Parenting a vegetarian: Let them make their own choices

I recently wrote about my journey parenting a vegetarian. We had an interesting situation come up last night, and it reminded me about a tip I’ve been practicing unconsciously — but that seems so critical now.

We were having hamburger patties with sauce [really ridiculously easy, but still tastes and feels homemade], and the 3yo said, “You didn’t give [the 9yo] any meat.” Now, we’ll ignore for the moment his stunning lack of observation, since his sister hasn’t eaten any meat for 2/3 of his life.

I responded, “The 9yo normally doesn’t eat meat. If she ever changes her mind about that, she will let us know. In the meantime, get to work on your dinner.” [The 3yo is such a social beast that the vast majority of our mealtimes are taken up by my telling him to shut up and eat already.]

I went on about my business, but a couple of minutes later, the 9yo grabbed the spoon, served herself some meat and said, “Well, never mind being vegetarian. I can have meat if I want to every once in a while.”


I don’t know that she’s going to change her mind about the whole idea, but the incident was a great reminder for me that we spend a lot of time telling kids who we think they are — when we should spend our time supporting them as they explore their choices.

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  1. Good for you not forcing her to eat meat like a lot of parents would, though. I wasn’t a conscious vegetarian as a kid, but the only things my mom ever made me eat were vegetables because she knew they were most important.

    Maybe she’ll come around again to the veg side soon, though. :)

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