Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The "greedy" child...

Today's guest post is from an anonymous poster. She approached me a few weeks ago with a draft. It resonated so much with me: I knew I could not refuse.

I suspect her words, and her experiences and her fears will resonate with many of you. I would like to thank her for her honesty. She asks a lot of questions in her post, so if any of you have wise words to share on this complex issue, I would love it if could comment and share.

When I was four and at Kinder I remember having a check up where my mum asked the nurse about my weight. The nurse said something along the lines that I was fine and would grow out of it. I look at photos of myself at that age and although I wasn't slender, I certainly wasn't fat. My next memory of my weight issue is about four years later when my dad took me for a walk and discussed my weight with me. He said that I was a lot prettier than my best friend, but that she was slim and if I was slim I would be even prettier than I already was. Over the next 10 years, my mum ignored my weight while my dad obsessed over it, varying his approach from taking me to the gym with him at 6am before school, family early morning exercise sessions at home, criticising me, telling me not to eat certain things, bribing and embarrassing me. I actually feel guilty describing my dad in this way, because it sounds so harsh and he is a great dad and I know he had my best interests at heart but oh my goodness, I really think his tactic "shaped" my life!

My weight went up and down, up and down over the years, and still is. I know that now, at 30-something, this is something completely within my control and is not my parents fault. But, as a mum of two, I don't want to relive the mistakes my parents made and I am really struggling with how to raise my kids with a healthy attitude to food and exercise. For the last few months I've been slowly and healthily losing weight and my oldest has been watching me exercise and joining in. At the age of three, he is extremely active and although solid, he is definitely slim and has no weight issues at all.

However, he does have a funny relationship with "naughty" food already and I'm scared that I've "done this" to him! When we go to a party, he will dive in the junk food and if he sees me approaching, he'll grab a handful of something and run away! While this is slightly amusing, I have to be honest that it's a bit terrifying too for me. I did a lot of my eating in secret, and was sneaky about it and I don't want my kids to have the same problems I had. My three year old can now also open his bedroom door on his own and twice this week he has gone to the kitchen in the wee hours of the morning and helped himself to food - chocolate, lollies and biscuits. I too used to do this in the middle of the night. A lot. Part of me thinks I should throw out all of the "naughty" food, but the other part thinks maybe I'm already depriving him of too much and that is what's making him greedy?

My friend has a theory with her kids: she doesn't want them to be greedy, so she lets them eat whatever they want, whenever they want, including chips and chocolate most days. This doesn't sit right with me. Although they certainly don't gorge themselves at any opportunity? I cook most of my kids meals and although they are healthy, they are not extreme. Pasta, meat, veggies, cheese, yogurt, eggs, oven baked home made "chips" and most of their snacks are either fruit or wholemeal vegetable baked "treats" but I also do bake sweet things for them occasionally too. The only reason the items my son took from the pantry were even there was because they were for baking or things friends had brought over: it's not food he's ever allowed to just eat freely at home.

I love food and I love cooking and baking and my three year old loves food too. We never eat take away fast food and the food he eats 90% of the time is very healthy. I know I can easily stop the baking of sweet things and have no treats in the house, but I don't know if that's the right to do either? I have really been trying to model and teach moderation, but after this week's early morning pantry raid, I feel like I've failed and am a bit unsure of where to go from here.

How do you regulate what your kids eat? Do you think you can make them greedy by depriving them of treats? If we restrict "sometimes" foods and junk foods, does that send them into a binge mentality early? Or do we let them eat whatever they want and hope for the best?

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  1. This is a tough one, but at three, kids just love yummy food, and in the early morning have been known to do all sorts of things that they think Mum will never know it was them cos she is asleep. I would treat this like any other activity, as in, what would happen if he got up and wrote on the walls, or was caught playing on an iPad or something( this is what my 5 year old would want to be doing).

    Baking sweet dishes is a great thing to do, much better than buying things and teaches many skills, early maths, food textures, what is actually in real food. You can alter them slightly, we have a great carrot and apple cake that I make with wholemeal flour, or I change choc chips to diced prunes etc. I don't think eliminating baked sweet goods is the answer.

    Good luck, I am sure with the healthy eating already going on, it will all be ok.

