussion. “Eat the rest of your muffin.” I felt like a bad gif on repeat. Just when you celebrate that your child has reached a milestone, seconds later you discover that you still have miles to go to reach another.
The tantrum ensued. His feet stomped, the sobs bellowed. His ability to listen to reason vanished. I asked him to change his attitude and walked away. I still had half a head of hair left to blow dry.
He eventually resolved his emotional conflict and I worked on loading up his sister into the car. While strapping on his shoes I noticed that he had finished that muffin bottom after all, on his own volition. While it would have been easier to give him another muffin top, the practice would have perpetuated. Thus, despite the lengthy delay, I was starting to parent by standing my ground.
As parents, it is difficult to respond to our toddler’s untimely outbursts and tempers. Here is a small list of strategies to win the negotiation of ‘Please do as I tell you’ requests, as told through getting your little one to eat their whole muffin and not just the top.
- Cut their muffin in half from top to bottom. It removes the perception that there is a top and a bottom.
- Tell your little one, often and repeatedly, that he is expected to finish eating their muffin bottoms. Repetition and reinforcement are the hallmarks to learning model behavior.
- Cut up the bottom into bite-sized pieces and announce to your son that the pieces are now banana cake bites. All he needs to hear is ‘cake’ and he is the most willing eating participant there is. Additionally, changing the physical appearance of something they have seen numerous times give the impression of something new and exciting.
- Threaten to eat the rest of the abandoned muffin bottom. Once he hears that it is good enough for momma to steal, suddenly the muffin bottom becomes tasty and coveted again. A word of caution; do not utilize this method if you are not willing to go the whole way. As my mom always said, if you say it, you’ve got to follow through with it.
Thus, until the inevitable tantrum arises; may the banana parenting odds be ever in your favor.
*Did you know that the term for a bunch of bananas is a hand? I didn’t, at least not until my son became a mega consumer of that soft, yellowed fruit.