I would like to start this new column so that I can respond to all of the questions you guys have out there about your kids and their food. Kind of like old school monthly magazines that have Q and A’s! So please send your questions to: donna@donnafish.com

I look forward to hearing from you!

TREATS BEFORE THE MEAL: WHAT TO DO?

Q: “Every time I pick up my 4 year old son from pre-school and they’ve had a birthday party, he has a treat that he then always wants to eat on our way home before lunch. I am
a bit torn, as I don’t want to make a big fuss, but I get glares from the other Moms if I say fine, since most of them tell their kids to wait until they finish their lunch. What is the best thing to do?”

A: This is a great question because it brings up not only a food issue and how to handle it, but how to deal with the pressures and at times judgement we get (or feel,) when we do something that goes against the grain.

I got my fair share of glares and nasty intrusive comments; not just because I didn’t care too much about giving my kids sweets before meals since it never affected their appetites, but also the fact that my oldest daughter never wore a coat outside all winter! I used to respond: “Would you like to try to put it on her?”

So, this is my attitude about treats before meals. It doesn’t matter all that much. I have always found that if you make too much of a fuss about it, you over glorify the treat. I also never really find that it does interfere all that much with a kid eating their meal. Perhaps they are less hungry in that moment, but if you wait a bit longer and can be flexible if they aren’t all that hungry right away for lunch, they will end up eating their usual lunch, or certainly eating more later on.

If, however, you adamantly disagree with this, and/or you worry that because you have a very picky eater that they won’t get anything nutritious that day, several things to keep in mind:

Kids’ nutritional needs are met on a one to two week basis, so if they in fact do just have a cookie for lunch that day, not that big a problem as they will probably eat more of a balanced meal later on.

Kids in preschool are trying to not only assert their control, but their separateness and individuation from you, the parent. Clothing and food tend to be big choices since they have the most power over these things. (I am sure we all know or have kids who insist on the superpower p.j.’s or shirt day in day out!) This is their developmental stage!
So, to avoid turning treats into fights, you could give them the choice of when they want the cookie: before or after lunch? But you have to stand firm with the choice they make, even if they are pushing for more after lunch if they chose to eat it before. Respond calmly: “I know you wish you still had it, maybe next time you can have it as dessert.”

Treat their pushing the limit like any other.

Keep it simple. And as regards to the judgement issue, get used to it. Everyone will always have an opinion. It’s yours that counts.