Something really interesting happened on our family hike over the weekend.
We had just reached a beautiful waterfall, and while walking up some stairs to get a better view my son tripped on a step, fell forward and totally ate it.
It looked painful, his chin was grazed and his entire mouth was red full of blood from bleeding gums and a cut upper lip. Once the panic had left, and we were able to assess that it wasn’t too serious we continued our walk with lots of encouragement about him being such a brave boy etc.
What happened next was really interesting- despite everything I know about nutrition and habits I subconsciously found myself trying to make up for this ” hurting” by thinking about what treats I could offer him once we got back to the camp ground. Should we grab an ice cream on the way back, did I bring any cookies or should I just give him some marshmallows?
The story here isn’t really about the treats as there isn’t anything wrong with a treat now and then, but its more about how I found myself looking to use food as a way to make the situation ” feel” better for both him and I. The problem with this, is when we use food in this way it gives it a power and meaning beyond it’s primary function of nourishing the body.
As an emotional eater myself I know that once kids learn that eating something can make you feel better after a bad day, or when your hurting, or that it can be “earned” as a reward it can totally set them up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits.
Now if it happens every now and then well so what, no biggie. But I constantly see people trying to coax my kids to behave a certain way in order to get some type of food reward. The hairdresser giving a lollipop for being ” good” in the chair, the man who checks your receipt at K mart on the way out giving your kid a lolly because they were so ” good” in the shop, grandma saying do X and I’ll give you Y.
Now consider how many of us adults eat food ( or drink wine) to numb a difficult day? Or eat chocolate/ ice cream/ cake or whatever to try and cheer ourselves up when things aren’t going well. Or reach for a cookie or extra cup of coffee when you are bored at work and need a break? If you can see yourself in any of these situations, then know that these habits will almost definitely have started for you when you were younger.
I’d really love to hear your thoughts around this one. I’m not perfect but but when I notice situations like this I try and bring awareness to it, because I know that other parents may also be falling into these habits which are not helpful for you or your children.