Fearless Feeding is not a new term, however, I believe it means something different to everybody. To me, Fearless Feeding means that I don’t have any fear or anxiety surrounding meal and snack times, and that I can teach my son to have a healthy relationship with food. I’ve decided to do a little mini-series here on my blog about what Fearless Feeding means to us and how to handle meal times and other feeding issues. We have a 3 (almost 4) year old little boy who loves to eat. He would eat all day long if we let him, and he’s always been that way. To be honest, his appetite scares me! It is my responsibility as his mom to teach him healthy habits, balanced eating, and moderation. I don’t have all of the answers but I have done a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for us.
It is so important to me to instill healthy habits in Cole while he is young. I don’t ever want him to struggle with food like I do, and I want exercise to be a normal part of his life. Sometimes it feels like the biggest, most difficult job in the world!
The first thing I want to talk about, mostly because I know it is such a big issue for so many people, is TREATS. We have a habit as a society to reward good behavior with candy or other sweets. We also offer up food when our loved ones are hurting. Fell down and scraped your knee? Here’s a lollipop! You were a good listener in the store? Let’s get ice cream! It’s important to tell you that I know how it is because I’ve done it! A million times! And I’m still not ashamed to say that I keep lollipops in my purse for emergencies (like when I have to get through Hobby Lobby without my child breaking 800 vases and picture frames). I also found that we were getting caught in that terrible situation that most people find themselves in every single day. It goes a little something like this:
- Cole: Can I have a treat now?
- Me: You need to eat your dinner.
- Cole: How many bites?
- Me: You need to eat all of your dinner if you want a treat.
- Cole: But I’m full! I don’t like this! I want a treat!
- Me: If you’re full, that means there is no room in your belly for a treat. Either eat your dinner, or no treat. It’s up to you.
- Cole: How many more bites?
- Me: LIKE 37!!! Just eat!
- Cole: That too many!! How bout 4?
- Me: Whatever. Just eat 4 bites.
Sound familiar? It’s EXHAUSTING to go through that at every meal time, so I was on the search for new strategies. I didn’t want Cole to think that he had to do something to EARN a treat. I didn’t want treats to be rewards! This is the strategy I came across and have put into practice:
Cole knows that he gets one treat a day and he can choose to eat it whenever he wants. He doesn’t even have to ask first. He can go into the pantry and choose one of his pre-portioned treats whenever he wants to eat it. This means he can eat it before breakfast if he truly wants to. It’s in his control.
The thought behind this is that it takes away the constant “Can I have a treat? Now can I have a treat?” talk. He is in control of his own food and he doesn’t have to ask permission. We started this a few weeks ago and I have to tell you I LOVE IT! It has completely eliminated any talk about treats during meal times. Of course, the first few days he chose to eat it right when he woke up in the morning. Two of those times he ended up with a belly ache, so we talked about how it might be a good idea to save it for later in the day or split it in half. About two weeks in, the treat seemed to lose its’ appeal. He no longer runs downstairs first thing in the morning looking for it. He’ll typically notice around lunch time that he hasn’t had it yet, and choose to eat it then.
I love that he is in control now and that we can use it as a learning experience. I think it’s SO important for kids to learn how to self-regulate and make their own decisions. If we constantly control and restrict, it’s only going to backfire and lead to unhealthy habits later in life. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on how this strategy continues to work, but I think we have finally found something that works for us!
How do you handle treats in your house?