Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Even A Dietitian's Kid Throws a Food Tantrum

I write a lot about feeding kids so as a parent and a dietitian, I guess I've become sort of an expert on the topic.  I haven't put in my 10,000 hours yet but hey, it's about progress not perfection right.

Anyway, just because of my training, beliefs and experience, by no means is my family immune to the dreaded "food tantrum".  So take a seat, fasten your safety belt because you are going to hear what happens in the Flores household when one of our kids loses it...over food.

Before I go any further though I need to put in a disclaimer and sign-post for you.  I'm sharing this experience with you all to show that even with the best intentions, there are always going to be bumps in the road.  Also, our food choices and methods are our own. It's a combination of Ellyn Satter and Intuitive Eating but it's not 100% in alignment with each of these but it works for us. That being said, here we go.

The real tantrum that exploded onto us on Sunday night was over dessert.  Yes dessert.  Part of the meal that 99.9% of the time is handled perfectly well with our kids.  But not this time.  This past Sunday though one of my kids went all atomic on us because all he wanted was a cookie.  Literally 30 minutes of screaming and crying that almost all consisted of, "Daaaaaaahdeeee I want a coooooookie!!!!" over the simple request for a cookie.  

So why didn't he get a cookie for dessert?  Well we have a simple rule in our house that we've had in place since the kids have been born.  If we have one very sweet dessert during the day, we don't have another sweet dessert at night.  We still have dessert but something less sweet.  We don't use those words with the kids though.  We use the words "play food" and "growing food" in our house.  Regardless of what words you use, simply put, if we have a lot of play food (sweets) during the day, we try to have some growing food (less sweet) for dessert.  

This past Sunday, the day of the event in question, we had another in a series of global warming winter days.  That is to say it was warm.  86 degrees warm and we just left a soccer game where we were sitting out in the sun for 60 minutes.  We were hot and we all wanted something cool so as a treat we decided to go get shaved ice...which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.  Well because of the shaved ice earlier in the day we were not going to have another sweet for dinner.  Again, not a new rule but for some reason it really didn't fly that night and before we knew it, we were in full tantrum mode!

Tantrums are the worst!  All you want is for it to end but it won't.  There's no quick end to it.  It's one of those things that once the tantrum is in motion, nothing is going to stop it so you better just buckle up and ride it out.  And when the tantrum revolves around food, it adds another layer of complexity to it (at least for me.) 

So what did we do to get it to stop? We gave him the cookie of course.  I mean c'mon, the kids rule the house right?  So we just said, "Sorry to make you so upset.  Of course you can have a cookie, just stop crying."  NOT.  We tried to reason, we tried to explain but to no avail.  The screaming and crying continued. "Daaaaaahdeeeeeee. I juuuust want a cooookkkeeeeee!!"  

What did we do then if giving in to it was not an option?  We stayed consistent with our previous actions is what we did.  Believe me, my wife and I each lost it at various times during the tantrum but we stayed unified and rode out the storm.  Eventually our kids calmed down and a hug and some cuddling brought the situation to a close but it was not a pretty scene in our house when that was going on.  Once the dust settled though the tantrum was over and everyone was back to normal in just a few minutes.  From DEFCON 5 we quickly went back down to "situation normal". 

Here's the interesting thing though, after about 5-10 minutes of crying, the tantrum was not really about the cookie anymore.  It was about getting his way and the cookie was just the fuel to that fire.  As my wife and I looked back on it we also realized that the tantrum was probably never really about the cookie.  The kid was tired from a busy day, a fun sleepover the night before and from playing in a soccer game.  And I'm sure the hour time change because of daylight savings was a factor too.  

So, why share this experience with you?  Because even with the best plans for "normal eating" and division of responsibility, there will be issues.  It's inevitable.  The key is how do you handle it when it happens.  Will you stay consistent?  Will you cave in to stop it?

Have you had a tantrum over food?  If so, how'd you handle it?  What did you learn from it?  As always, I look forward to your comments. 


  1. Aaron...I respond to my patients and kids when they ask for dessert ever night this way..."We don't eat broccoli every night. Why then would we have dessert every night?." It has worked so far.

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