I have a nine-year-old daughter who gets very angry when things don’t go her way. At meal times for example, she yells and insults the food if she doesn’t want to eat it. I don’t force her to eat, but I don’t make a separate meal for her either. On occasion she opts to eat just fruit which she can get for herself. Her persistence in getting what she wants is not a bad quality, but I don’t feel comfortable catering to her, or with her constant yelling. Do you have any suggestions?
One of the best ways to prevent healthy demands and upsets is to fulfill them in advance so they are not an issue in the first place. The child then does not experiences herself as yelling, demanding, and helpless; she has no reason to. Your daughter feels helpless and controlled when she has no power to decide what to eat, and yearns to get the benefit of the care you provide when you make a meal. Children, like adults, often equate care with love and self-worth.
You can ask her what she would like to eat for dinner, before you make it, and include at least some of the items she wants. In addition, you can tell her in advance that she can eat the dinner you made (with her choices included), or you can make her something else that does not require much time even after you are already sitting at the table. This will be the end of this struggle.
Eating fruit for dinner may not meet your daughter’s nutritional needs. Eggs, slices of cheese, yogurt, or slices of cold meat may require hardly any service and take care of her well being. You may want to make sure you have easy substitutes always ready.
I hear that you are uncomfortable doing the extra service and I have no way of knowing why you are feeling this way. Were you forced to serve as a child? Were you denied care? Or, are you worried that your child would learn to expect service and never learn to care for herself?
If you have an emotional memory that gets in the way, I understand how difficult this inner conflict can be. I can help you release it in a couple of phone session for which you can sign up on my site: http://naomialdort.com/guidance.html. If, however, you are concerned that your child will get used to service and not be self-reliant, I can assure you that this is not so. Did she get used to the womb and never came out? Did she get used to breastfeeding and never learned to eat food? Every stage in a child’s life comes to an end only after it is fully and generously fulfilled.
Children who are served kindly, become those who serve others with the same ease and generosity. At age nine, being taken care of by a loving parent is still an emotional need. Teach your child generosity and respect by honoring her preferences and offering your care with joy. You want her to feel deserving and you want to have a warm connection between the two of you.
Warmly, Naomi Aldort, www.AuthenticParent.com