Kids playing with and wasting food + Meal and snack scheduling discussion - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 12:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't know what to do about this anymore. I'm at my witts end.

My kids, ages almost 6, almost 4, and almost 2, won't stay out of the kitchen. I have told them over and over again that if they want something to ask me first, and I'll get it for them. But they don't listen, unless it's to ask me for something they know they won't get, like the 3rd popsicle in a row.

I have even tried putting a latch at the top of the kitchen door, but they just push a chair over, stand on it, and unlatch the kitchen door.

Unless they are engrossed in a movie or their v-smile, they do this every time I am out of the room. For instance, yesterday while I was in the shower, they got into the kitchen, took the bucket of icecream out, and sat on the floor eating it wiht their hands. This was just after I had gave them lunch AND made them their own bowls of icecream!

They got into my blueberries while I was in the bathroom and threw them at each other then squashed them into the floor.

This morning as i was vacuuming they got into the burrito's AFTER I had given them bowls of cereal. They put the whole wrappers into the microwave. I assumed they must be hungry, so I finished cooking them and gave them to the boys. The boys said they were'nt hungry and when I wasn;t looking they (the 4 year old, my 6 year old said he didnt do it) smeared them into the table.

They very often get boxes of cereal or bags if chips, take them to their room, and proceed to throw them at each other.

They get cartons of milk out and just leave them on the floor. My 4 year old poured my entire container of sugar AND coffee out onto the floor last week.

It is a never ending struggle, and since money is tight and I NEED this food to last, the fact that they are continuing to waste it is infuriating me. I feel as though I have to watch them every second they are awake.

I have esplained to them that Daddy works very hard for that food, and when they waste it, that makes us sad. But they dont care.

What can I do? Is this even normal? No one else with kids has to lock up their kitchen, I feel as though I am the only one.
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#2 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 01:04 PM
 
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My almost 3 yr old is like this, always getting into the food in the kitchen. A lot of times, it results in the cereal being taken to his room and him throwing it all over. I have been thinking of getting locks put on the fridge and the pantry. For the pantry, specifically those magnetic key lock thingy's (sorry, don't remember exactly what they're called). Good luck!!
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#3 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 01:06 PM
 
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Have you tried the cabinet locks that actually need a magnetic "key" that you can keep in your pocket to open them.
I imagine your 6 year old could figure out a fridge lock. But if you have a side by side you could find some way to bike lock the handles to gether.
I feel for you.
My kids are much younger (22months, 22 months and 3) and I also feel it necessary to keep them out of the kitchen. Right now a gate on each side (it is a galley kitchen) is doing the trick. But your situation would drive me nuts too.
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#4 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 01:31 PM
 
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Call me crazy, but I personally would try to find ways to include them in the daily operation of the kitchen, and give them as much autonomy in the kitchen as reasonably possible. Starting with including them in making the grocery list and putting the food away. Giving them little tasks and talking the whole time about what foods they can get for themselves to snack on whenever they want, and how to put it away again. Teach them to fix simple snacks and teach them how to clean up again. Involve everyone in preparing meals. Supervise them at first, but put on a good show of faith -- let them know you believe they can use the kitchen responsibly. Teach the oldest to help the youngest with doing things correctly.

I think they need to feel some control over the food in the kitchen. The best way (IMHO) to acheive this is to include them in managing the kitchen and giving them a sense of ownership and pride in what they do.

But feel free to blow me off and call me nuts, because I know this sounds like a really risky proposition!!!
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#5 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 01:49 PM
 
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Could they maybe have one cupboard that they can go in? Stock it with healthy snacks and let them have free access to that cupboard while keeping the others off limits?
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#6 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 02:10 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamaduck
Call me crazy, but I personally would try to find ways to include them in the daily operation of the kitchen, and give them as much autonomy in the kitchen as reasonably possible. Starting with including them in making the grocery list and putting the food away. Giving them little tasks and talking the whole time about what foods they can get for themselves to snack on whenever they want, and how to put it away again. Teach them to fix simple snacks and teach them how to clean up again. Involve everyone in preparing meals. Supervise them at first, but put on a good show of faith -- let them know you believe they can use the kitchen responsibly. Teach the oldest to help the youngest with doing things correctly.

