When kids are young, we parents are more or less their managers. We buy clothes, buy and prepare every meal, take care of housing and getting around, etc.
When kids become teenagers, they no longer want a manager. That is not to say that they may not need a manager, but they have to start this process of separation, so they prefer that we parents adopt a different role.
Parent’s New and Improved Role
How about this one: Consultant
Consultants advise but generally do not exert supreme authority. This will probably go over better with your teenager than all the overt demands, restrictions, and control that you might want to exert over them.
We are assuming that you have raised rational kids and now understand that 1) you don’t really want them to live in your house for the rest of their lives, and 2) they need to start to make decisions on their own so a natural separation will be possible.
We can become their consultants, which is just fine, laying down some limits, like what time to be home at night.
Influencing Teens Cooking Choices
Teenagers may want to make nothing but sweets when they start cooking for themselves. Cakes, brownies, cookies, etc. In our home, neither mom nor dad was interested in baking sweets, so we rarely ate anything other than fruit for dessert.
When our daughter first started cooking (read, baking), it meant more sweets around the house. After a short while, it was clear that we would all gain more weight and raise our blood sugar.
At the same time I started reading Michael Pollan‘s books and came to understand all the junk that is packaged in that box cake/brownie mix. So I simply stopped buying box mixes. I pointed the junk out to my daughter, and she agreed—they aren’t good food.
When she had to make things from scratch, for which she got many more kudos, she didn’t make them so often because they were a lot more work. She could make healthier choices like whole wheat flour, fresher ingredients, less sugar, etc. She could make carrot cake instead of chocolate so her complexion wouldn’t suffer (this only works some of the time).
But otherwise, I was moot on the point of what she could cook. Of course, I drew the line at buying $10 chocolate bars for the cake. We all know that good chocolate makes better desserts, but the wallet snaps shut after a point, and she learned what that point was/is.
It wasn’t worth trying to control everything. It was more important that she learn her way around the kitchen. It was more important that she learn to feed herself. So we had a few more desserts than we normally enjoyed. Now I can call on her for every miserable pot luck to which we have to bring a dessert!
More Ways to Influence Teen Cooking
Pick up the occasional copy of Bon Appetit! or Vegetarian Times magazines and leave it in the kitchen or wherever teens pass time. Or better yet, find a school fundraiser program and subscribe for cheap to a cooking title. Then you’ll have 12 issues (or 6) to lay around the house. Sure they offer recipes for sweets, but they also have many very delicious-looking photos of and recipes for wonderful, savory entrée dishes.
Offer to cook one of the savory dishes that appeals to your teenager and ask for his or her help. Or offer to make a side dish if he or she makes the main dish. Of course you may end up helping for all of it. No big deal. You’re spending time with your teenager (in the kitchen). Can’t be that bad.
Teenage Boys Cooking
Yes, some teenage boys do like to cook, as well. If all they are interested in is meat on the barby, then get them a grilling magazine or book and plan a meal around a meat that they can grill.
Many teenagers (both boys and girls) like cooking shows on TV, like Iron Chef. While most boys won’t pick up a recipe book (or maybe even a recipe magazine), they will probably watch TV. If you are debating what stupid show to watch with your teen at night (otherwise they will get up and leave), pause on the competitive cooking shows. They are challenging (for the competitors) and offer some suspense for the viewing audience.
At the same time that they are entertaining, they are teaching teens and adults how to handle the food they are cooking, how real chefs prepare dishes, how to handle cooking tools, how to present food attractively, what foods to pair, what spices to use, etc.
Many, many great lessons come from these cooking shows. This is time well spent! My kids loved them from about age 6 and still do. If you are watching with them, you can comment on the side, but don’t overdo it. (Isn’t that a lot of butter?, maybe less sugar would work, too, etc.). This is the consultant talking.
If you know more ways to reach teenagers in cooking, please use the comments sections below. We’d all like to know!