Melissa's post about her "food policies" (for lack of a better term) with her kids reminded me of something. I guess it's a personal debate, but I mean it more in general terms (not like "What do you think I, Alissa_Sal, should do?")
Do you think that it is better to have more rigid meal times and rules about food for your children, or do you think it is better to let them kind of eat when and what they are hungry for?
Oh joy, A debate Melissa's family debate.
The reason this came up is that my mom thinks that I am "mean" for not feeding T again if he doesn't eat his dinner.
My thoughts on the matter is that he is a healthy normal little boy who is offered 3 square meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and if he is hungry, he can have a small snack like a piece of fruit or some cheese and crackers (or a cookie if we happen to be at the grocery store. LOL) I want him to take one bite to try anything that I have given him, but beyond that I never force him to eat - how much food he eats at any given meal is up to him. I don't make him eat, and I don't restrict how much he eats either - if he wants seconds (and sometimes he does) then I happily dish them up.
I just figure that if he's hungry he'll eat. He is kind of a skinny little dude, but not to the point of being worrisome. Just tall and skinny by nature like his daddy, I think.
Often, especially at dinner, he won't eat very much, and then about an hour later he'll complain that he's hungry. If he's especially persistent, I will get him a small snack (again, a peice of fruit or some cheese and crackers) but I am not now, nor do I want to become, a short order cook. If he doesn't eat dinner, I'm not making him a new one later. My thoughts are that this will hopefully teach him to eat when we eat. My mom contends that this is "mean" and also that I should let him listen to his body and eat when he is hungry. While I do want to encourage him to eat when he is hungry, I also want to encourage him to be hungry when I cook dinner. LOL!!!
So, what do you all do?
I am pretty relaxed with food, however, her daycare is on schedule. So at home, we do eat three meals a day but I let her snack whenever - if she's hungry, she's hungry. She still eats very well at meal-time so there isn't a bad affect of her eating an extra snack. At daycare, they have breakfast snack, lunch, afternoon snack - they don't get any snacks in between.
We are like you, I think. Our only real rule surrounding food is that you don't walk around eating it, I find it sloppy. They eat three big, home made meals a day (or else we eat out or whatever), and they never, EVER have to eat anything (the eat three bites thing skeeves me, I find it so anti personal autonomy). I also don't cook or provide alternate meals, barring situations like I'm having a dinner party and we are eating late and I make them something easy that they eat before the adults do. They also don't get food other than at mealtimes, but I will be honest, they never ask for it, either. Somedays, if they had an early lunch and we are having a late dinner, they will have a snack, it is all about managing things naturally and logically, not about rigid rules or specific mealtimes. With three kids 4 and under, our life is small and easy to manage. If they wake up later we eat a little later, they nap at 1 every.single.day so obviously lunch has to happen before 1. Dinner is eaten on the early side, since my DH works from home and does not have a commute to deal with. They go to bed at 8, so it would be weird for them to be "starving" between our meal at 6 and bedtime at 8, you know? They are big kids and big eaters, and I guess because snacks just aren't a big part of our daily routine they have learned to eat accordingly at meals, without any real rules or whatever around that.
As to what is "better"? I don't know that any one system is better for anyone or every family. We are a family who thrives on routines in general, it has helped us tremendously with sleeping, eating, chores, etc etc. It is almost a necessity with three kids so young in the house ~ at least it is for a personality like mine who likes order and structure. I can tell you that from a results based perspective, our thoughts surrounding mindful eating and family meals have worked well for us. I am sure that the oncoming years of school and sports and all sorts of schedule things will challenge how we manage this thought process as a family, but with a foundation of structure and healthy eating habits I think that it will at least be easier to deal with change as it comes.
Letting the kids determine when and what we eat would not ever work in our family.
Last edited by Potter75; 07-05-2011 at 08:00 PM.
We're pretty strict with meal time. If I have to take the kids out at snack time, the snack comes with us. My kids are real creatures of habit and their schedule is important for them (not just me and DH, but really for them too). So yeah, the main rule is that we all sit down and eat together at fairly regular times. Sometimes the kids will be just famished even though they've eaten well (silly growth spurts ) so we have no problem about giving a larger snack or an earlier one.
We have a schedule that is flexible, but follow the routine that daycare sets. Breakfast around 8, snack at 10, lunch at 11:30, snack when nap's over, mid-afternoon snack, and then supper (we don't eat until 7). He is a good eater and most of the snacks are fruit and vegetables (at least at home). He also has to eat at least a bite of everything because I've realized that 90% of the time, he will eat the entire portion or at least the majority of it.
eta- Dh doesn't like it, but he can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich once he gets a little older and can fix it himself instead of something we fix that he doesn't like.
If my son is in the grocery store with me he's usually missing the mid afternoon snack and gets a box of organic raisins that are paid for long after they are eaten. I try very hard to only go during my lunch break so I can go by myself and get the most out of my coupons.
Last edited by wlillie; 07-05-2011 at 07:18 PM.
We have set mealtimes and set snacktimes. They eat then, at the table, or they don't eat. I don't force them to eat a certain amount of bites...but if they want dessert they finish their plate. If they want more of something tasty on their plate they will get seconds when they finish all their veggies.