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  • It’s Not Just About the Bologna

    Image Credit: Erica Feliciano

    Image Credit: Erica Feliciano

    By Jean Hamburg, LICSW

    Kids of all ages can get pretty determined when they don’t get what they want, and all kinds of trouble can emerge in the blink of an eye.

    The Basen kids, ages four to fifteen, all loved bologna and inhaled incredible amounts of it. Their Mom couldn’t imagine it being nutritious, but everybody begged for bologna, and if it wasn’t produced in bulk, the ensuing scenes were loud and exhausting.

    All of the Basen kids had perfected ways to try to wear down their poor Mom who just wanted to make sure that her kids had a decent chance at being healthy. Whining, wailing, begging, tears, tantrums, and refusing to eat ANYTHING unless there was bologna included were common scenes. Mom used a variety of strategies to try to settle down the troops—all to no avail.

    Then she had an AHA moment and this is what she decided to do:

    Every time the kids decided to make a good choice in areas completely unrelated to the longed-for bologna came the high fives, thumbs up, hugs, cheering, and amazement about their courage and bravery. She found that there were actually many chances for her to be amazed if someone decided to come in on time, put their bowl in the sink even when they ordinarily hated such a chore, decide to put on pj’s, even when that was the last thing on any list of fun, when one of the kids helped a sibling, was thoughtful about letting someone else go first, and so on.

    Mom trained herself to catch the kids making good choices even with things that they usually did very well.

    Then came the time to enter the challenging Land of Bologna.
    She decided to spend some special time with each child, and shared that she REALLY UNDERSTOOD how that child longed for bologna. She wanted each of her children to know that she REALLY UNDERSTOOD, and how hard it was to have limits on the (to them) tasty stuff. She shared how she had noticed how each child had proven how brave and courageous they were about deciding to make good choices, like deciding to put the mustard away even when they didn’t want to.

    Then she shared The New Bologna Plan that included getting a package of bologna on Mondays for each child. On each package was their name in indelible marker. They could eat it all at once or one piece at a time, but when it was gone, it was gone and there would be another package the following Monday.

    She even gave the kids information about what the plan would be if they decided to ‘help themselves’ to another person’s package. If that happened, everyone’s bologna would be kept in their neighbor’s refrigerator and would ‘come home’ at certain times—with ‘supervision’. The neighbor had agreed. Mom even gave them a few days to get used to the idea before the plan would start.

    When anyone ‘objected’, she understood how hard it would be to be limited in the previously in-bulk format of the beloved bologna.

    The kids knew the plan. It started in three days so they could get used to idea and complain if they wanted. Mom understood.

    Over time, the bologna did (sadly) need to travel next door, but mostly it stayed in the Basen refrigerator, and no matter what, Mom was sympathetic but unyielding. Eventually, bologna took its proper place in the Basen kids’ diets, their food choices expanded, bologna related scenes faded, and it all worked out just fine!

    Contact Jean for consultation options at: jeanhamburg@comcast.net __1-877-813-0004

    Cooperation Counts (sm) is a service of Jean Hamburg, LICSW

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