I understand how there is a belief in the unschooling community that kids should be allowed to eat whatever they want and whenever they want. While I really like all of the other aspects of unschooling I just can’t get myself to the point of not controlling the food my kids eat. I know that a part of it is because I have a weight problem and I just don’t want my kids to follow in my footsteps. What is your opinion on this? (Question submitted via email)
I have been asked to do a kids and food blog many times. I have been a little resistant to do so because food tends to be a very emotional issue with people. Some of those issues go back to how food was a part of family life growing up and for others there are health related concerns. The only way I can answer this question is to tell you a little about my own relationship with food and how I apply that to raising my kids.
I have to start by saying that I LOVE food! If I had the time to spend all afternoon cooking every day I would. It is because of my love for food that I am not a big fan of processed and chemically laden food. I don’t think it tastes good and most often I don’t feel very good after I eat it. Being in tune with how my body feels when I eat has always been my norm.
As far as my own history goes, a large variety of food was not an everyday part of life growing up. In fact I would get in huge trouble if the fresh fruit or veggies that were brought into the house were eaten too quickly. I do have to say that even though I experienced a lack of food choices, I don’t overindulge as a result of it. I understand that I could have gone down that particular path as a way of emotionally processing that feeling of lack but this has not been my personal reality. I have never had an issue with my weight nor do I believe in dieting.
I believe that everyone’s bodies need different nutrients at different times. I also believe that food cravings are directly linked to that in some way. My kids do eat what they want and when they want. I try to have as much variety available to them as I can. They have a good understanding of what foods have lots of nutrients and which don’t. I encourage them to give their bodies what they need but as a rule I do not control what they eat and when they eat. They have had cookies for breakfast before but I will tell you that it’s a rarity. That just isn’t a regular choice of theirs. I also NEVER, EVER force them to eat food they don't like. I feel that this is abusive. The "One more bite." method that is forced on a lot of kids teaches them to ignore the fact that their body is telling them to stop eating. If they don't want a food in a particular moment then they don't need it.
I also do take into account how my kids feel when they eat and help them tune into that. My youngest has a food coloring sensitivity. I had the opportunity to see this in action once again yesterday. She had some candy at a friend’s birthday party and didn’t feel good for a while after she ate it. I try to restrict that chemical in our food knowing that it doesn’t make her feel good. I also am aware that she may outgrow this sensitivity so that is why I let her have the candy yesterday. I wasn’t automatically expecting a reaction but saw that she obviously still has it.
As far as what works for you and your family, I feel that you have to find your own balance. If you realize that you don’t have a healthy attitude towards food yourself, work on that first. As you know, I am a big believer in setting the example that we want our kids to follow. Some people really dupe themselves into thinking that the “do as I say, not as I do” example works. All that creates is an attitude where your child is waiting to grow up to get ”their turn” in following in your footsteps.
As a Parent Coach and Mentor, my passion lies in empowering parents to make the best decisions they can for their children and their families as a whole. As a well-trained coach, I can be your facilitator and accountability partner for long-lasting, meaningful change that has a permanent, positive impact for your family. By focusing on the values that you hold most important in your life, I can help you create and maintain the type of parenting relationship you want to have with your children, now and into their adulthood.
I am a homeschooling mom of four children in Massachusetts. I am also the author of a book called The Herbal Beverage Book, which can be found on amazon. When not coaching, writing or spending time with the family, I enjoy Hayao Miyazaki films, new and classic Dr. Who episodes, anything related to American history and a great glass of mead.
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This blog is a collection of thoughts, articles and perspectives I have at any one time. While I am pretty consistent in my beliefs, life changes and evolves along with experiences. You may feel a connection with me through my writing yet I never want any of my readers to misunderstand that the connection you feel is with a perspective I have shared and not me as a person. I am continually humbled that I am able to connect with my readers, and I hope to continue to be able to for many years to come, but it doesn't make us connected in any way beyond this. If you connect with what I write and know me as an acquaintance, this in no way reflects that I have any knowledge of you, your situation in life or that I am writing with you in mind. It is merely that I have shared a human experience that most likely very many others have had has well. This also goes for anything I post on my Twitter account, Facebook Page and Facebook personal page. I wanted to make this disclaimer as clear as possible so you know that any misunderstanding you choose to have is not my responsibility.