- Phantom wondered about how to tell whether choices were helping her kids (who have strong personalities) or not. I realized that choices weren't helping when they became distractions, when the choice itself became conflicted. Sometimes, Curious Girl would say, if I asked whether she wanted toast or cereal for breakfast, "toast." But then when I brought the toast to the table, she'd dissolve into tears. "But I wanted cereal!" wah. Or she'd move back and forth between two choices and not settle. I still do offer a few choices--lately, I ask at dinner whether she wants chocolate milk or regular milk--but mostly I get her making some other kinds of choices, like getting her plate and cup off the low shelf we've set up for them, or getting placemats out for the family. When the choice leads to meltdowns, not good. (duh. Like you needed me to tell you that.)
- Arwen noticed that sometimes, it's OK to let a child not eat and even, horrors, be hungry! Chichimama wondered about what I do if CG refuses to eat what I've served. That rarely happens, in part because I usually serve multiple items (yogurt, apple slices, and pasta, for example, or pickles, bread, soup, salad). Small servings are key, and I usually try to put something on her plate that I"m fairly certain is on her A list of foods at the moment. If she doesn't eat, sometimes I will encourage drinking milk instead. But Arwen's comment resonated with me: I still have trouble watching her not eat, but I need to be OK with that.
- Elswhere noted that MG is prone to meltdowns if she hasn't had protein. It is hard, trying to teach a child to listen to her body. (And I"m like Renaissance Woman: very grumpy when hungry and not always quick to eat myself.) We try to deal with that problem by offering hors d'oeuvres (say, while cooking) or arriving at school pickup with a lunchbox and snacks--so I'll bring some string cheese or yogurt tubes to school with me so I can give her some protein right away. I'd rather have a biggish snack and a smallish dinner than a big dinner preceded by lots of grumpies.
- One of our neighbors has a policy that the kids can always go make a PB & J sandwich if they don't like dinner. It's an interesting concept--not sure we'll go that route, but it's interesting.
- We don't have dessert all the time, but when we do have dessert, it's available to all. If Curious Girl didn't eat her meal, I'm not likely to break out a dessert. (But maybe that's not true--at least some of the time, if she didn't eat dinner, I"m likely to break out the ice cream for dessert, figuring that it will convey calories, protein, and calcium.) Dessert is separate enough from dinner around here that CG isn't able to see dessert as something she can eat instead of dinner. We never make dessert dependent on eating a meal, though. It's a treat for anyone who wants it.
- When CG asks for seconds on one item (say, the noncaloric pickles) before eating other things on her plate (say, the protein and calorie containing grilled cheese), I will usually say something like, "eat the food you have and if you're still hungry, I'll get you more pickles." That doesn't push cleaning the plate, but it does encourage responsible eating. Sometimes--like at a pot luck dinner we went to this evening--i won't insist she eat ALL the food before trying seconds of something she liked, but I will watch to make sure she has made some sort of effort to eat food she chose.
12 October 2006
Children and Food, Part Two
There were some great comments and questions on my previous post about eating, so I thought I'd respond to some of them here.