Friday, May 12, 2006

Crime & Punishment

Today I'm rambling about kids. Every once in a while something gets under my skin, and I just feel so much better putting it "out there." And today is such a day. Lucky you. A few days back, while doing an online search for something totally random, I stumbled upon a message board where they were having an active discussion about children and punishment. I have never heard of this message board before, and will not share it because I really didn't like it. Punishment is a touchy subject for a lot of people, and for a lot of reasons. However, for the most part, there is one constant. Punishment is a necessary evil. I have been witness to children with no punishment whatsoever...that is a whole other ball game, and maybe worth discussing another time. But today's topic is punishment with food.

There are few things that really get my steam brewing, and that is one of them. Specifically, people who send their children to bed hungry. On purpose. As a form of punishment. Food is necessary. Food is sustenance for everyone, but it is ever so much more important for children who are always growing. They need that nourishment to keep their system moving, to maintain thier good health, and to help them stave off diseases that may be threatening their little bodies. But on this message board I stumbled on, there were people who were sending hungry children to bed as young as 1 year old!!!!! Their child didn't want to eat what was provided for dinner, so the punishment was going to bed hungry. Excuse me? Children have an ever-developing palate. They go through phases of likes and dislikes. What may be delicious to them one night will turn a stomach another. But to send a child so young away from the dinner table because she chose not to eat a bowl of chili... oh that burns me up.

We have our own set of rules about the dinner table. If I put a particular food on my childs plate, they are required to at least try it. We call it the two bite rule. If after two bites, the food still offends, it may remain untouched. But most often, it gets eaten. There are occasions where a food will bring immediate disgust. Abigail and brussel sprouts come to mind. She really doesn't like those guys, but then they don't get a repeat performance on her plate. Now most often, I do know what my kids like or don't like. But there are occasions where I will try something completely new, and they really don't like it. They always have the option to have a peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of cereal. Anytime. Those are their only options, but they do have options. No child in my house will ever go away hungry. Period. That includes company. I know it bothers some parents when I offer their child a peanut butter sandwich, but I will never be one to cause that belly-ache. Tastes vary so greatly, and I feel bad if my dinner is not appealing to a child.

Food should never be a form of punishment. Or a reward, for that matter. It really sends the wrong message about food. Food is vital, as is shelter and clothing. You would not tell your 3 year old that they have to sleep outside because they didn't take their shoes off before entering the house. Why would you tell that same child to go to bed hungry because the food they put in their mouth was offensive to them? You don't tell your child that they have to spend a day naked because they spilled paint on their pants. It's the same principle. That annoys me almost as much as the "clean your plate" and "drink all your milk" theory. Children's stomachs are roughly the size of their fist. Children, especially young ones 3 and under, are not going to overeat on purpose, and they also are not going to starve themselves. Forcing children to eat every bit and drink every bit can lead to a lifelong battle with weight problems.

So if you are a guilty party here- this post IS intended to make you feel bad. Shame on you. Look at your beautiful children. Understand that they have different tastes than you do. Understand that they are learning what they like and dislike. And understand, that just as you don't care for green bean casserole, they don't care for tacos, or spaghetti, or whatever it is that they are expressing distaste for. Suck it up and pull out the jar of peanut butter or the bowl of Cheerios. Understand that your childs taste may change every single day. While that may be annoying, it is your job to see that child is fed and clothed, and has a roof over their head. Do your job, you signed on for it the moment you decided to become a parent.

And with that, I leave a picture of my beautiful babes, enjoying a picnic snack.


Mom Waz said...


More pictures of your beautiful babes, please.

the rachel said... make me hungry. =)

and does that go for husbands, too?? mine is always in the mood for a peanut butter sandwich...

Cate said...

Hear, hear! We have the same rule in our house - gotta try it once, and if you don't like it, that's fine. That's how we found out that Nicholas actually LIKES smoked salmon - go figure!