Feeding hungry children is parenting description #1. But feeding hungry kids often teaches the wrong habits.
Let me start by saying that I’m not talking about kids who are hungry in the state-of-life kind of way. I believe we can all agree that food insecure children need food, they need it now, and they need easy access to food on a regular basis.
On the other hand, children who have plenty of food in their lives need to learn to live with some hunger.
I’ve been thinking about hunger a lot lately. Experimenting on myself. I’m hungry—hangry?— right now. But I’ve been practicing waiting for meals. Yes, waiting for meals takes practice. It’s not my habit. When I feel that empty, gnawing feeling start to rumble around in my tummy, telling my brain, “Time to eat,” I usually start rummaging through the fridge. For the last few weeks, though, I’ve been waiting.
Quick: Your child says he is hungry. What do you do?
If you’re like most American parents, you feed him. Even if that means rummaging around in your bag for…for anything. Even if it’s a dried up bit of yesterday’s sandwich. A crushed bag of chips. A melted candy bar.
Karen Le Billon, author of French Kids Eat Everything, writes that American parents are so afraid of their kids being hungry they’re willing to feed them Doritos. I agree.
Four Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Feed Hungry Kids
(at least not right away)
And, not for nothing, experiencing hunger helps build empathy with kids who are hungry in the state-of-life kind of way.
I can hear the pushback already. Before you dismiss this idea entirely, consider:
- Young children have a hard time matching the word “hunger” with the feeling of hunger so when kids say they’re hungry you can’t always take their word for it.
- The hunger-induced meltdown might not be real. But even if it is, feeding kids isn’t necessarily the solution.
- Parents aren’t very good at reading when toddlers are hungry or full, research shows. Read The Dinner Dance: When is Enough Enough?
For more on this topic read, The Upside of Hunger.
Catch the habitude!
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~