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4 Important Life Lessons My Kids Learn From Watching Cooking Shows

Surprisingly, these shows teach more than just how to make a delicious soufflé.

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The following story was submitted by a Fatherly reader. Opinions expressed in the story do not reflect the opinions of Fatherly as a publication. The fact that we’re printing the story does, however, reflect a belief that it is an interesting and worthwhile read.

Sitting down to watch TV as a family is a lovely concept that is difficult to execute in reality. With four kids ranging in age from 2- to 12-years-old, the remote control feels more like a minefield than a key that unlocks the wonders of technology and entertainment. On the rare occasion that we do wrangle, entice, cajole, or otherwise coerce our entire crew into a family viewing, the negotiations over what we’re going to watch get intense.

Our best bet of late has been kids cooking competitions. If you have a favorite competitive cooking show, chances are a junior version also exists. Kids baking, kids grilling, kids orchestrating multi-course meals that could pick up a Michelin star or two. It’s a genre of show that not only entertains but also helps teach some important life truths.

Representation Matters

Our four kids were born on three different continents, so we are always looking for shows that demonstrate diversity without resorting to tokenism or stereotypes. Kids cooking competitions allow each of our kids the opportunity to see someone who looks like them in a positive light. These shows are some of the best at weaving together a diverse cast in a way that showcases cultural distinctions. Observing how people from different backgrounds express their creativity not only reinforces to our kids that they belong, it also exposes them to the idea that a person’s culture can be reflected and woven into daily life.

Giving Constructive Criticism Is An Art

Life isn’t all orange slices and participation trophies. The kids on TV are competing for substantial prizes and are judged accordingly, and more constructively than on other competition shows. Gone is the obligatory crotchety judge, which allows the evaluation segments to be more empowering for contestants. With approximately 6,439 opportunities each day to correct my kids, I have ample opportunity to practice the constructive criticism skills modeled by the show judges.

  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Correct with specificity and brevity.
  • Diffuse tension with humor.
  • End by reaffirming to the child-specific positive actions and traits you have seen in them.

These steps are tougher to execute at home than on a studio set, but when my communication devolves into verbal cease-and-desist orders lobbed from across the room, it’s a sign that I need to employ more effective tools for correction.

Receiving Constructive Criticism? Also an Important Skill.

Even measured criticism can force us into our lower-brain instincts of fight, flight, or freeze. Kid cooking contestants demonstrate how to stand in and receive correction with grace and dignity.

  • Reciprocate eye contact.
  • Wait for the other person to finish their feedback before interjecting.
  • Take criticism for what it is, apply what you can, and move on with confidence.

Always Try New Things

The ingredients and methods employed on adult cooking shows tend to be inaccessible to the home cook. However, the kid iterations bring the degree of difficulty down to a level that someone with moderate kitchen competence can handle. Once I got over the realization that pre-teens could cook me under the table, I embraced the idea that I could take something away from each episode that would improve the meals I cook for my family.

Our kids have had a similar awakening. They are more enthusiastic about cooking with us, and they even experiment on their own. The fact that they can actually go to the kitchen and prepare their own snack empowers them while liberating us. Moreover, watching kids on TV cook and eat with a broad palette pushes our crew past their usual preference for chicken nuggets or pizza and into a world where food exploration is an additional activity our family gets to enjoy together.

Christian Dashiell is a father of four living in rural Kansas. He is passionate about justice issues, and decompresses by telling jokes and honing is BBQ Jedi skills.