  2. My son is almost 2 and my strategy is out of the 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, 4 of them should be healthy and one can be a treat. So each day he can have maybe some Tiny Teddies for afternoon tea, or a Milk Way if we've been grocery shopping ( we dont keep chocolate as "snacks " at home ) or if he's eaten most of his dinner he can have a chocolate biscuit or a piece of cake ( etc, if we have any ) for dessert.

    So far its working - sometimes he asks for chips or lollies or whatever for breakfast, but i just tell him " No - those arent breakfast foods ) and he moves on. No doubt it will get harder as he gets a bit older and more aware of how " fun " the so-called bad foods are, but for now we're aiming to get him routinely eating good stuff first, sweets/savoury snacks as an after thought...

  3. This is a really hard question to answer. I used to have this preconceived idea that I will control what my kids eat. Well, after my 2nd child was born, it sort of went out the window. The kids were allowed to eat lollies, chips and whatever not. But, in moderation. As in we don't buy them and even if we do, it's in very small amounts. That started to change again when they grew up. My husband is the "junk food" buyer. I'm more the eat to live type of buyer. I tried to curb the kids from eating biscuits and the like one week. Instead giving them fruit for their after school snack. They were not happy and I was worried that I might turn fruit and vege lovers into haters. So it went back to square one. They were allowed to eat anything but within limits. When I say enough they'd have to stop and if they're still hungry to go grab a piece of fruit. So far, touch wood, it has worked. Except my 6 y/o son has been "stealing" food from the pantry. Food he knows are "sometimes" food. This is one thing that I still have to work on. Another reason why I also decided to change my tact when my kids grew up a bit more, was the fact that my eldest, binged on party food, each time she was at a party. She was only about 5 or 6 then. Binged until she threw up. She didn't know boundaries. My 2nd child did. She knew when to stop. That's why I say, it's a hard question to answer and I do hope someone comes up with something.

  4. We try very hard to work on the 'all things in moderation' rule around here. We have lollies - but only two. We have chips - once a week. Meals are (mostly) healthy, with an occasional nuggets and chips thrown in. Life is not controlled, but we need to be able to learn to control what we eat within it. We don't have 'naughty' foods. We have 'sometimes' foods. I'm not sure if it's working, but the boys seem okay with it all.

  5. I try to do what Al does above. She's my sister, doesn't have a weight problem. I'm fat and I know I am much less good at the 'only two lollies' rule... go figure.

    However, none of my kids have a weight problem or unhealthy attitudes towards food. Mainly because it's not about the food... It's about choices and from early on I have explained what healthy food does and what poor choices do. I use my own big belly as an example and simply explain that mummy has never been very good at making the right sort of food choices, but that's ok. I tell them I'm still learning along with them and 'can you make a better choice than mummy'.

    To be honest, we don't talk about this very often. Just occasionally. Most of the time we are just getting on with things.

    If your son is sneaking out of bed at night to find treats, I would be concentrating on the sneaking out, not on the sweets. Sneaking out is the 'naughty' act, eating a choc is not.

  6. I'm with Alison - we didn't have naughty food - we had occasional food. Nauthgy food implies that we shouldn't have this at all rather than just having it occasionally.

    I do still battle for good and bad food and am concentrating on just eating in moderation e.g. if we have ice-cream I have one scoop instead of three. If we have chocolate I have two blocks instead of a whole row.

    I feel it is really about educating them to eat in moderation because anything in moderation is OK.

    Love, hugs and positive energy !

  7. I can relate to so much of your childhood and adulthood experience. The biggest thing therapy taught me last year? Food isn't 'good' or 'bad.' It's just food. Like Maxabella said I'd be concentrating on the sneaking out rather than what they've taken, because that's the bit that probably needs some attention. PS You sound like a terrific mum x

  8. We try and do everything in moderation here. I am lucky in the fact they would all prefer an apple or a carrot instead of a packet of chips. BUT in saying that. If they eat all their dinner which is usually healthy they get a treat before they go have a shower/bath. Its hard, i also think it depends on the personality of the child. Our biggest problem is that my girls have started not eating their breakfast and asking for snacks as soon as hubby leaves for work :(

  9. My daughter does the exact same thing - she sneaks out of her room in the wee hours and takes food out of the pantry.
    I've explained to her that she isn't allowed to do it, she's only allowed treats when she's eaten all her dinner, packed her toys away, been behaving etc.

