When do children understand - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 07-07-2008, 07:03 PM
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Where their meat comes from? I just recently went vegetarian, heading for vegan. My son will be 3 in October. He doesn't care if he's eating meat or not. He still eats cheese and eggs if we're out, but we're totally vegan at home. My dh still eats meat if we're out and sometimes my son will ask for some. Sometimes we'll let him, sometimes not. DH asks me first and we've been saying no lately. Anyways, I'm wondering when he'll be old enough to make the connection and how I should explain it to him. I'm obviously not going to show him a video that even I don't want to watch. Just curious how you other parents explained to your children. Thank you!

~kathy
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#2 Old 07-08-2008, 04:02 AM
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I don't have any advice, as I don't have kids and am only newly vegan/vego, but I just want to say I think you are doing a great thing!
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#3 Old 07-08-2008, 04:39 AM
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I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but when my brother was about 5 he began asking my mum a lot of questions about where the food came from. "Mummy where do the carrots come from?, mummy where do the potatoes come from?". Once my mum explained to him where the meat came from, he no longer wanted to eat it. He's been vegetarian for about 25 years now!



You could perhaps take him to a farm and explain how you get food.
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#4 Old 07-08-2008, 08:14 AM
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I think a child can easily make the connection at 3-5 years old. My MIL did the stupid thing and started telling my niece meat came from animals, but the animals were fine after giving the meat up. She thought there were cows out there someplace just handing over hunks of meat. I think if she was old enough to make THAT sort of connection at 3, she would have definately understood the animals were actually dying in order for her to eat.



Once kids make the connection that things eventually die, then I think they are old enough to understand animals die for meat. I know some people don't like explaining death to small children (my mom bought my brother a new mouse when his died while he was at school without telling him) but I think it is a little crazy to shelter them THAT much from it. Grandpa can't go on vacation forever and cows can't magically hand over hamburger patties.
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#5 Old 07-08-2008, 08:15 AM
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Thank you everyone! I didn't even think of finding a local farm. That's a good idea. He knows what chickens and cows are, just doesn't yet make the connection food wise. Thank you!

~kathy
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#6 Old 07-08-2008, 12:46 PM
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I said this in another post. I think we give children sometimes more information than they are ready for in our efforts to be 'upfront and honest'...I've been guilty of this myself. I would (and have mainly) matched my responses to my child's curiosity. Why don't we eat eggs and meat anymore? Because Mommy and Daddy have come to a decision that we don't want to eat eggs and meat. Why? Well, we don't like what happens to the chickens/cows/pigs (insert animal) before they become our food. or...we don't think chickens and cows should be our food.



I think you really have to remember with young children that when you heap information on them they generally 'tune out'...the excess. Keep your responses short and simply and don't pile up info on them that's really for your benefit (you're understandably excited about your new way of eating) and not for theirs.



B
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#7 Old 07-08-2008, 12:57 PM
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Children of about 6-7 will fully have empathy for the animals. When they're younger, they may understand a sort of nice vs. not nice or a right vs. wrong sort of thing-- but, young kids are still egocentric. They're more likely to just mimic parents



(I have a test on this psych crap tomorrow. It's not my major and it's not as interesting as I thought it would be)
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#8 Old 07-09-2008, 06:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cathiasplace View Post

Where their meat comes from? I just recently went vegetarian, heading for vegan. My son will be 3 in October. He doesn't care if he's eating meat or not. He still eats cheese and eggs if we're out, but we're totally vegan at home. My dh still eats meat if we're out and sometimes my son will ask for some. Sometimes we'll let him, sometimes not. DH asks me first and we've been saying no lately. Anyways, I'm wondering when he'll be old enough to make the connection and how I should explain it to him. I'm obviously not going to show him a video that even I don't want to watch. Just curious how you other parents explained to your children. Thank you!



'Mum, why can't I eat meat?'



'Because it's made of murdered animals. Meat is the same stuff that you an I are made out of.'



The kid won't touch it. Children dig vegetarianism, because it's such basic common sense, which is why meat eating parents have to lie to them.



You don't have to lie to your kids, just take them to a petting farm or whatever, show them the cows and the sheep and the chickens. Explain to them that these animals have to be killed if you want to eat meat. They won't touch it, ever.



Remember, you ARE RIGHT and your children will understand that. Meat eating is indefensible, and that's why they have to lie to their children.
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#9 Old 07-09-2008, 07:42 AM
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I always like using the term 'murdered' with really little children I work with. I'm sure their parents would appreciate it to. Did you read the little guy was three?



B
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#10 Old 07-09-2008, 08:02 AM
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Yeah...I think using the term murder is going a tad bit far with a 3 year old. Maybe just explaining that the animal does infact die to be turned into meat would be a little kinder in this case. I wasn't exactly kind when I explained where meat came from to my brothers, but they were much older than 3.
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#11 Old 07-09-2008, 08:59 AM
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I distinctly remember my daughter making the connection between the chicken she was eating and the clucky feathery things that run around farmyards. I think she was about 3 and had asked why her food had the same name as an animal.



Her face kind of fell for a minute and you could see the little cogs going round in her head as she tried to make sense of it. Eventually she gave up and carried on eating but she's very aware of it now, especially as her younger brother (3 now) says he wants to be vegetarian (recently vegan) although he does that just to mimick me.



