Lilypie Third Birthday tickers

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Susanna Wesley's Household Rule #1

So here's my thoughts on Susanna Wesley's Household rules, starting with Rule #1:
Eating between meals is not allowed
Mealtimes are very stressful over at my house.  Stardust and I used to have regular battles over food.  This is probably my fault to begin with - I started weaning Stardust onto solid foods when he was 6 months old (the usual recommended age for starting a child on solids) and I probably pushed him too hard. 

It's stressful for a parent, preparing a single, solitary tablespoon of rice cereal, only to find that the baby takes a mouthful and then refuses the rest.  One starts to worry about starvation and weight loss and malnutrition and rickets.

In retrospect, I should have just been more relaxed about it from the start. 

After reading a few books on weaning and consulting experienced parents, I realised the following:
1. You can't force a child to eat if they are not hungry. 
2. A hungry child will eat whatever is placed in front of them.
3. A child will never understand the feeling of hunger if they consume small amounts on an ad hoc basis.
4. An irregular eating pattern is usually associated with an unhealthy diet or an unhealthy eating habit (e.g binging and skipping meals).

Susanna Wesley's Household Rule #1 is very sensible.  I find that set mealtimes are very useful because it means that all the post-meal clean up is much easier to manage. At the end, I wash the dishes and wipe all the crumbs off the dining table and kitchen, and it's all done until the next meal. Susanna Wesley had NINETEEN children. If she was forever trying to provide snacks at random times and trying to clean up food messes afterwards, she could be wiping down the dining table again and again all day long.

Additionally, establishing an eating pattern using mealtimes that are evenly spaced out during the day is a good way of regulating the physical metabolism of the body.

Nibbling in between meals takes the edge off an appetite and definitely reduces the feeling of hunger.  If the child has already had a cookie or few slices of apple or a glass of milk as a snack, it is not reasonable to expect them to eat a full cooked meal afterwards, even if you wait for half an hour.  Maybe an hour or two later, they'll be ready for a full meal.

Limiting meals to a reasonable length of time also helps to maintain sanity.  (In our household, mealtimes are limited to 45 minutes - I would have it shorter, but Stardust is a very slow eater.)  If the child has only eaten a few mouthfuls and adamantly refuses more, then at the end of the mealtime, remove the leftovers and consider it eaten.  No more food until the next mealtime.  It's not worth battling for fifteen minutes just to force one more pathetic spoonful into an unwilling mouth.  It makes both parties feel angry and resentful.

This is not to say that the portions eaten during each mealtime are exactly the same or that the times of the meals are rigidly set - if the child eats less at one meal, it is reasonable to offer more food at the next meal or let them have their snacktime a few minutes earlier. Additionally, mealtimes do not necessarily only include breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also elevenses, tea and supper - whatever works for your family, as long as eating only takes place during those times.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.