|The important thing is for meals and snacks to be OFFERED even when the child doesn't indicate they are hungry.
You said this is important so that they know you are dependable. IMO this is equating food with larger issues which do not need to be invoked in order for children to feel cared for and secure.
I do not see anything wrong with a parent setting aside certain times in the day to prepare a meal, and offering it to the child. I also see nothing wrong with the child feeling secure in their freedom to refusing to eat then, and eat half an hour later instead. One does not have to negate the other. You simply don't have to choose. You can streamline your time in the kitchen, and still give your child the freedom to decide when they want to eat.
I have seen the argument made before that the child can always refuse to eat knowing "a snack will come at 3 o clock". However if someone said this to me, what I would hear is "Eat now, because you can't have anything else until 3 o clock". The first statement is only a nicer way of telling the child you, not they, decide when the child is hungry.
So what is wrong with that?
Well, it can go along nicely for quite a while. If a child has always been scheduled, and subtle or overt encouragment was given to stick to the schedule~ requests to eat at 2pm, not 3pm, were met with distraction and admonisments to wait just a little bit more, a bit more, a bit more...well, fairly mild tempered children may accept this for a good long while. The parent comes here and reads this thread and thinks "What is the big deal? What is wrong with these people? My kids are fine. They like the schedule. No problems here".
This is where the really interesting discussions can take off. This is the same logic used by anyone doing anything which ap discourages, but which, for various reasons, "works" for some parents nonetheless.
A large part of the reason why this approach is met with so much criticism is because *there are so many posts on AP boards by parents who reach the day where this system no longer works*. I can't stress this point too strongly.
I have seen countless posts by parents who post in shock, frustration, disbelief, and anger to have met with a variety of situations where their attempts to control a child's eating dissolved into a power struggle. All of those posts describe a child who suddenly and seemingly without warning, will no longer go along with this schedule. They sneak food. They skip more meals than seem healthy. They are defiant when asked to wait to eat, and throw tremendous tantrums. They deliberately waste food, destroy food, and sneak behind the parents back to get around the rules set down in the home.
I think for some what we saw in the OP's post was not a need for more locks, but a real paradigm shift in the way she was speaking and thinking about the food in her home.
I agree with you that different ages call for different approaches. But I think if your 6 year olds needs you to lock the kitchen closed and is not allowed to fix his own snacks, or cannot do it without dumping the contents of the kitchen all over the floor, it is more than reasonable to ask whether the way to meet his needs is more locks and stronger latches.