FOOD CAN CHALLENGE PARENTS AND KIDS
Copyright Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
Q. I am seeking alternative disciplining solutions
when my 4year-old son refuses to get dressed in
the morning for school and when he refuses to
eat his meals.
Spanking him is not something I want to do and
time out is ineffective.
He suggests I ignore him, but that doesn't accomplish
what I am asking him to do. Suggestions please!
A. This is a great question and a common situation
that is often very easy to resolve. Most of us
who have kids over the age of 2 have probably
been in the situation of hearing "No, I won't"
and then wondering what to do.
Most of the worry about this situation can be
eased when you look at what to reasonably expect
from a 4-year-old. To find that out (I don't try
to remember), I checked my instruction manual
on what to expect from kids at various ages. I
have used the Gesell Institute series on Child
Development since 1970.
I found the words "out of bounds" and
"revolts and delights in the revolution"
used to describe the otherwise wonderful 4-year-old.
As parents, once you know that talking back is
typical for this age, you can immediately start
breathing again and remind yourself that his "no"
does not mean you have already ruined him for
Now -that you can think rather than react from
fear and panic, you can plan what to do.
I want to immediately acknowledge this mom who
has an appropriate expectation that her 4year-old
can dress him- self.
Her son is responsible for getting dressed on
his own, and mom and/or dad are responsible for
providing him clean clothes to wear and the opportunity
to complete an age-appropriate task.
One possible error in thinking for parents and
child is that he needs to be dressed before he
leaves the house.
Once the thinking is adjusted, many more options
for problem solving come up.
Possible new thinking is "he just needs to
get to school so I can get to work and I like
getting to work unhassled and well-dressed and
I would like him to learn about that from me."
When he says no to getting dressed, mom can say
"That's OK, if you won't get dressed now,
I'll just put your stuff in this bag and you can
get dressed anytime you want. Let's go."
Having him take care of his responsibility is
not about shaming and saying something like "Well
if you won't get dressed when I want you. to,
which is now, you can spend the day at school
in your pajamas - see how you like that."
Be supportive as your kids learn to take care
of themselves. Set them up for as much success
You can spring a new expectation on him one morning
when he says no, but I prefer that you set it
up by telling hum, when you are ready to follow
through, that "starting tomorrow, I will
be leaving on time and it is up to you to decide
whether you want to be dressed in your school
clothes or not."
He may say you can't leave if he's not dressed,
but you know you can - and will.
You do not- have to convince him, just inform
him and then be ready to follow through.
When you follow through, be ready for him to complain,
but be quiet and then be firm in your own actions.
You can help him out by letting his teacher know
he may be a bit disheveled for a few days as he
learns about responsibility and time management.
The second situation is so important- because
control battles over food cannot be won by the
parent without potentially damaging the child’s
self-esteem and the relationship.
Because children's eating can be a very emotional
issue for parents, you may want to practice what
you will say and do with a friend before you try
changing what you do with your children.
Unless there is a medical problem, and check it
out with your pediatrician if you have any doubt,
when your child says "No, I won't eat that"
or "I don't like it," you can say, "I'm
sorry that you don’t want it' I hope you
like lunch (or dinner/breakfast/snack) better,"
as you are removing the food, instead of "This
is what is for dinner—eat it or starve,"
or "What can I fix instead?" or "You're
not leaving this table until you eat every bite."
Again be reasonable and support the situation
Check what you ate serving. Is this a familiar
meal or something new?
Are - you serving lobster bisque and hot tamales
or are you serving food that you know has child
Be aware that taste buds lose some sensitivity
as we grow older so our children's taste is generally
more sensitive than ours.
I had the father of a 10-yearold food and meal-complainer
say he started acting rather than fussing.
When his son said "Yuck," dad said "Yum,
more for me?' and then ate the food.
It didn't take long for the boy to realize that
if he didn't want to feel hungry he needed to
be a bit more broad-minded in what he was willing
Questions for Carol Gaffney can be sent to her
through the email system at: Carol@ drgaffney.com
and website http://www.drgaffney.com.