I think they need to feel some control over the food in the kitchen. The best way (IMHO) to acheive this is to include them in managing the kitchen and giving them a sense of ownership and pride in what they do.

But feel free to blow me off and call me nuts, because I know this sounds like a really risky proposition!!!
Amen to the above.

By denying them the kitchen it will just matters worse.

My girls have free access to our kitchen and help themselves to food when they are hungry, Yeah sometimes they waste food but you know it all part of learning to take just what they can eat.

We are on a very tight budget so I know about the $ issue.

It really seems to me that denying your kid’s access to the kitchen it setting them up for food issues. I mean locking up the cabinets seems WOW I mean that seems abuse :

Use this opportunity to teach your children responsibility and respect. Sound to me like they can use some discipline.
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#7 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 03:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sounds like abuse? Okay, I'm not denying them food. I'm not locking them IN the cabinet. What part of that sounds like abuse? This isn't about them being hungry, this is about them getting food out when they are NOT hungry and throwing it everywhere. Dumping a whole box of cheerios on the floor and stomping it is beyond wasting a little food. The only food that they ever get out and actually eat is things like icecream and popsicles. And I'm not up to not keeping icecream in the house because Dh and I like to eat these things too. I've thought about letting them have a cabinet in the kitchen for their snacks, but then I'm back at the beginning. I'm not against them getting food to eat and putting it back, or even forgetting to put it back sometimes. It's the fact that they keep getting out food to play with.

What are these magnet locks you keep talking about?
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#8 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 03:31 PM
 
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My kids are not allowed in the kitchen most of the time-- and then only the 6 and 8 yr olds (not the 3 or 2 yr olds), and then only briefly to get what they want. This is for my own sanity (it is the ONLY place I can have space from them), because there are unsafe electrical conditions in there, and also DH has his business inventory in there which they could easily destroy.

However, I do think kids should have easy access to food as much as they want. I usually leave some "all you can eat" items out on the table or the kitchen counter (which the big kids can get for the little kids). I am always asking them if they are hungry, if they want something to eat. I never make them wait for meals. They eat when they want to.

It is NOT abusive to want your kids out of the kitchen, especially the young ones (can't believe that was said!). It is abusive to keep them from food when they want it, but clearly that's not what's going on.

MPJJJ, I have a baby gate up which keeps out the baby. My suggestion would be to leave out certain items they can have as much as they want of, in some place other than the kitchen. I also for safety reasons would only allow yout 6 yr old in the kitchen. Obviously I don't know the set up of your house or what your kitchen is like, but a 2 yr old roaming around a kitchen could be dangerous.
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#9 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 03:37 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by momto l&a
It really seems to me that denying your kid’s access to the kitchen it setting them up for food issues. I mean locking up the cabinets seems WOW I mean that seems abuse :

Use this opportunity to teach your children responsibility and respect. Sound to me like they can use some discipline.
Please be more careful about using the term "abuse." If you read MPJJJ's post carefully this is clearly not an abusive situation. Even though this is just an anonymous message board, it would absolutely kill me if someone suggested this about me, especially when it is so unwarranted. I just wanted to speak up for MPJJJ here. She clearly stated she fed her kids lunch and gave them icecream. "Abuse" is not a word to throw out easily.
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#10 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 03:57 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by momto l&a
I mean locking up the cabinets seems WOW I mean that seems abuse :




You're kidding me, right?

Please say you're kidding!

It sounds like abuse not to let kids use food as a plaything, and a plaything they don't seem to particularly care about, at that? It sounds like abuse not to let kids take food to their rooms and throw it at each other??

What, exactly, do you think the word "abuse" means?

That word is thrown around in what I consider to be much too casual of a way here at MDC, but this really is over the top.

