As a vegan parent, I have asked myself the question should I be raising my children as vegans. There is a lot of debate on this subject from some stating we must to others saying they let the kids choose as we shouldn’t force an opinion on another person, no matter the age.
I guess it comes down to how we view our children, I mean they are people and no amount of “forcing” can actually make them do something they don’t want.
After all they are people too, Just little versions of ourselves, but with their own minds, and ability to make their own decisions.
I guess the other aspect to think about here is what ages the child is, as the idea of choice comes about once a child is actually able to choose.
The other side of the argument is really do we actually make choices, and how much of the choices we make are influenced by others around us.
I can imagine it is a different decision for a parent of a 12 year old who has just chosen to become vegan themselves, or a vegan mother who has just given birth to a baby, who has been vegan for many years herself.
As a vegan parent both my children are being raised as vegans, and I like to think my children have chosen this path themselves.
There are three things we actually can’t force our children to do, we can’t force them to use the toilet, eat or sleep, in these cases the children are actually the ones who are in control. But what we do have is a lot of influence on how our children perform these skills, we can coach, inspire and in some cases bribe our children to do these things. But at the end of the day if our children don’t want to do it, there is not a lot we can do.
This issue around choosing a vegan diet certainly comes into play when the children first start school, When they will come into contact with other influencers in regards to their peers and teachers.
I do think it is fairly reasonable to have a vegan home, in that, if you want to eat a non vegan diet it won’t happen in here, or the other alternative would be to have a you can eat it if you cook it policy, although this would depend on how you feel about having animal products in your house.
I personally feel choice is important to help the child feel part of the decision process, but certainly the choice can be guided and inspired from yourself and your own views.
But what if our children are too young to make the choice? something that suprised me was how young my children where when they understood about ethical issues, From an early age I would explain why we didn’t buy certain products in the home and so they were always used to not being able to have certain things. I would say by age 2 my daughter could recognise the nestle logo and knew she would not be able to have the product, often loudly announcing she didn’t want nestle – much to my approval and shocked looks from onlookers. By three she was horrified by the site of dead meat in supermarkets, once exclaiming to a man with a dead chicken in his basket, “Why have you got a dead chicken in there!”
I soon realised I would have to teach her that other people have different ideas, or things could get messy, but also secretly proud of her for saying what we are all thinking – when a child tells an adult what they are doing is wrong it somehow has a bigger impact.
Despite this I allowed my children to choose outside of the house, provided I was not paying, and occasionally they did and would eat products that were not exclusively vegan, until one day when my daughter was 5 we were at an event and they were handing out chocolates to the kids and he asked “is that vegan” “No” the answer came back and she said “no thank you, I’m vegan”. Seeing my 5 year old refuse chocolate really made me think, up until this point I had not told the school she was vegan, she wasn’t really, and I had let her choose her school dinners, I’d been assuming she’d been taking the vegetarian option, but it wasn’t something I had been checking on. But now she had officially declared herself vegan I decided to get in touch with the school and make the changes I needed to.
With my son he was around 2 when I became vegan, so we took a slightly different tactic with him, in that he’s been eating vegan with us and we’ve told others at parties and nursery he is a vegan, I guess once he goes to school I’ll ask him again if he would like to have the vegan meals like his sister and my guess is he will say yes, my clue with him was I once asked him if he found out chips (which are his favourite food) were not vegan would he give them up and he said yes! I think he quite likes being part of this vegan club!
It’s also reasonable to think that it took us as adults in some cases a while to go vegan, so changing things overnight for our kids, could be a bit hard on them and more difficult to adjust so introducing changes gradually is probably going to be an easier transition for them, leading by example and showing them just how great a vegan diet can be and they don’t have to miss out on their favourite treats.
Most importantly I think the why is important, Children love animals, so explaining things simply, but truthfully, and a lot of children I have met have not wanted to cause harm to animals, so let them come to the conclusion that it is wrong to kill animals for pleasure.
I’m constantly surprised by my kids and how committed they are to veganism, despite, being different from their friends and having to miss out on stuff, but I love thier compassion for animals and so proud of them for making this choice because they too want a better world.
With the right education, the right tools, we can guide our kids to make the choices for themselves, and feel part of a bigger community, creating a mini world of ethical change makers!