Authentic Wisdom: The Wife

~ 28 January 2005 ~

Chicken Anyone?

By Suzanne Moll URL Email

When Cameron first invited me to guest author on his site I was honored, but frankly also in somewhat of a state of shock. Thrilled at the challenge, I was still overwhelmed and found myself asking, “What on earth am I going to write about? What do I have in common with all or any of you for that matter?”

Well, believe it or not, I might have quite a bit more in common than meets the eye. I’m immersed in creativity, design and marketing 24/7. Not only being married to it, but it’s also what I do full-time.

We have three young and very active little boys (sorry, big boys, as they’re quick to assert). Ages 4, 3 and 18 months. It is my job to manage, educate, entertain and prepare these young men — along with being referee, chauffeur, medical assistant, bodyguard, activities coordinator, miracle worker and on and on.

However, one of the most challenging tasks of all is marketing the dinner plate. Yes, marketing. Yes, the dinner plate. For instance, how does one market a plate of chicken? My youngest two are not so picky and they’ll gobble up dinner in no time. But, it is my eldest that has tried and tested my marketing ability and skills.

I’ve had four years to tweak my methods and I’ve learned this about marketing: I have to be in tune with my ‘audience’ and their needs and moods, which are constantly evolving.

With that in mind, allow me to present a few tactics for marketing that savory plate of exquisitely prepared poultry (and other foods).

Color Coordination

Early on I realized our four-year-old favored foods of a white nature. White cheese, pears, chicken, lasagna noodles, bananas, apples, etc. So, I began to color coordinate his plates. Not a difficult task having a strong artistic background, I found it rather fun to develop a monochromatic meal. Although his quirky requests for scraping the meat and sauce off the lasagna noodles can become quite arduous. But if he wants it scraped off he’s been taught the method. (I’ve found it very important to enable your audience to be able to service themselves, naturally.)

Negative Space

Ah, the all too familiar Nothing Can Touch! This one isn’t all that difficult, especially with smaller portions on a normal dinner plate. You simply space the food appropriately, taking in consideration any gravy or sauce that may cross into enemy territory and contaminate the other inhabitants. Keeping things symmetrical is always appealing to the eye, though there are successful asymmetrical patterns as well.

Humor

The funny bone is usually always a crowd pleaser, and even the non-picky eaters get a kick out of this one. Banana eyes, some mash potato eyebrows with cheesy hair, some chicken for a toothy grin, apple ears. The possibilities are endless. Let your imagination run wild with this one. In fact, I often find my picky eater making up his own silly faces and enjoying the act of eating away face parts. AHHHH Ooh nnnoooo!! He can’t see!

Teaser Ads

Countless teasers have been invented at our dinner table and kids never tire of them. They thrive on a challenge. There’s the size game: What’s the biggest bite you can take, can you top it? The number game: How many bites can you take, are you sure? Or the “I’ll look the other way how much disappears off your plate” game. And just the other day my three-year-old invented the Superhero Challenge. He would snatch a bite with his super-fast superhero super powers before any of us could see him. It did startle him though, when he grabbed the wrong bite of food.

The Hard Sell

When all else fails, there is the end-all-be-all method of disciplinarian persuasion: You will eat or else. I’ve found the timer to be a more gentle sell. That is, of course, until it turns into “You have until the beeper goes off to take a bite or else!” (And we’ve all experienced the “or else” — sent to bed without any snacks or saved for breakfast the next morning.) Of course, one must be careful with these attempts and must be prepared to back up what’s said or credibility is lost. Not to mention there is always a power struggle with these methods, and usually the evening ends on an unpleasant note.

Bribery

Who can forget bribery? Or, in more pleasant terms, the reward system. This tactic focuses on the positives, the can-haves and can-dos rather than on the can-nots. Done properly, the outcome can be rewarding for both parties. After all, we look for fringe benefits in all we do, even as adults, right?

So there you have it. Advice on marketing the six o’clock meal. Take it or leave it, but keep in mind you might find it in tomorrow’s breakfast bowl if you leave it.

About The Author

Suzanne Moll is Cameron’s wife of 6 years and change. A native Floridian, her creative talent runs deep, most notably in painting and stained glass. And hey, she’s got a full two years on Cameron, so you’d be wise to listen up.
 

23  Comments

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1   Michael Heilemann ~ 28 January 2005 at 01:59 AM

My God! My childhood is a sham! Who teaches mothers these foul tricks of deception?!


2   David Barrett ~ 28 January 2005 at 03:14 AM

Woah, a hell of a lot more thought has been put into this than the traditional “let’s assume that this fork is in fact a plane” trick.

I am a bit disturbed by the concept of lasagna noodles though.


3   Martin ~ 28 January 2005 at 03:21 AM

Very nicely done Suzanne - I reckon you could start presenting marketing seminars with these tricks!

Most adults would like to behave like 4-year olds again if given the chance, so subconsciously, it should be an easy sell :-)


4   Ray ~ 28 January 2005 at 05:12 AM

I’ll definitely have to pass this “marketing concept” on to my wife. My daughter is just getting to the age where she doesn’t want mommy’s and daddy’s help eating. But then she won’t eat the food by herself. It ends up all over the tray and on the floor. Like you said, it’s a struggle keeping food away from the dog and the dog away from the food. Abbi has already picked up on this. Hopefully these great tactics will reverse the trend of “Hey, I wonder if the dog likes THIS… and maybe THIS.”


