Veganism Makes Parenting Easier
I have some good news: veganism makes parenting easier! Wait a second, but your omnivorous friends and family keep telling you not to raise your kids vegan! They think you should put off even talking about veganism until your kids are “old enough to decide for themselves.” There are a lot of reasons this doesn’t make sense—we’re always choosing for our kids; feeding meat to kids is also making a choice for them—but something the omnivores don’t know is that veganism makes parenting easier. Why? Because veganism reinforces all the other lessons and values you’re working to instill. Veganism makes parenting easier because it makes for consistency. Here are some of the lessons (that all parents want to teach) that my kid has learned through our family’s veganism.
When we teach our little ones that we can make the kind choice not to hurt animals, that lesson reaches far past what we eat. Veganism means kindness to all beings; it’s a refutation of hierarchies of worth, a celebration of equality, and it means we’re setting our kids up to be allies, not bullies. When we teach that no one wants to be in a cage, that no one wants to be hurt, that everyone deserves to live a happy life, we’re instilling a deep and consistent empathy. This empathy will back you up when your little one asks why the dog needs to be walked every day, or why that baby is crying. And when your kid sees someone being bullied, they will know to be an ally, and that their voice and their love are powerful. We all want to teach our children to be caring people; veganism makes parenting easier because our children will see us model kindness, to creatures we don’t even know, all day every day.
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It’s okay to be different.
Inevitably, every kid gets singled out at some point. If/when someone is mean to your kids (about their veganism or anything), their immersion in empathy comes in handy. Just as our kids know to be allies to others, they will be strong in their own self-worth. They’ll better understand that it’s not their fault that someone’s being mean, just as it’s not a pig’s fault that people are trying to eat them. Vegan kids find out at some point that not everyone is vegan, so, we can talk about meat-eating and bullying in the same way: everyone’s on their journey. We know it’s okay to be different, but not everyone’s learned that yet. While some families are struggling to teach their children that it’s okay to be different, our children will see that we’re proud of our veganism, proud of the choices that set us apart. This foundation will help our children to resist peer pressure, and to be more open-minded and welcoming to the differences they see in others.
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Perseverance and patience
So with that knowledge that everyone has feelings, and that everyone’s on their journey (and maybe our families are just a little further on this particular leg of the journey), we are teaching our children perseverance and patience. When we’re the only vegan family at a birthday party, do we give up on veganism? No way! We plan ahead and bring vegan cupcakes! Maybe there was another kind of treat we didn’t get to try right away, so we tell them we’ll find a recipe to make a vegan version soon (and then we make sure to follow through). This delayed gratification teaches patience and stick-to-itiveness, that we can keep on going, with creativity and planning, even when there are hard moments. These are vital lessons we want to teach anyway. Every kid’s different, and some kids will have an easier time with patience than others, but a big part of learning is practice! Veganism makes parenting easier because this practice in perseverance and patience will help each time they’re learning a new skill or waiting for our attention.
The status quo says don’t hit, but also says eat meat. Rather than passing on that cognitive dissonance to our children, we can engage them in conversation. “That doesn’t really make sense to me. What do you think?” This lesson, that the status quo isn’t always the best, allows for all kinds of critical thinking. When our kids ask “why” questions, we can give honest answers that back up the other values we’re modeling. My 3-year-old asked me why there are pictures of happy cows on the cartons in the grocery store. This was an opportunity to talk both about why we’re vegan and about manipulative advertising in general. We can ask our kids “why” questions too, teaching them that everyone’s ideas are valuable.
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Milk carton pictures aside, those cows didn’t consent to have their babies and their breast milk taken from them. We all want to teach consent, to help our kids feel empowered in their own body, and to teach them to respect others’ body autonomy as well. Veganism makes parenting easier because we are modeling consent every day with our vegan choices. Imagine trying to teach your kids not to hug someone who doesn’t want it while simultaneously teaching (through an omnivorous lifestyle) that it’s okay to kill. We can imagine a vegan world where everyone respects everyone else’s body autonomy; for now, we can teach our own children by modeling consent, through our vegan choices, and through the respect, we show each other.
Sure, not all vegan food is health food, but when we eat vegan, we usually include a bigger variety of foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains, and we automatically cut out the cholesterol and most of the saturated fat that many omnivorous adults are struggling to cut out of their lives. And, while there are a growing number of vegan options at restaurants, we often are cooking at home to make just the meal we want, rather than relying on restaurants (or especially fast food). So, veganism makes parenting easier by introducing a huge variety of healthy foods and cooking habits into our children’s lives. We’re putting a lot of thought into providing balanced meals to our families, so every day we’re modeling healthy eating habits, especially if we talk to our kids about the food we eat. My 3-year-old knows so much about nutrition already, things like including vitamin C-rich foods at every meal to better absorb the iron in our foods. One of my proudest (and funniest) parenting moments was when she saw a pink snow cone and guessed that it was “kombucha-flavored.”
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Parenting is hard enough; who wants to make it harder? Veganism makes parenting easier, because, rather than being one more lesson, on top of all the other lessons, it’s a comprehensive way of living that reinforces everything else you’re hoping to teach.
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