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by Abigail Van Buren

Kids Caught in the Crossfire of Parents' Dietary Debate

DEAR ABBY: My wife is a vegetarian, but I am not. We agreed to raise our children as vegetarians until they could make that decision for themselves.

My children are now 6 and 10 and have indicated that they no longer want to be vegetarians. The older child is particularly frustrated that she's not allowed to eat such things as pasta sauce or soup that contains beef or chicken stock.

However, my wife is now reneging on our agreement. She says the kids aren't old enough to make such a decision, and she's refusing to set an age when they can do so.

I don't think we, as parents, should impose our preferences on our kids and deny them what they want. Am I wrong? -- MASSACHUSETTS CARNIVORE

DEAR CARNIVORE: Are you kidding? Parents impose their preferences on their children all the time, and for as long as they can.

Your wife may be right that the kids should refrain from eating meat and meat products, but she is being heavy-handed and going about it in the wrong way. Unless she is prepared to stand over them 24/7, there is no way she can prevent them from eating meat if they are determined to do so.

What she can do is make sure they understand why she is a staunch vegetarian and why she would prefer that they remain that way. But there's no guarantee that they will -- particularly if she permits this to become a power struggle.