Why do we feed kids non stop?
Whilst on holiday in the magnificent Far North Queensland I took my children and their cousin out for a morning of spear fishing. Under the guidance of Nic and Brandon from Kuku Yalangi Tours we were to catch fish, collect crabs and mussels for lunch.
It was a hot morning on Cooya Beach. Brandon and Nic could throw their spear from such a far distance and catch fish. We were in awe of their skills. However, we weren’t up to their skill level and after about 2 hours of unsuccessful “fishing and gathering”, my nephew, aged 15 at the time, started to get cranky and complain. I am not proud to say I mocked him. How was he ever going to be in the show “Survivor”, as he had once boasted about, if he did not have more stamina on a 3 hour adventure? I wanted him to stop moaning and enjoy the experience. Duh. Thankfully my daughter caught a crab and saved the family’s honour.
As we went back to camp, our guides, who thankfully had fished for the lot of us, prepared a delicious lunch. Our appetite was ripe and we thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful seafood, as fresh as it can get.
There were several realisations for me that day:
- If we had to spend the day hunting and gathering to feed ourselves we would struggle,
- Hunger makes my nephew cranky and unsettled,
- Appetite enhanced our appreciation of food that was already delicious.
Luckily, we live in a land of plenty. Most of us have access to a plethora of food, so we are usually able to manage hunger and effectively. However, the experience certainly made me question how I view snacks and appetite. Some physical activity between meals is just fine and does not require extra food. In my view a bit of hunger is not a problem and one should understand how it affects them. On that day, after my initial reaction, I asked my nephew if he was hungry, which he was. I asked him to hold on for an extra-hour, which he did and it was all fine.
Kids under snack attack
With food readily accessible, easily transportable, it’s easy to loose sense of one’s appetite. It’s been said that kids are under snack attack. The best thing about limiting grazing is that it enables children to come to the dinner table hungry. Routines around feeding and eating are a parent and child’s best friend really. They simplify the diagnosis of hunger too, because once your child’s body is in tune with the routine, you will understand how they behave when hungry.
Trying to work out if your children are hungry when supplying foods all day is a tad tricky indeed. Take Katie whom I helped with her 2 year old fussy eater: “he is hungry all the time, he runs to the fruit bowl or opens the refrigerator, screaming”! Or Karen, who “even for short trips in the car” packed crackers and fruit. As much as Karen and Katie both wanted to respond to their children’s needs. They ended up quite confused about what hunger looked like and so did the children.
Was James hungry or pushing boundaries when helping himself in the fridge? Was it hunger or Archie’s moaning that was too much to bear for Karen?
If you find that your children eat a limited variety of foods, or appear to have no appetite at mealtimes, then it is worth revisiting your feeding rules.
So why do we need to feed all the time?
It may be that we are trying to avoid ‘shark music’. Shark Music makes us feel insecure, anxious, or even lose the plot with our kids. Indeed children have a way of getting to us when they want something! However, our reaction tells us more about us than about our children.
The term shark music was coined by circle of security parenting psychologists Hoffman, Marvin, Cooper and Powell. Imagine yourself listening to stressful (or shark) music as your child throws a fit and helps himself in the pantry. Now imagine the same event as you listen to peaceful music. When we are triggered by our own emotions and hear shark music we are parenting with a fight, flight, and freeze response. We may avoid shark music by soothing or distracting a child with food. However, it introduces kids to emotional eating, rather than eating according to their appetite.
Once we had discussed shark music, both Katie and Karen had an epiphany. They understood that more often than not they had been using food to avoid shark music. But the answer lay in changing the music and having a feeding routine helped a great deal.
If you would like to feed your children from a place of serenity, book a free assessment of your child’s fussy eating here.
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