they insist at times. Perhaps more times than not. In a whiny, petulant voice. Not one that is easy to argue with; right? After all, here you are, telling them that they should know their bodies. Aha, if this were truly simple and easy, we would not struggle with weight issues so much as a culture, right?!
So this is where they get you. But, I need to add, that kids often confuse boredom with hunger. (And sadness, frustration, anxiety, you name it, it is easy to do.) Simple boredom though, is a very common one. Think of it; don’t you want to eat when you are bored at times? I know that the minute I get on a car trip, all I want to do is eat. And I see no problem throwing food to the back seat when the kids are whining: ”Are we there yet?” to keep them occupied if necessary. Remember, nothing is 100% of the time, everything is ‘for the most part.’
So, if you can respond to your kids’ complaints that they are hungry when you know they can’t possible be because they have chowed down two slices of pizza, ice cream and cake, you can ask them if they are bored. Better yet, teach them HOW TO BE BORED. I am a big believer in letting your kids be bored. How to sit with themselves. Within minutes, most younger children, (not toddlers and pre-schoolers, because they can usually find something within themselves to seize on and play with,) but rather the kids from age 5 onward who get used to having things fed to them via school, t.v., computer. They start to disconnect from their inner creativity and that disconnect can often result in a disconnect with their bodies. Tips:
1) Let them be bored. Don’t think it is your job to entertain them. Respond with a “Cool, you are bored, sit for a bit. You’ll figure it out.” Give them the feeling that you have confidence in their ability to FIGURE THIS OUT FOR THEMSELVES
2) Think whether they are just needing to connect with you for a few minutes. If you can read this, or think it might be the case, often it is simply their hunger for connection which fills them up. That can help them de-celerate and sit by themselves for a longer time with their boredom. If you can grab just a few minutes and sit together if you don’t have time to hang together that is fine. Tell them that you will get to do something together soon. That will help them wait. Just like they can wait longer to eat, if they know the food is there to be had later.
3) Separate out true hunger from boredom. If they whine that they are hungry, teach them that they might be bored and it is their head tricking them because they think if their mouth is stimulated.
Something important to know: Neurotransmitters in the brain truly respond to restricting or overeating. It yields a comforting, soothing response in the brain. Problem is, the short term effect of soothing goes away and the neurotransmitters are adaptive. The brain adapts to this behavior, (overeating or restricting) and the effect doesn’t stick. But, your kid has found a short term solution that works and then the behavior patterns set in that create their own problems. Usually weight gain in either case. Or a belief that you need to be on a diet and when kids start diets young, and for people who chronically diet, they create more problems and gain more weight ultimately.
So, the next time your kid whines that they are hungry, or bored, let them ‘sit with it’. It won’t kill them. The food is always there later, and they can figure out the rest.