A killer eat-your-veggies routine that really works

My kids are no different from any other kids.

They prefer mac and cheese to quinoa, Teddy Grahams to apples, and lollipops to fruit.

While my oldest will eat his veggies without too much fuss, my youngest has a supernatural ability to find even microscopically cut ones and quickly spit them out before he (gasp!) ingests something healthy.

For the longest time it made meal time stressful and un-fun. Every night seemed to devolve into a battle of wills; one that I’d usually lose. I can’t tell you how many times I’d stand over the sink at 6:30 p.m., shaking my head in frustration as I scraped yet another batch of vegetables down the drain.

My oldest son has a strong personality and I can still trick him into eating veggies
I think this picture adequately sums up his personality. As you can see, he’s clearly a “my way or the highway” kind of guy!

But that all changed recently.

Believe it or not, this little hater-of-all-things-healthy now inhales his kale, wolfs down his broccoli, and shrieks with glee when he sees green beans on his plate.

What the heck? How’d that happen?

Enter Mr. Highpants…
My husband's silly character that celebrates veggies being eaten

…and the Bicep Smackdown.
Me being knocked out by my little boy's bicep after he ate kale
Wha??? I can feel you looking at those pictures of my husband and I quizzically.

Yes, we are a little goofy. But, as it turns out, goofiness is a killer operant conditioning element.

Here’s our killer eat-your-veggies routine that really works:

1. When our oldest eats a bite of his kale (or whatever vegetable), we feign surprise and shock when we actually SEE him grow! Literally, like right in front of our eyes. We murmur in disbelief to each other, “Wait…was that 1/4″ or no…I think it’s at least 1/2″! That’s just plain INCREDIBLE!” Both of the boys obviously delight in the conversation. In fact, our oldest is usually so pleased, he takes another big bite of kale.

2. When our oldest takes his second bite of vegetables, I just HAVE to go check out his bicep. Feigning nervousness (a hand that won’t stop shaking), I tentatively walk around the table to his chair – pausing in fear every few steps to heighten the drama. And then, when I feel his muscle…I go…flying! Flying across the room, bouncing off a wall, and eventually back around the table where I collapse in front of my super-strong son in a heap. Can you imagine – a bicep SO STRONG it knocks mom out?! The boys think that is HILARIOUS!

In fact, they both take big bites of veggies after that…which in turn, brings out Mr. Highpants.

3. Mr Highpants is my husband’s hilarious character invention that entails hiking up his pants well above the navel, 1950s style, and doing a version of the Ministry of Silly Walks. Every bite of veggies our youngest takes makes Mr. Highpants do a siller and sillier and sillier walk. So our little one keeps shoveling and shoveling and shoveling those veggies in.

Yes, this kind of routine makes dinner take longer. Yes, you have to repeat this clearly insane routine at random times to keep the conditioning-loop strong. No, it’s not restaurant-friendly.

But it works. Boy, oh boy, does it work! It even works when I’m home alone and Mr. Highpants isn’t around.

And it’s fun. So, so much more fun than fighting over vegetables.

What kinds of silly things do you do to circumvent a battle of the wills? What tricks do you have up your sleeve to get your little ones to eat their veggies?