Do your kids get obsessed with food at the playground when they see other kids eating food they want?
Especially if it’s food you don’t normally allow?
That’s what happened with Ali’s daughter. If she’s denied the Goldfish crackers all the other kids are eating, she goes nuts.
In fact, it’s not just Goldfish that makes Ali’s daughter go wild. Ali writes, “if we are out playing somewhere and she sees food, she becomes obsessed by it.”
This is the fourth post in a series on coping with junk at the playground.
If you’ve been following along you know that I said Ali’s problem needed a multi-pronged approach.
- First, she had to teach her daughter a lesson about proportion.
- Second, Ali had to tackle the issue of grazing.
- Now, it’s time to work on food obsessions. (And in my next post I’ll talk about meltdowns.)
Here’s the thing about obsessions: it’s difficult to know whether you’re dealing with an actual obsession.
You might just be dealing with nagging. Your child hopes that if she asks enough times, begs with enough zeal, then you’ll let her eat what she wants.
Nagging is annoying, but it’s not an obsession. It’s a behavioral issue. (I’ll address that in my next post.)
But, what if your child really is obsessed?
Remember this: The problem isn’t really the food.
Yes, hyperpalatable food can be “addictive.” Read Are “Child-Friendly” Foods Really Gateway Drugs?”
And most people really, really like hyperpalatable snacks.
However, the problem here is how Ali’s daughter reacts to feeling deprived.
What lessons do kids need to learn to stop feeling deprived?
- Everything your kids have learned so far about proportion and grazing.
- To make choices about the junk they eat (and then to live with those choices).
- To cope with disappointment.
Plenty of research shows that restricting children’s access to the treats they crave makes those treats even more desirable.
That’s why I recommended Ali let her daughter have some of the playground food she finds so appealing. And to teach her not to graze (so things don’t get completely out of control). These two lessons should solve a lot of Ali’s problem.
Allowing young children to participate in the decision about when they eat their treats diffuses a lot of the tension.
Choices empower kids. “You can have this muffin now, or you can have the Goldfish crackers at the park.”
Of course, young children almost always pick, “now,” but that’s not a reason to avoid using this technique. Giving children choices, and then reminding them of those choices later, is how they learn. And, many children accept the reminder without getting upset.
Read Lollypops whenever they want? for more thoughts on empowering kids to regulate their own junk.
Reminding children about the volume of sweets and treats in their lives can offset some of the disappointment.
“I know you want those cookies now, but you had cookies last night, and I have ice cream at home for dessert.”
And then some good, old-fashioned comfort.
Don’t underestimate the power of compassion to offset some of your child’s disappointment. You don’t have to “fix” the problem (by giving in to her demands) to make your child feel better. After all, your magic kiss doesn’t really fix a booboo. A simple offer can often do the trick, “I know you’re disappointed. Want a cuddle?”
And if your child still has a meltdown?
You’ve got a behavioral problem. Stay tuned…
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~