Every child is different so you have to just play it by ear I think. We rarely have meat in the house and I do most of the cooking anyway, but she takes schoold dinners where the peer pressure decides what goes on your plate.
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#12 Old 07-09-2008, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by bethanie View Post

I said this in another post. I think we give children sometimes more information than they are ready for in our efforts to be 'upfront and honest'...I've been guilty of this myself. I would (and have mainly) matched my responses to my child's curiosity. Why don't we eat eggs and meat anymore? Because Mommy and Daddy have come to a decision that we don't want to eat eggs and meat. Why? Well, we don't like what happens to the chickens/cows/pigs (insert animal) before they become our food. or...we don't think chickens and cows should be our food.



I think you really have to remember with young children that when you heap information on them they generally 'tune out'...the excess. Keep your responses short and simply and don't pile up info on them that's really for your benefit (you're understandably excited about your new way of eating) and not for theirs.



B



I completely agree - don't give "too much" info to a little kid like that. I have a 3 year old son and a 2 year old daughter and my son understands (for the most part) where meat and eggs come from. Last weekend, we had family members staying with us for the 4th of July and my mother in law made eggs for breakfast (for herself) one morning and my son asked her where the mommy chicken was and how the baby chicks would hatch without the mommy. LOL So, I think 3 year olds can understand the basic concept of where animal products come from but I wouldn't use terms like "murdered" or even "killed" with my son. He has a really active imagination and has nightmares a lot from things he's heard people say. We even have to be careful which children's books to read to him because of that.
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#13 Old 07-09-2008, 11:28 AM
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Another vote for "no" on murder.



How about just "We love animals, we don't eat them."

http://megatarian.blogspot.com
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#14 Old 07-09-2008, 01:35 PM
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My daughter is 13. I first went veg*n when she was around 9. My husband is an omni. She asked me many questions about why I had made the decision that I did and, although most of the reason that she chose to also become veg*n was because I had, she did do some research on her own and hasn't ate meat since that very day. She experiments with veganism sometimes, but finds it incredibly challenging and so she will eat some dairy at times. Because the two of us are so aware of our food, my husband is now making better choices about his food too, such as not eating cheese with animal rennet. But I digress... Ultimately, Jade followed my example. When she asked questions, I was as honest as possible and always encouraged her to do her own research. She was old enough to comprehend the concept of the suffering that precedes the chicken dinner so it was an easy transition for her.
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#15 Old 07-10-2008, 03:06 AM
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My daughter is 4 and I have only been a vegan for a couple of months now. And when I went veg*n, the whole house did. My 15 y/o was already on board and an easy one, because she is walking compassion for "all" rights to be free from harm.



The little one understood well enough when I explained that we "hurt" the animals in order to eat the meat. And I took it one step further to tell her that animals are the meat we are eating. I could see the wheels turning and she immediately responded, "We should be ashamed of ourselves."



I had a hard time with my mother. She is an omni of course and believe that my daughter is not getting enough to eat because she refuses to eat some of the meals prepared. I believe that hunger is a strong motivator and no one will purposefully starve themselves. It forces her to be less picky now. She is getting it all sorted out now. And she is eating much better now. But other members can confuse them if they still eat meat, but you're telling them that eating meat is wrong and harmful. So, talk to anyone that lifestyles shows the contrary that you are trying send and give your child a universal message about your eating choices to cut down on confusion. I say this, because my daughter from time to time when we pass our favorite fast food joints want to stop and eat there, because she understands, but NOT fully. It does take some time. But more and more she is talking about it and my answers are always consistent and so are my actions.



Good luck with things and he will surely pick it up easily. Now my daughter understands how to deny what she shouldn't be eating.



-Gypsy
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#16 Old 07-10-2008, 03:30 AM
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Our son was 4 when we decided to become vegetarian. He's 5 & 1/2 now and we have gently been introducing the fact that meat comes from animals. He understands that the animals die in order for people to eat meat but we haven't gone any further than that in terms of distressing information.



Even though we aren't strict about what he eats just yet he is starting to make the decisions for himself.



However my 3 year old is a bit different. He was 2 when we went veg, so he hasn't been eating any meat since then so it's just normal for him. He has a natural aversion to all dairy products - he's my angelic little vegan and he has no idea about it all really! I'm sure he's overheard conversations with our older son and he'll eventually just start asking questions I guess, but for now he's oblivious.
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#17 Old 07-10-2008, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by bethanie View Post

I always like using the term 'murdered' with really little children I work with. I'm sure their parents would appreciate it to. Did you read the little guy was three?



B



Okay, don't say murdered, but the message is the same however you say it. It means the same thing.



That cute thing you liked had to be killed to make that food.
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#18 Old 07-11-2008, 04:14 PM
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I guess the main thing I have a problem with was not just the wording harrifer, it was the insinuated scare tactics that using such terminology implies. I have a problem with those deal-a-ma-bobs. I find using scare tactics manipulative. I don't think as parents (are you a parent?) we need to frighten our children into behaving justly/rightly. I believe children see more from the example we set, rather than the words that come out of our mouths and very often fly somewhere over their heads (particularly at three). But then you know, the us is a country very often obsessed with using scare tactics to command right behavior. And I simply see this as mind control, as much as anything else. I grew up in a religious community where any supposed sin could seemingly get you into hell. The falicy of this way of thinking rang true when I realized at some point (and with some trouble) that I wouldn't be struck by lightening if I did certain things.



I think our tendency with young children is still to be overly harsh, rather than simply setting the expectation (in this case, we don't eat animals), and then leading by example. Good lord, as we all know, understanding DOES follow, and for some children all too soon.



B
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