My daughter came home from Kindergarten and I was warming up some soup for lunch. Suddenly she started complaining that she didn’t want soup, even though she’d asked for it the day before and gone shopping with her dad to get the ingredients.
I had a feeling, that like many of our children’s big emotions, it wasn’t really about the soup. Although my daughter is loving her new adventure at Kindergarten, I know she’s got lots of feelings to process too. So I decided to set a limit. I told her that I wasn’t going to cook anything else. She cried, and I gave her a hug, empathised with her, and let her cry for as long as she needed without interrupting her (what Hand in Hand Parenting calls Staylistening). And I also kept holding the limit.
After a few minutes she was feeling a bit better, and started eating the soup. Although she’d finished crying, it seemed like there was still some feelings simmering beneath the surface and I sensed she needed to giggle.
So I did some silly stuff with my soup spoon. First it tried to go into her bowl to get her soup. Then it tried to feed me really quickly spoon after spoon when I wasn’t ready. Each time I would complain and talk to my spoon asking why it was being so silly. ”Hey spoon, you’re feeing me too fast!” I would exclaim exasperated. Then the spoon would respond by feeding me too slowly and I would complain about that too. My daughter laughed and laughed. After that she ate happily and even said, ”this soup is too delicious not to eat.”
Food is complicated for a lot of us. We want to honour our children’s preferences, and tastes. But we also want to notice when their feelings around food are masking deeper feelings of disconnection, and hurt. That’s the time we can set in, and use limits, and giggles to connect with our child so that they feel better.
Using a connected, listening approach to meantime helps our children to grow up with a healthy attitude to food. It helps to teach them to recognise when they have upset feelings, rather than masking them by comfort eating. I don’t always find it easy to set limits around food, but listening time, helps me to get my head clear so that I can see whether my daughter’s need for a certain food is genuine or a pretext for some hurt feelings.
Being able to listen to my daughter meant that she was able to return to Kindergarten with her emotional backpack a little lighter, ready for more adventures.
For more playful approach to picky eating check out 20 Playful Ways To Help Picky Eaters.
For more information on the Hand in Hand Parenting approach to setting limits download your free Setting Limits E-Book.