“Everyday Leadership” is a buzz-word meaning taking intentional and daily action to foster connection, communication and community whilst working together toward one shared vision. Yet, it may not be a phrase you have heard before. And, I’ll take a wild stab in the dark here, but I KNOW* you haven’t seen “Everyday Leadership” and “Picky Eating” used in the same sentence. (*This is also because google tells me that nobody has used these phrases together :)) Everyday leadership is a corporate term. Picky eating is an at-home-behind-closed-doors term. How do these terms mesh? How do we become everyday leaders at our mealtimes?


Dear battle weary parents, carers of the vegetable-throwers and guardians of the only-beige-food-consumers,

I know that you can’t plead the children to take “just one little bite” any longer. Hence, your mission is being terminated and you are given a leave pass from your vegetable-induced-stress. You don’t have to battle any longer. There are a few keys I have to give you, unlocking the freedom from the anguish that is parenting picky eaters. These are intentional and daily ways to foster CONNECTION, COMMUNICATION and COMMUNITY. It’s time to stop the battle and switch teams!

Today’s article is on….

Connection

You see, everyday leadership relies on the group. Eating is also a group project. And your new adventure starts with you feeling that you are not alone. You are seen and understood. It’s ok to have felt like you’ve been pushed from pillar to post trying to nourish your child. It can feel downright isolating. It’s ok that the dreamy family meals you expected, now make you feel disengaged and enraged. It’s ok to feel everything you feel. We, the society, has let you down. The thing is too many hurdles are in your way. Especially, when the guide book was only filled with happy shots of the destination. Instead, you should have been given a map and been told that the path is rocky. And also, some company to point out the joy along the path, sometimes it’s just hidden under moss-covered boulders, sometimes the people on the journey with us just don’t know how to say the right things. This company is so important. You can’t feel alone in this, together is better.

7 years ago when I began writing on this platform, my first post was all about how to start using family style serve to engage fussy eaters (yes, I was naïve trying to blurt out everything in one poorly written and academically-worded piece). 4 years ago, I wrote about how hard it is to do the family style serve when there are 10 common hurdles in your way (this one I am still happy with #phew). And today, I’m focusing on just ONE element that can so easily get overlooked in the “family meal” concept. The notion of the “first follower”. See, the thing is, you can’t do this on your own. Everyday leadership is about taking the little steps, making connections and making it easy for others to follow you. Connecting with our “first follower” is the first step.

Baum (2002) said to make a long term change, you need to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

What does this mean? Well, whether you are talking about a high level government policy or just trying to make a new habit for yourself, you need to make the choice to do it VERY easy. For example, the healthy choice to NOT go to a party during Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdown is made easier with the possibility of a nearly $5k fine. The choice to grab a glass of water is easier when you have safe, running water available in your kitchen. As rationally thinking adults, we have the mental capacity to make choices. And when we are faced with soooo many choices everyday, there is no wonder we like to make them as easy on ourselves as possible. #decisionfatigue is REAL!

Children don’t rationalize the way adults do. They can’t. They are still new in this world. We can’t force rational thinking on them. So, the best thing we can do is to become “Everyday Leaders” in the way we connect with our children. Are we acting in a way that encourages them / our partner / their siblings or anyone else in the family setting to be “the first follower”?

In this 2min 57sec YouTube clip, or if you’ve ever been to festival, you’ll know what it’s like to see someone get up and start to dance – the leader (aka the lone nut). The easier the leader makes their moves, shows how it’s done and gets on with their job, the easier it is for the “first follower” to get up and join them. The first follower “connects” with the idea, works out how to imitate it and this is what REALLY starts the “shared goal” of the group. The first follower is the most important person in everyday leadership. They are the first person on your team with you, sharing that goal.

Quick tips to CONNECT a first follower:

  1. Provide a food in the middle of the table that will get them up and participating alongside you.
  2. Focus on your own joyful dance. Role modelling is key.
  3. If there is a new food, you can introduce it, but don’t wage a war around it. Perhaps, think about a really easy way to serve it so that it can be engaged with like on a skewer or cocktail fork.

Who in your family group stands out as your first follower? What can you do today to change your mission at mealtimes to be about connecting a first follower rather than waging a vegetable battle? Remember, make your choice EASY to do!

Over the next few week’s I’ll write the next installments on COMMUNICATION and COMMUNITY. And I’ll pop back in here to link to them. Or if you would like them direct to your inbox, please feel free to my not-at-all-spammy eNews below.

Thanks for being here,

Simone Emery


References:

Baum, Frances.  (2002).  The new public health.  South Melbourne, Vic :  Oxford University Press

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