The Feeding Doctor on Pinterest

“I can eat whatever I want!” (Maybe I didn’t handle that so well…)

Posted by on Jun 13, 2011 in Blog Posts | 10 comments

Today is the first day of summer camp. I feel like at home I have our feeding under control. I have a kid who eats a great variety, and is a good self-regulator. (She eats based on hunger and fullness cues.) When she eats outside the home, there tends to be lots of interference…

Some recent background:
We stayed with some friends last week, and I had to stick up for M when the other mom insisted on a “no thank you bite” of the fish they had caught. This mom uses the tactic with her own daughter without too much fuss, but I don’t make M eat anything she doesn’t want to. Research shows when we pressure kids to try new foods, they end up liking them less well. It was a little awkward as their guests, but after several tries and explanations, I finally stepped in and said, “We just don’t do it that way.” The mom tried again, explaining, “you don’t know if you like it if you don’t try it” and I finally said, “M doesn’t have to eat anything she doesn’t want to.” It’s tricky, because, maybe with her child’s temperament, it works (of note, this kiddo ate with us once, and refused the veggies on the first go around, but after a few minutes did eat an asparagus and a wedge of cabbage without any suggestion to try it. Kids generally do better without pressure.) As a guest, you don’t want to be rude, and I do follow some rules in others’ homes, like accepting that we eat dessert after, not with the meal, but I will do my best not to allow others to force my child to eat either a new food or a certain quantity.

Anyway, so coming off that experience, and M reporting to her dad that the mom had tried to make her eat, I was a little wary about starting camp. I had hear from another mom that this camp has a policy of eating the “good food” before the treat. M’s camp last year did the same thing. So, I have that little note in her lunch box that basically says, “M knows how to eat. Please just help her open any containers if necessary and then let her eat as much of any food in any order she wants, even if she only eats ‘dessert.’ Thanks, please call my cell with any questions.”

I reminded M that if anyone tries to make her eat something, she can politely say “no thank you” and hand her the note. Then I also talked to the teacher when we got there. And here’s where I probably goofed. I probably should have tried to do it privately, with no other kids in ear-shot, because M kept chiming in with, “I can eat whatever I want!” several times. (If I was a teacher who had no idea about the DOR, I probably would have been turned off by this.) I think I detected some irritation from the teacher, which I tried to smooth over, but basically I said, “M is a competent eater who doesn’t need any help knowing how much to eat. Just help her open any boxes, and then you can pretty much let her be. I occasionally include different foods including “treats” and she knows how much and what she needs to eat.” Then I left…

I put a little note on her intake form, so I’ll keep you posted! It’s very tough with daycare/camp/school when they are convinced that the control model is the healthy way, or it is their policy to require kids to eat “the good food” first.

Oh well. I try to remember that what happens in the home is the most important, and I’ll remember that the next time I have to have this discussion, and there will be MANY next times, I will try to do it in private, when there is a little more time for discussion…

Have you had these talks? How did they go?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Tumblr
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Heather

    We’ve had friends and relatives over who have mandated ‘no thank you’ bites for their kids or having to finish a certain amount of their dinner… I didn’t say anything, though I would have if any of that had been directed at my own child. The whining and arguing at the table that those methods result in are enough to turn me off!

    I have said (to adults and other kids) “C doesn’t have to eat anything he doesn’t want to.” Other adults have commented “C is such a good eater!” I’m not sure exactly what they mean by that, as he is still fairly picky and never eats a lot at one meal, but I think what they are noticing is that our meals are conducted without a lot of fuss, as my son goes about his business eating what he likes from what is offered at the table.

