Last week during snack time, my son’s teacher told him he did not make a “healthy choice”. She allowed him to finish, but made it clear his unhealthy selection was no longer allowed. He was eating a homemade chocolate chip cookie.
I asked him to list acceptable snacks. Carrot sticks. Good. Bananas. Nice. Fruit Roll-Ups, Chicken-In-A-Biskit crackers, cereal bars and a “trail mix” of pretzels, Cheetos and mystery chips, possibly Fritos. WHAT? One classmate inquired if his Fruit-by-the-Foot was a “healthy choice”. Yes, it was declared so.
I won’t bore you with a breakdown of ingredients, but I will throw out a few words; monosodium glutamate, Red #40, disodium inosinate and high fructose corn syrup. If you’re curious, check out Label Watch to compare specific items in food products. My cookies might be sweet, but they’re clean.
The teachable moment
I am not just that mom. I am a mom who does oodles of research to make conscious cooking decisions. A mom who quit her day job to write and educate on health and wellness topics. The mom whose son learned to read labels right after Goodnight Moon.
This was this mom’s teachable moment.
Message delivery is critical
You walk the fine line between informative and pretentious. And if I’m emotionally involved in a topic, I prefer to write. I did say something, but it came out in flustered bursts of apologies mixed with catch phrases like “organic advocate”, “inconsistent messaging” and “happy to send you some links”.
Not my best work.
But she was apologetic and my baked goods were back in. I did successfully convey my gratitude that she monitors snacks and makes students aware of healthy choices. She wants to start Healthy Snack Fridays, where they learn to cook in the classroom.
I would have hugged her, but she was already slowly backing away.
Sensible message delivery
Want support for your cause? Here are a few tips…tips I should have developed before talking to the teacher. (Ah, hindsight…):
- Start with the positive. What does the person do well? Is there a nice lesson? Is there common ground?
- Be respectful and humble. You might BE the expert. Do you want support or to turn people off? No one likes a know-it-all at any age.
- Frame statements with a team approach. “We can improve…” or “I’d love to help with…” sounds a lot better than “You need to…”, “You should…” or “No offense, but…”
- Choose your time and place wisely. Don’t ruin birthday parties. Don’t get impatient and rush into conversations. Teachable moments will happen. If they don’t, become a writer and pick your stage.
These tips merely scratch the surface of an important conversation. How do you promote your cause without snobbery?