    I don't think removing all of the food in the house is the answer, just teaching them about moderation and them knowing they don't just get treats for no reason - they're called treats for a reason!
    I don't want my kids to have an unhealthy relationship with food, I just want them informed and able to make the 'right' choices.

    Good luck!

  10. Like others here have said already, in our house we don't have good or bad food, we just have food. Our meals are home cooked except for usually once a week when we have take away.
    If we're out the kids can have anything from sushi to maccas. It's the idea that food is fuel. Rather than reward. Never is it bad or naughty, I want to keep emotions out of the food equation.
    It's hard going with all the hype around food these days, but just go with your instincts. :)

  11. How I resonate with your story. Eating issues my whole life and I don't want my 7 year old daughter to take the baton for the next strait.
    As a child, I always had to eat everything on my plate. I now never do this with my daughter. She stops when she has had enough, no sweets or treats then though.
    I've recently read Genene Roth's Women, Food and god, which was really insightful and interesting. Sometimes just to get to grips with our own food issues, helps us with our kids.

  12. What a lovely, honest post. Thank you so much for sharing. I agree with the comments above: food is food. Some food is just more occasional. I don't keep lollies, chocolate in chips in the house. The main reason for this is I'm a SHOCKER so it's easier that I keep it away for me. HA!

    As for the question: do you regulate your kids food. Yes, I do. I pretty much regulate everything they eat at this stage but I do try and teach healthy eating habits at every opportunity.

    You obviously care very much for your son and want to look after both his physical and emotional health. You're really doing a wonderful job.

  13. Wow what a great post.

    I try not to keep too much unhealthy food in the house so it isnt available. Luckily for me my daughter doesnt have too much of a sweet tooth and unlike me she stops when she's had enough :)

    When she does ask for a lollipop or Cheezels or whatever I tell her its a special treat but I let her have them. Sometimes if its early morning I'll tell her its too early for whatever sort of food or tell her she can have it after dinner. If she eats the main meals I give her I'm happy so dont mind letting her have a treat afterwards if she still wants it.

  14. The contributor of this anon post!November 23, 2011

    Thank you so much for all of your comments and suggestions! Just sharing my worries with you was a big help, but all of your solidarity has been brilliant!!! We too avoid the terms naughty food and even treats, and stick to yummy/healthy food that makes you strong and healthy and sometimes food. There have since been a few more more early morning shenanigans happening, but interestingly enough, I've realised that it is more about independence rather than the food. There has been 100's and 1000's from here to Timbuktu and toothpaste all over the mirrors!!! I think the advice to remove emotion and the food from the problem behaviour is excellent and I will definitely take it on board.

    I think the biggest lesson here for me has been to stop and take a breath before I project my issues on to my kids!!!! I'm so grateful to Lucy that she allowed me this avenue to do that.

    Thank you all so much. I appreciate your input tremendously.

    Thanks Lucy - this was such a nerve wracking, exposing experience but your readers are as lovely as you are and were brilliantly helpful.

  15. I found this post really close to home. Thanks.

    When I grew up, my parents didn't restrict what I ate. We didn't have a lot of lollies or chips in the house, but we had lots of other foods that should be eaten in moderation- soft drinks, juice, biscuits, cream, ice cream.. And not a lot of fruit and veg. And I was a glutton. When I was old enough to cook, I'd make myself fried bread or pastries. I never learnt to listen to my appetite. I was fortunate that I never ended up obese, but I wish I had learnt to make better food choices growing up.

    My husband had similar experiences- inability to stop eating when full. So we are getting rather alarmed that our eldest son (4) is showing a similar tendency. He eats very fast, as though there's no tomorrow, and will admit to taking another helping when he's full "because it tastes so good!" At parties he has often puked afterwards because he's gorged himself. Like us, he doesn't know when to stop. Husband and I, rightly or wrongly, have decided to be more proactive than our parents and explain that he needs to be more responsive to his appetite so he can stay healthy, but I'm still worried about my son.


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