To the OP, I think that creating a space in the house that has snacks for the kids that is not in the kitchen might be a start. Perhaps an old milk crate in the family room stocked with crackers, apples, raisins, etc. would help? Have you sat down with your oldest child (who is getting of the age where he is old enough to reason with) and explained the the kitchen is off limits? Do you have a consequence to disrespecting your wishes? If I had a latch on my door and my child knew that it was to keep him/her out and he/she deliberately and repeatedly removed the latch and went in anyway, there would be a meaningful consequence for that.

Might it also help to establish snack times throughout the day with the understanding that there was no eating at other times? I used to let the kids snack whenever they wanted, but it got to the point where (since my kids can't really make their own snacks, or at least not in the variety I think they need for a healthy diet) either an entire box of crackers would be consumed in one day (if they got their own snacks) or I was going into the kitchen 8-10 times a day, besides meals, to make snacks that would often be only half-eaten. Now the kids know there are three snack times a day, and since I know that they are having adequate amounts to eat, I don't really entertain requests for extra snacks. They can get crackers from their shelf if they really feel the need, but I have noticed that if they are limited to crackers they suddenly aren't so hungry anymore. :LOL

While I agree that kids should be able to eat when they are hungry, I think that it's reasonable to expect that kids don't have one hand in the proverbial cookie jar all day long. I want my kids to appreciate that they have ample food and not view it as a boredom reliever, etc. My views on food have been shaped a lot by what I witnessed in Ethiopia.

Namaste!
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#11 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 03:59 PM
 
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Oh, I see I am not the only person who is a bit tweaked by the use of the word "abuse."

namaste!
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#12 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meowee
"Abuse" is not a word to throw out easily.
I agree. Yikes.

Back to the OP, it seems to me that there's an underlying issue here of why the kids are not respecting the sense of order you are trying to implement in your household. I don't know what to suggest, but IMO finding a way to lock up the kitchen is only going to serve a very short-term problem.

~ Meredith, mom to dd(Jan '02), ds1(May '04) and ds2 (June '07) ~ :
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#13 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:11 PM
 
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Short term solutions are still good first steps until you reach the long term solution.
www.onestepahead.com I believe has the magnetic locks.

And I am another to agree that the word "abuse" is thrown around an awful lot on these boards. Usually just to indicate something the other mom wouldnt choose to do.
It is actually kinda getting me down.
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#14 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:13 PM
 
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#15 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dharmamama
:

Do you have a consequence to disrespecting your wishes? If I had a latch on my door and my child knew that it was to keep him/her out and he/she deliberately and repeatedly removed the latch and went in anyway, there would be a meaningful consequence for that.
I agree, but I am lost on an appropriate consequence for removing the latch to get into the kitchen. If they asked, I'd gladly get them what they wanted within reason. But they are not asking, they are sneaking into the kitchen and disrespecting me and Dh and our food. What do you think would be an appropriate consequence for this?
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#16 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, those look great, but our's are metal cabinets. How would one with metal cabinets and no handles keep the cabinets locked?
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#17 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:37 PM
 
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ok, umm, why can't your boys go into the kitchen? because by not allowing them into the kitchen you've created a situation where the kitchen has this great mystique. it's the best place in the house now.

i agree with mamaduck that including your boys in cooking and shopping and teach them how a kitchen works. they don't appear to understand the kitchen. and i personally don't think that locking up the food will every teach them that cereal isn't a toy.
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#18 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:37 PM
 
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I agree that, at least the older children, are old enough for there to be consequences for this behaviour. First and foremost I would have them clean up anything that made a mess. They are old enough to vacuum, to sweep, to use a rag and (safe) cleaner, to run the washer and dryer... You will probably have to stand over them at first and/or help them (depending on age and ability) but I would definitely start that for sure. In our house, if we need that kind of action, nothing else happens until its done. I will help if asked, but I won't do it all.

