‘Duty Made Lovely’: How to Train a Child’s Appetite

Oct 21, 2011 by


L’appetit est la conscience du corps (The appetite is the conscience of the body).

— Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.


DUTY MADE LOVELY describes the real Pollyanna, and a good mushroom soup.

When my children were about six and eight, we listened to the original Pollyanna story on tape. Unlike the caricature of Pollyanna as a ridiculously blind optimist, we found the real Pollyanna to be charming and delightful. I was surprised and pleased to find that she managed to inspire us and stir our hearts by her sweetness. “We can be glad of that!” she would say. We still quote her, 14 years later. We all loved Pollyanna and her story.

Pollyanna and many other literary or real-life heroes are perfect examples of what educational reformer Charlotte Mason (1846-1923) called “duty made lovely” that can inspire a child’s conscience to love goodness.

A child’s conscience is not an “infallible guide,” according to Mason, but rather an “undeveloped capacity” to be trained and instructed through such examples.

In training the conscience of a child, she advised, give them “lovely examples of loving kindness that will fire their hearts with the desire to do likewise.”

The child’s appetite, like the conscience, is trained by example, lovely or otherwise, to lead him to right or wrong.

A Bad Example: Dutiful Eating

Of course we parents know we are the primary example for our children. But eating dutifully against our will is a bad example. It teaches kids that duty is anything but lovely. I’m not sure that dutiful eating is any better than just eating junk and enjoying it. At least you’d be enjoying yourself. In either case, the child is taught to see healthy food as unlovely.

A parent’s enjoyment of healthy food is the only good example:  duty made lovely and lovable.

I absolve you: If you don’t like mushrooms, don’t eat them. Don’t try to be an example by saying, “Look Kaylee, I don’t like mushrooms, but I am eating them because they’re good for me.” A far better example is finding a way to sincerely enjoy mushrooms. Then you can say, “Kaylee, I used to not like mushrooms either, but I tried several different recipes, and I’m excited about this soup I just made. It’s really good!”

Duty Made Delicious

That tasty mushroom soup itself is another example of duty made lovely. A delicious dish made with healthy foods is the best example in the world. It’s the loveliness — not the duty — of the experience that warms the child’s heart toward the good.

One day at the Pearl Brewery Farmers Market, I saw a lady come up to the mushroom stand and ask for two mushrooms.

“I don’t like mushrooms, but they’re good for me,” she told the vendor. “So I put them in the blender with other stuff so I can’t taste them.”

I wondered why she bought the most expensive ones, the fancy $11 a pound ones. I wanted some of those, and more than two. I got the cheap ones. She might as well have swallowed a pill to get her nutrients.

How sad for her, with so many luscious ways to eat mushrooms. How sad, when duty can be so lovely.  And of that, we can be glad.


Related posts:

The Best Way to a Kid’s Stomach is through the Heart: How to Use Kids’ Emtions to Form or Deform the Appetite

Foundations of Appetite Training: 12 Ways Children learn to Like or Dislike  Healthy Eating

Conventional Wisdom Versus the Truth about Why Kids Won’t Eat their Vegetables

The Inclusive Cavemen: You Gotta Love It

It Doesn’t Matter if She Likes Broccoli, as Long as She Eats It. Or Does It?