Feeding on Demand Gone Wrong

Dec 10, 2008 by

A friend once told me that her child had, on waking that morning, asked for cupcakes. The cupcakes were baked, and the child had eaten nothing but cupcakes all day.

Besides the obvious health hazards in this story, what habit is being built? A child becoming a prisoner of her own cravings starts in the kitchen, with “feeding on demand” gone wrong.

Parents’ natural impulse is to indulge children. We enjoy pleasing them. We also tend to give them what they want because it’s easy.

“When we indulge our children around food, we are indulging ourselves,” writes Dan Kindlon, Ph. D., in Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age.

Furthermore, it’s currently popular parenting wisdom to give choices. Letting Billy choose between red and blue pants each morning will teach him to make decisions. A child’s opinions should be expressed: “Do you prefer peas or carrots, Jimmy?” “How is the creamed spinach?” “What’s your favorite food?”

Child Wise authors Ezzo and Bucknam caution against training a child to be “addicted to choice,” and insisting on always getting to choose. And as we all know, what children want is no indication of what they need. As educational reformer Charlotte Mason writes, “They like lollipops but cannot live upon them.”

The opposite of indulgence isn’t forcing against the will, though. It’s holding your ground in choosing and offering what’s best for your child in response to her natural appetite. If the child asks for a stone, or a serpent, shouldn’t we give her bread, or fish?

© Sacred Appetite  / Anna Migeon December 10, 2008 / All Rights Reserved