Our family is struggling with food. One of our daughters is addicted to sugar. We do not really have a lot of sugar-like things in our home, so as parents this is a bit confusing for us. It has gotten to the point that she won’t eat anything but will pine all day long for her “fix.”
As someone who has seen first hand the effects of addiction, this behavior is really unsettling to me. I worry about body issues, eating disorders, warped relationships with food, nutrition, control and power. I worry that this is a foreshadowing of future behavior… future addictions.
She’s three, by the way. So yes, maybe these are my issues. Maybe I’m projecting. Maybe I read too much. Maybe I overanalyze. Nevertheless, I haven’t seen my kid consume anything green besides her boogers in a very long time.
My husband and I decided we needed help understanding our daughter’s obsession with sugar and figure out ways to change this behavior, so we scheduled an appointment with one of the parent educators at The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital. Turns out we are the ones who need to change our behavior. Shocker.
Here are a few eye-opening things we learned in our session:
Instead of this:
We have always used dessert to bribe our kids into eating their dinner/vegetables, which sends the message that dessert is better than broccoli. In order to get the good stuff, you have to eat the bad stuff.
Let them decide when to eat dessert by including dessert in the dinner offering. Should they choose to eat their dessert first, that’s fine. Make a comment: “Oh! I see you chose to eat your dessert first! Was it yummy?” The longing for the “fix” is satiated. If they’re still hungry, they can eat the other food in front of them. If all they eat is dessert, then all they eat is dessert. It has no power.
Instead of this:
I prepare each child’s meal using those handy divided dishes. I control what goes on the plate, which sets the stage for a power struggle before dinner even begins.
Eat family-style. It’s messier and a lot less organized, but they get to control what they put on their plates and how much. As long as all the choices are acceptable to you, and there is at least one thing on the table (besides the dessert) you know they’ll eat, let them be in control.
Last night, we ate family-style and I placed dessert on the table along with the rest of the meal. Everyone made her own plate. Two of the kids decided to eat dessert first. It was a non-issue. After she slowly, deliberately and joyfully savored her dessert, our little sugar-addict fixed herself a plate and nonchalantly ate her dinner.
Bonus: Because dinner was served family-style, the girls had to ask each other to please pass the chicken/tortillas/cheese/lettuce. They had fun passing each other things. It was messy but it was worth it.
Has food become a power-struggle in your home? How do you handle it?