My next suggestion may need a bit of tweaking depending on your situation and approach to the world. I would definitely start including oldest child, at least, in the process of budgeting, household management and money education. Then, I would stick to a schedule for grocery shopping. Their favorite cereal gets dumped? Well, there will be more next Monday. Until then, here are the other choices. They ate all of the ice cream (or left it out)? That's it until Monday. I do big grocery trips on payday (every two weeks). Even my 2 YO has learned that if she eats all the fruit rolls on day 1, she has to wait a long time before there are any more.

If that doesn't work, the next level would be making them responsible for purchasing replacement items from money they have earned. Obviously, at their ages, you will need to give them jobs and the money. But I would think it should be real cash and then take them to the store and have them purchase the replacement box with it. Its a pretty graphic way to show how hard one has to work to earn the money to buy the item they just wasted.

I would definitely make at least some things impossible for them to get. My kids have free access to the pantry cupboard and the fridge and free access to snacks at any time. But the really precious stuff (or the stuff I really can't handle having them eat before breakfast) are in high cupboards that even I can't reach without the step ladder.

Finally, all of the things you mentioned seem to be very "sensory" play items. Lots of things that crunch or smoosh or ooze. Maybe take a look at their toys and see if you can introduce some more acceptable items with the same satisfaction. Playdough? I hate it, but it would be better than burrito filling on the floor. Or get them involved with food preparation with some of these ingredients -- bread making? Coating chicken with cracker crumbs? Something like that?
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#19 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:41 PM
 
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Oh gosh I am sure you are right. I cannot imagine they could work on metal cabinets.
But you say your kitchen is a separate room with a door.
So I guess my next step would be to put a key lock on the door and not just a latch.
Short term solution? You bet.
Long term. You could have your children join you while preparing food, and help them earn the privilege of going in themselves and getting a snack while following the rules.
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#20 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:45 PM
 
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I agree that abuse is a very strong word and not appropriate to this scenerio. However, I am also uncomfortable with the whole concept of locking away food or keeping the kitchen as an out of bounds area. I'm picturing how I would feel if this were done to me in my own home -- if I were told that since I am irresponsible with certain food items, I may not have access without permission. I would feel controlled and overpowered, I wouldn't like it, and I would find ways to rebel.
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#21 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:45 PM
 
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Arrrrggghhhhh - I feel your frustration. My boys do the same sort of thing. They love to play with the food in the kitchen. They especially like making "soup" - mixing miscellaneous things together in a bowl with water (coffee, sugar, soap, etc.). It has nothing to do with being hungry. It's more akin to making mudpies indoors. It's messy, wasteful, and frustrating. They also act similarly in the bathroom, emptying entire bottles of shampoo, soap, and toothpaste or putting whole rolls of toilet paper in a sink filled with water.

I don't have the magic solution yet. But yesterday after finding yet another mess and roaring some terrible roars, I made my 5 year old clean up messes around the house for about 45 minutes (any sort of chore he was capable of - carrying trash bags to the trash can, putting clothes in the washer and dryer, picking up toys, putting dishes in the sink, scooping the cat litter box). Then when he made another mess today, I did the same thing. I plan to continue doing this everytime I discover yet another non-toy no-permission-given mess (I do often permit very messy activities upon request, plus they can almost always go outside to play in our yard).

Also, I don't have then in my kitchen (yet!) but I recently bought some alarms at Walmart - they were 4 for $5 - that go on doors - when the door is open either a chime or alarm can go off (or you can turn the switch to off). I hesitate to put them in the kitchen since the baby often sleeps nearby, but I did put them on a closet upstairs after finding the eleventy-billionth roll of wrapping paper destroyed.

Good luck and let's hope this is a very short phase our boys are going through.

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#22 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:49 PM
 
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I would find a way to lock up the cabinets while you work on exactly why they are doing this.

