Parents are presented with a BIG problem when kids say they’re not hungry.
I call it The Hunger Dilemma.
- Should you believe that your little tykes know what they’re talking about, thereby teaching them that they are masters of the universe (or at least masters of their own tummies)? OR
- Should you use your special, souped-up, parent powers to divine hunger lurking around the corner (knowing that it will only rear it’s ugly head 5 minutes after you’ve finished cleaning the kitchen), and assert that your little buggers need to eat (more)?
Here’s a radical suggestion: Consider doing neither. Instead, teach your children better communication skills and then problem solve together. Be warned: You won’t always get your way.
The key to communicating with your kids about hunger is to talk directly about the underlying issues…
Otherwise you’re simply treating the symptoms, not the cause,
Letting your kids dictate when and how much they eat is a lofty goal — and one I highly recommend you honor — but every parent knows it doesn’t cut the mustard in the real world because you also need to:
- Get enough food into your kids to keep them alive (and to keep those growth-chart toting doctors off your back).
- Sync your kids’ inner eating clocks with the rest of the world (so they can enjoy family meals now and, hopefully, dating later).
- Teach kids to gauge how much they need to eat to make it to the next snack or meal without turning into whiny weasels.
- Streamline food production so you don’t have to become a short-order cook, preparing mutliple meals on demand.
If these parenting challenges aren’t enough, parents also have to cope with the fact that kids are apt to say they’re hungry or full based on strategic, rather than physiological, reasons.
Tackle these problems head on, and the issue of hunger will take care of itself.
The Problem-Solving Approach
Instead of asking your kids to finish their food (a practice fraught with perils), follow these 3 steps:
1) Share your concerns: I’m afraid you haven’t eaten enough and you’ll be hungry before it’s time for dinner.
2) Ask your children to share theirs: It seems like you don’t want to sit at the table right now. Instead, you want to play. Does that sound right?
3) Problem solve together: What if you eat some of your lunch at the table right now, and then I give you some fruit dessert to eat while you’re playing?
Solutions are found in the middle ground.
You won’t always get your way.
Eating is a situation where you have to give a little to get a lot. Sometimes this means giving your kids permission NOT to eat.
Problem-solving with your kids is the only way to:
- End the control struggle.
- Raise your children’s consciousness about hunger and satiety.
- Teach your kids how to eat in the social world.
– Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.
Copyright © Dina R. Rose. Dina is the author of the popular blog It’s Not About Nutrition. She has a PhD in sociology from Duke University and more than fifteen years’ experience in teaching and research. After her mother’s premature death from obesity-related illnesses at the age of 65, Dina knew she wanted to give her daughter a better — and happier — food-life. Dina made helping parents solve their kids’ eating problems her life work. Most parents know what their children should eat, but have trouble putting this knowledge into practice. Dina offers parents the relief they need: practical, research-based strategies so they can stop struggling and start succeeding. For more information please visit It’s Not About Nutrition and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter. Reprinted at MyParenTime.com with permission.