5   Ted ~ 28 January 2005 at 06:11 AM

Get rid of Cameron, it’s Suzanne we want writing on this site!


6   Kyle Stauffer ~ 28 January 2005 at 07:23 AM

Brilliant methods :)

I’m about to have a baby girl in 4 weeks (well my wife is), i’ll be sure to implement this plan!

Great guest article!


7   erat ~ 28 January 2005 at 07:43 AM

How do the kids deal with the faces in the potatoes if they don’t want their food to touch?

Nice article, by the way. Design is all around us…


8   Suzanne ~ 28 January 2005 at 07:55 AM

lol I actually had something in common or useful to say. You’ll have to let me know if any of these worked with your little ones or big ones for that matter. Glad to see that you’ve even read my latest post on my site, Ray.


9   Jeff Croft ~ 28 January 2005 at 09:15 AM

Fun writing, Suzanne! I guess I need to start reading your site, too. :)


10   Alan ~ 28 January 2005 at 09:33 AM

Wow! That was truly insightful, Suzanne…I think I have some clients like that.


11   Mikkel Malmberg ~ 28 January 2005 at 10:07 AM

Very nice article!
I might have to check up on your blog, Suzanne! I knew moms weren’t stupid, but this is a whole new level of insight!


12   Suzanne ~ 28 January 2005 at 10:27 AM

Thanks, and as far as replacing Cameron I don’t know about that. However, I will be at the SXSW conference maybe they’ll leave a spot open for me. :)


13   Tina ~ 28 January 2005 at 02:35 PM

What a great article! My ‘kid’ is twenty, so I love kid stories told with a flair!


14   Jon ~ 28 January 2005 at 02:56 PM

Great post! As a father of three boys, I can relate to this although I have never thought of it as marketing…

http://www.gottwins.com


15   Joe Clay ~ 29 January 2005 at 04:17 AM

This ‘kid’ is twenty and also a native Floridian! Suzanne, it’s always a pleasure! It’s nice to see someone from our state not making a fool out of all of us.


16   Jeff Gates ~ 29 January 2005 at 06:05 AM

As a father of two girls (ages 6 and 8) I can relate. One will eat just about anything and mounds of it, while the other…

When my wife and I were discussing whether to go for a second child she thought: “How hard could another be? You’re making dinner for one, what’s a little more?” Ha, ha, ha. What they like to eat are as different as night and day.

We honestly don’t know how our youngest grows. But she does, despite her picky eating habits. No amount of cajoling works.

Last night when we told her she had to eat all of her broccoli before leaving the table, she stuffed the entire portion into her mouth. The mass was too big to swallow and we had to stifle our smiles (to say nothing of being prepared to do the Heimlich at any moment).

Oh, she’s smart. And I’m sure it will serve her well when some day she finds herself knee-deep in the corporate world. Let’s see who gets the last laugh.


17   Liz Brouse ~ 29 January 2005 at 09:02 AM

I have an answer for Michael Heileman. The children teach their mothers, Michael. It’s sink or swim for mom and what works is in the child’s court.


18   Liz again ~ 29 January 2005 at 09:04 AM

P.S. Suzanne, excellent!!!!!!!!!!!!1


19   willem ~ 29 January 2005 at 03:52 PM

very nice write up.
How about testdriving.
Here is wat I do with my kids (ages 11, 9, 7 , 5, 2) when cooking.
The oldest one asks whatīs for dinner, when he does not like the answer he cookes up is own favorite pasta dish (with a little help). The girls behind him always want to help, and while doing that I keep giving them little bites of whatīs up fo dinner. Sometimes they like it sometimes they donīt, but they eat. Doing this for some time now I noticed they get used to whatever is comming on the table. No marketing tricks needed anymore. In fact they like cooking (and eating) now and sometimes cook a meal at school for about 20 people.
The two yongest get into the habbit of copying what they see (yes, they also want to help which is a whole other toppic).
Get them to testdrive and they will buy in.
cheers


20   Charlie ~ 29 January 2005 at 11:54 PM

I like the “Good news, your mother and I decided to let you live! Here’s some chicken.” approach. It lends itself to so many levels of gratitude!

Well, I would like it if I had kids. And a wife, who was their mother. Which I don’t.

So I don’t really know what I’m talking about here.


21   Chris ~ 25 February 2005 at 11:58 AM

Well, I think that was very good Suzanne.

Unfortunately, we’ve already gone through all of those options. Our first was a set of twin girls. And, dang it if they don’t double-team us. They do however eat 99% of the time. However, it can take an hour or more sometimes.
Our second (OK really third), was a handsome little guy, who gets angry at us if we don’t give him food. He usually sits next to me, and hollars at me (OK, he’s only 11 months old, and uses the grunt and point method), if dear old dad doesn’t give him some of his food.
Time will tell what happens with our fourth (due in another 5 weeks).


22   Brent ~ 25 February 2005 at 06:13 PM

Very creative. I love the stories, they are all so entertaining. We have 4 kids, but not boys like yours. Keep up the good work. By the way, nice site Cam. I’ll be back.


23   Steve ~ 10 March 2005 at 11:18 AM

wow, definitely being sent to my wife. My 3 kids are going to be the same age soon…




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