Reality Check: Time to Double Down?

Not so long ago, in a place not so far away, a government with the very best intentions wanted to encourage kids to eat in a healthy way. A commendable goal. The question: how might one do this?

A program was initiated. It required that the kids include a healthy item, such as a fruit or vegetable, in their lunch choices.

The reasoning behind this requirement may have been that if kids develop a habit of eating good-for-you foods, then they will begin avoiding those readily available unhealthy foods: pop, potato chips, and deep-fried everything.

Ultimately, the children would grow up stronger, healthier, and perhaps even smarter! What could possibly go wrong?

If you’ve ever been around a child (or been one yourself) you might recall that kids don’t always respond well when they are forced to do something that they don’t want to do. Actually, that reaction isn’t limited to children, is it? For many of us, as soon as someone says, “You have to do this,” our knee-jerk reaction is, “No, I don’t.”

So what do you think happened with the healthy eating initiative?

Kids can be forced to put fruits and veggies on their trays. However, just because a healthy choice is on the tray doesn’t mean that it will actually get eaten! As it turned out, many—far too many—of those healthy fruits and veggies ended up in a waste can instead of in a kid’s belly.

How one responds to disappointing results says a lot about effectiveness. One of the more interesting responses was along the lines of, “This doesn’t indicate failure. Now is the time to double down!”

What does that mean?

Rather than taking the behaviour of the kids as useful feedback to guide change and make the program more effective, doubling-down says, “We are going to continue to do the same thing, only more-so.” Perhaps we’ll require that the kids take two pieces of fruit instead of one. (Thus, two pieces to discard.)

Do you think that will work better?

Self-evaluation is fundamental to choice theory. That’s when you think about what you want, look at what you are doing, assess the results, and ask: “Is what I am doing getting me closer to or further from what I want?”

Sometimes, actions that we think should lead us to what we want (healthy eating for kids) actually result in what we don’t want (good food wasted.)

An emphasis on healthy eating is worthy. There may be an encouraging initiative that will work, however, it doesn’t sound like this is the one.

It’s easy to fall in love with our own ideas, and when reality doesn’t play along, it can be annoying! It can be hard to accept when what actually happens isn’t what we expected. In that case, is continuing to do the same thing an effective response?

More effective might be to ask, “What can we do differently?” rather than, “Let’s do what we were doing, but more-so.”

Have you ever seen someone stick to an idea, even though it didn’t seem to be working? Ever done it yourself?

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