I think some of this is the problem with abundance. They have so much food about the house they don't realize the value/expense in it. So I would have them help you pick out food, find bargains, cut coupons, et like the OP suggested. Help them tally up the cost. Also, would buy less food. I did this with my children. I had Popsicle monsters. We bought a 12 count box and they each got 4 Popsicles. When those were gone, those were gone until the next shopping day. We did have an issue with my oldest dd coning the youngest out of Popsicles but I would look at youngest and explain that she gave her popcicle/s to her sister. That when you share some times it means less. This helped an underlying issue we had at our house of the older children manipulated her. After a few weeks they caught on about moderation. That one treat a day meant they could have it each day instead all in one day. For us focusing on the one treat and running out really help them from "wasting" food. If they do not have chips to throw around then they won’t be tempted. Letting them live “without” without being hungry is not going to hurt them. Them having only a snack of popcorn for three because they ate all the blueberries in one day can help them learn moderation if you help them.

Another thing that has helped us greatly is "balancing" out food. Managing carbs, proteins, and fats. If they have an apple offering cheese. They were not constantly craving for sugar/carbs to fuel their bodies. This takes some practice and learning. This is a skill I wish I had learned as a child. Some of the foods you are describing are high bad carb foods. Also a little “scheduling” can help you control the waste. I know some people here don’t like that term or idea about foods but your children are not infants. I have been so poor/broke that I know that eating when your hungry is not always possible. Also, if they are like I was I would make poorer high carb choices then have to eat shortly after. So I would spent more money on food.

One other issues is boredom. And I do think this is a big part of their behavior. I think you need to help them learn ways to keep their idle hands and minds busy. Having the cabinets locked will force them to get creative with other things. I want to warn you about this. LOL If you cannot lock things up can you put things on the shelves for them to play with? Cars? Legos? Pretend cooking set? When you go to the shower give your kids a task, maybe read a book and then tell them to work on a play while you are in the shower. If they still do it maybe make them sit in the bathroom while you are cleaning up. Or maybe take the stratagy of getting up 15 minutes earlier than them to shower up so they are not out of your eyesight. Also do they have a pretend kitchen and food?

If they are not helping you clean up, they should be.
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#23 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 04:57 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamaduck
Call me crazy, but I personally would try to find ways to include them in the daily operation of the kitchen, and give them as much autonomy in the kitchen as reasonably possible.
this is the route I would go as well. Forbidden fruit (rooms, items whatever) is a mighty tempting and beautiful thing lol

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#24 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 05:08 PM
 
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My ds can enter the kitchen (and any room in the house) freely, and certain cabinets or doors are locked. The food cabinet is not, but he doesn't try to open it unless we are getting out a snack. If he was going in there and wasting/throwing food, I'd lock it. Same with the fridge. I don't think it's abusive to lock your cabinet, I think it's very logical actually.

I think having the kids help clean up the mess is a great idea.
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#25 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 05:23 PM
 
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If I give my kids things that the can play with (measuring cups, whisk, all those interesting kitchen tools) they will usually leave me to cook. Personally I find it great bonding time to have them in the kitchen with me. My oldest gets simple jobs now, too. She loves washing dishes. Sure it makes a mess but that's how kids learn.

There are some things that are more delicate and take effort to cook, and I try start those recipes at nap time, or even after they go to bed, for dinner the next day.

ETA: We keep a lot of the extra foods in the garage. If I find a sale and stock up, it goes in the garage. If the heat would spoil it, it goes in my bedroom closet on a high shelf. We have locks on the fridge and freezer for the safety of my toddler, and locks on all but one cabinet. The drawers are okay for them to get into. I keep the knives high and out of reach.

We don't waste, either. If Abi gets a food out or asks for it she must eat it before she gets anything else.

I did make a tub of rice available for them to play with like a sandbox. Abi cleans it up with a dust pan and Nitara helps. We don't eat that rice.

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#26 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 05:24 PM
 
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I think MPJJJ's concern is mainly with wasting food and using it as a plaything-- which she should be concerned about. And if this is what the kids are doing, they *should* be restricted from the kitchen until they can learn to be respectful and appreciative of food. It would horrify me if my children dumped cereal on the floor for fun. They are allowed to eat as much of what they want whenever they want, but-- there is no wasting allowed. That is the #1 food rule in our house.

