Tonight my husband and I genuinely shocked our 5-year-old son (and ourselves). He announced he was done eating mid-meal because he was ready for dessert. He hadn’t touched a bit of his brisket –which he loves — but was excited to eat Nana’s double chocolate layer cake which had been staring him square in the eyes since we arrived yesterday. We were in the middle of a proclamation about how he had to eat 4 bites more if he wanted to eat dessert. This has been the typical pattern for us–ordering x bites more to get x reward–and truly we thought this was out of love and concern. My kid would have whined, stuffed himself by our conditions to eat more than his body wanted and been unconsciously reminded that he is not trusted to make decisions about his body. Conscious-parenting-fail.
“Conscious Parenting means you spot the gap between the lesson you intend to teach and the lesson your kids are learning. Then you adjust your technique and improve messaging”
Instead, we tried a different approach tonight and adjusted our message: “you are going to get dessert whether or not you eat more dinner, but you do need to be reminded of couple things before you make that decision. First, besides from dessert, this is the last food you will have until breakfast tomorrow. We will not entertain whining or begging later if you tell us you are hungry. And two, you are getting one small serving of dessert so don’t depend on that to fill you up significantly.”
We are desperate for him to learn how to be aware of his body’s hunger (and emotional) signals–so why would we not get be him the chance to practice just that? Why would we interject our worries about his fullness with a really quite random number of bites? To satiate his hunger or our fear? Well we’re human and parenting is a muscle. Conscious parenting takes intention and practice until it becomes automatic because of the neural pathways (muscle memory) that gets created in the brain. The fate of the firstborn is that he is our guinea pig–we are learning to step back from our egos’ fears and allow him to unfold with the gift of allowing him practice to learn new skills and that means sometimes learning the hard consequences. It also means that we have to try out new approaches in our parenting and adjust as necessary.
With our egos aside, he ate some more bites of pepper. A couple bites of challah. And then a small piece of cake. He left the table with his dignity intact and with an affirmation of trust from the people who love him most. It will be a good new year.
1. For more read: http://itsnotaboutnutrition.com/2016/09/20/improve-messaging/