    • katja

      It is a wonder to me that parents are slow to make the connections. He is a “good eater” because there is no pressure. I hate that too when people comment on her eating. “Wow, she ate her roasted peppers!” I reply, “well, they are delicious!” GOod for you for allowing him to develop at his own pace. If he feels good about eating, and being at the table, his tastes are more likely to expand, though it may take longer than you would like 🙂

  2. Michellers

    I had the opposite experience last night when some friends came for dinner. I made homemade pizza and the 5-year old girl obviously loved it and kept eating more. Her mom was quietly freaking out about how much her daughter was eating, and I’ve noticed her being pretty controlling at other meals. Now, I know this is not my business, and I really try not to say anything about other family’s feeding dynamics, but when the mom (who is a good friend of mine) said for the 4th time: ” you don’t need to eat anymore, you’re going to pop, and other people want to eat the pizza” I couldn’t help myself. I told the child, you are welcome to eat another piece, we have plenty, feel free to eat what you want and leave the rest on your plate. The kid proceeded to eat all of the cheese and pepperoni off the top of the pizza and leave the crust. And I can’t help but wonder if I hadn’t given her permission to do that, if she would have eaten the whole piece of pizz–including the crust she didn’t want–just to spite her mom.

    But was I wrong in saying something? I broke my rule of not parenting other kids…


    • katja

      Oh boy, this is a really tough one… We had a similar situation with a close family member who monitored every bite his older girl ate, and pushed food on the sister. I was dreading it. I actually asked Ellyn what she would do in advance. Again, I am paraphrasing, but she was quite adamant that at my home, my rules stand, and that I should be very clear and protect the kids. Easier said than done. I didn’t push it, as long as it didn’t effect my daughter. I tried to be a model of feeding, but my M was much younger so I didn’t worry about her picking up on the inconsistencies. I don’t have an answer for you. I think you handled it very well. I think I would have done exactly the same, since the mom took the tactic of “leave some for other people” it was a perfect opportunity to jump in with what you said. I think that was lovely. Our family stayed with us for 4 weeks, so it was difficult to share meals. They know what I do for a living, they don’t try to get M to eat how they do, and they did seem to get much more subtle over time… It IS a struggle. I don’t know that I have the balls to announce the “rules” at our house before a meal, but that may be a way to go. Something like, “Welcome to our home and our table, where the only rules are you eat from what you like at the table, you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to, and you eat until you are satisfied.” Let me know if you ever try it! I imagine you would get a lot of glares!

  3. Kirsten

    Yes, we’ve had this issue with parents-in-law at meals too – “come on, eat up” “You’ve hardly eaten anything” “You can’t ave dessert if you don’t eat [fill in the blank]. Sigh.

  4. Nicole

    I had to have these talks in some form with my parents-in-law, who come to stay with us once or twice a year. This time was particularly acute for some reason, with my MIL telling my son that if he ate butter “his arteries would clamp shut!”, among other things. I try really hard to stay calm (the butter thing really set me off!) and explain that we present a wide variety of healthy foods to our kids and THEY get to decide what of those things they eat, but it was a struggle. Lots of putting food on the kids’ plates that they had said they didn’t want, etc. Grrr. It’s always an issue somehow.

  5. Sarah

    I did once talk to the preschool’s director after my 5-year old came home complaining that I had “messed up” by putting bacon in his lunch since his (substitute) teacher had told him that bacon isn’t “healthy.” To her credit, she was super embarrassed and offered to mention it anonymously at the next staff meeting and reminded all the staff to take a hands-off and non-judgmental approach at meal times. No problems since, and I was able to convince my kid that he could trust me to select a variety of healthful and delicious foods for his lunches and that bacon could be part of that since he loves it so much.

    • katja

      yeesh! Bacon? I think one nice thing is that we are actually asking them to do LESS work, rather than more. When I do day-care staff, I make that point, feeding well is more fun, has better outcomes, less work, and you don’t have to prod, hassle or bully kids into eating…


  1. Laying down the “rules” for family and guests? « Family Feeding Dynamics Family Feeding Dynamics - [...] 2009  (17) March 2009  (20) February 2009  (20) January 2009  (27)…