Last night my 8 yr old went into the kitchen and for no reason dumped water on the floor (remember I mentioned DH's inventory is in there) and removed about 8 plastic storage bags (which I use SO sparingly) and got those wet too just for fun. On previous occasions he has done things like dump an entire bottle of detergent down the sink. So, I told him that for the time being he was no longer allowed in the kitchen except to quickly get something to eat if he was hungry, because he couldn't trusted not to destroy things.

While getting the kids involved in every aspect of food shopping and kitchen life sounds like a rosy idea, this would never work in our home. Our kitchen is plain old dangerous (extension cords, etc) and the cooking burden on me is huge-- there are many days I have to cook 4 or 5 different things. Turning everything into a fun learning experience for my kids just isn't going to happen. They're just too young yet. I do hope to have them cooking on their own when they are teens, but they'll be completely different people by that point.

MPJJJ, the fact that they wait until you're not around to start playing with food makes me think this is a "let's goof off and do something sneaky" thing, which you do have a right not to allow. I don't know what to tell you regarding locks and stuff-- honestly they just need to learn to respect the boundaries you've set. There are lots of ways to do this, the same way you would use GD for other issues.
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#27 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 05:32 PM
 
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I agree, but I am lost on an appropriate consequence for removing the latch to get into the kitchen. If they asked, I'd gladly get them what they wanted within reason. But they are not asking, they are sneaking into the kitchen and disrespecting me and Dh and our food. What do you think would be an appropriate consequence for this?
I'm always hesitant to speak on MDC about how I discipline my kids because the subject of discipline always ruffles so many feathers, but if my kids were repeatedly forcing their way into a room I had told them to stay out of, I would confine them to their rooms.

If my kids were disregarding my instructions to not frolic in the food, I would stop buying snack items and put the remaining food where the kids couldn't reach it.

I am an evil, horrible mother who doesn't respect my kids and requires that they follow the rules.

Namaste!

Ps. You have gotten a lot of other good suggestions, too. I think this is a situation that requires a multi-pronged approach: immediate and long-trem strategies.
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#28 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 05:40 PM
 
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The reason I said abuse is in the past couple of years there have been parents who have been mentioned in the news who locked their kids out of the kitchen. In THEIR case it was abuse because their children where malnourished. Which according to what MPJJJ posts would not be the case because she states her kids where just served a meal. They are just playing in the food.

But locking them out from accessing food and water just seems abusive and demoralizing to me.


Why can’t they be taught to respect food and taught that it’s not a play thing, why be locked out?

Its just seems so cold to be locked out of the kitchen by your own mother. I mean kitchens have always been a symbol of warmth and comfort.

Its just very upsetting to me to think about children being locked out
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#29 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 05:59 PM
 
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But locking them out from accessing food and water just seems abusive and demoralizing to me.
She is not keeping them from accessing food and water. The kids have plenty of food and, I'm sure, liquids. She is just trying to make sure they don't throw it all over the house. It's NOT THE SAME THING. She is trying to teach the kids to respect food, that it's not a plaything. So far, they haven't learned. Locking the kitchen door is an intermediary step.
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#30 of 432 Old 08-10-2005, 06:18 PM
 
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What are these magnet locks you keep talking about?

They are called Tot Locks. They are little metal pieces that you attach to your cabinet. They have little levers that keep the door from opening. Then you have a nagnet that makes the metal move so the cabinet opens. The nice thing is that you can turn off the lock. SO, they don't actvate and you don't need the magnet.

The other nice thing is that the door doesn't move at all. The plastic clips can open enough to slam fingers in. These keep the door from moving at all.

We love them. We have them in the kitchen and the bathroom.

We keep our boys out the the kitchen. They are too little to get their own food and just make huge messes. It is a constant battle. It isn't abuse to not let your kids throw food they have no intention of eating.

Single Mom to 2 amazing little men. T(7) and B(5)
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