Saturday, June 30, 2012

What To Do When Your Child Likes Cheesepuffs

Several months ago, Sam came home with a book that a school friend recommended and lent to him. This friend is a good kid from a good family. He’s the kind of kid you want your kid to hang around. 

Sam read the book in one night. It certainly was a quick read, and it was certain that Sam really liked it. The book was Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Here’s the skinny on its popularity:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid was released in April 2007 and quickly became a New York Times bestseller, eventually reaching the #1 spot. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules was released in January 2008 and also became a #1 bestseller. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book came out in October of 2008. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw was released in January of 2009 and became the #1 bestselling book in the country. (From the “About the author” section of

As the father of this little tribe, I want to take the gatekeeper role seriously when it comes to the media we consume. I looked at a few pages. I wasn’t excited about this foray into literary cheese whiz. So I read about 75 pages (remember, it’s a quick read – this is not what I wanted to do with my time that evening). I read that much because I wanted to avoid a snap judgment. I wanted to avoid giving Sam a blanket statement that had no concrete examples. That would not have been helpful to him as I seek to teach him discernment. So, 75 pages and bookmarks in 5 spots.

The next evening, I grabbed the book and called for Sam.


“Yes, Dad?”

(with book in hand) “Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”

“Sure, Dad! What is it, Dad? You want to talk to me about that book?”

“Yeah, buddy. I heard you read the whole thing last night! Did you like it?”


“What did you like about it?”

“I know you probably don’t like the book and you want to talk to me about it. What don’t you like about it, Dad?”

“I’d like to hear what you think of it first, buddy.”

“It was funny.”

“Were there any parts that you thought weren’t good?”

“Hmmm. Not that I can think of. Dad, I know you probably want to tell me the things that you didn’t like. It’s okay, Dad. You can just tell me.” (as he finds paper and pencil to – apparently – take notes on my insightful book review!)

My goal was not to chide him for his poor literary choice. I had no desire to strike the, “This book is stupid and a waste of time!” tone. I wanted to ask Sam questions and help him think clearly and critically about what he had read. I wanted him to recognize some of the messages, straightforward and subtle, that it sends. I wanted to point out specific sections of the book and walk him through what they were saying, and what they were “saying.” So, we did just that. And had a great conversation.

Bottom line: Diary of a Wimpy Kid is like cheese puffs. Can your child eat some cheese puffs and grow up to be a healthy adult? Of course. Cheese puffs are not going to kill your kid. But, your kid will not thrive on a diet of cheese puffs.

I tried to share this little word picture with Sam and asked him if he would rather have steak or cheese puffs. He smiled.


I smiled. He’s still a child. And that’s okay. His palate needs to develop. But I need to help him.

Dads and moms, don’t leave your children to their own native palate. Oversee their diet – food, books, TV, movies, internet. They’ll inevitably gravitate to the cheese puffs (or worse). Sit down and eat a few with them and talk about the nutritional value of cheese puffs. Help them to “read the label” a little. Don’t simply chide them for their poor tastes (let alone do nothing!). Then make sure you know where to find some good meat and vegetables. Some of it is prepared so well, when your kids smell it, their mouths will begin to water.

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