When Your Child Wants Non-Vegan Foods
Q My six year old has suddenly started to challenge our vegan life style. He is eating non vegan foods when I am not around. He says he just wants to see what they taste like. Cheese pizza, milk chocolate… I always provide a vegan equivalent of whatever he wants but he knows there is a difference. I know this is normal behavior since they challenge us with all our decisions. What is the best way to handle this without having to give in? I know if I can just get him past this hurdle he will continue his compassionate dietary lifestyle but it is definitely a challenge.
A Out of the mouths of babes. I asked my eight year old what he thought about it. He said, “Well, tell him to go to a petting zoo and ask, why do you want to eat that animal? That’s crazy.”
“Why would you want to take milk from a baby cow? Every time you drink milk you are saying to farmers, don’t give calves their mom’s milk. When you drink cow’s milk that’s what you do. We’re kids, we don’t do that. We take care of baby cows.”
You can always talk about why you are veghead. I told my son. “I’m a mom. I don’t think it is right to say to another mom, give me your kid so I can eat it.” Then, I growled and he laughed. I continued, “I don’t think that is right. That’s why we are vegans. You, my son, must make up your own mind.”
Reading is fundamental. You can read Victor the Vegetarian or other vegetarian children books. It’s a book about a little boy who lives on a farm and decides not to eat the livestock. My son thought it was helpful in seeing another boy deal with the same problem.
The Un-cheese stands alone. Perhaps your son is like mine and has zero vegan friends and zero vegans in his school. He may need some support. VegFamily has pen pals. I know he is a little young, but my son sat on my lap and dictated emails until he was old enough to write. Also, when he would go to birthday parties, I would let him have the ice cream and cake. Better to lose the battle than lose the war. In fact, now he brings his own cake or may not eat the ice cream. I always provide the host with a vegan choice for him.
When he starts having lunch at school, he is out of your control. I make sure my lunches are fun and have lots of small packages. I also have him help with lunch. If kids have ownership, they will make better choices. You can get some stickers from PETA and give them out for chores well done or to decorate his stuff, (not food related things). They have some funny ones that he may love as much as my son does.
Get thee to a vegfest. We went to the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS) Summerfest when he was four and have gone every year since. We love it. He has lots of vegan friends there and can eat everything in the cafeteria. Perhaps there is a conference like this where you live, or an animal sanctuary or you can go to. The NAVS Summerfest is in June. I highly recommend it. He will be surrounded by other kids just like him.
This year at the Summerfest, I told my son to look at the teenagers.
“Do you notice anything?”
“None of them has zits. In three years, that’ll be important.” He looked at me, then turned to get another piece of pizza. He had the same look when I tried to explain compound interest. Do you think it’s me?
I know it can be hard on our kids, but you just have to hang in there. I think with a little peer support, he will be just fine.