feeling inadequate at teaching my kids basic human-ness - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 23 Old 04-14-2012, 04:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I am feeling very ineffective as a parent lately.  I have a 9, just turned 6 and 2.5 year old.  I have always tried to talk to my kids about trust, honesty, respect etc., and I'm finding my older two to be particularly sneaky and disrespectful.  My 9 year old is horribly sneaky (girl) and outright defiant when I am not around.  Case in point, we had 2 of my friend's kids spend the night, they are 7 and 4.5, last night.  The kids were watching a movie and I went to bed with my 2 year old just down the hall.  We had all eaten and they had drinks--all was well.  I specifically told her "no more food, no more drinks, watch the movie and go to bed."  This morning I came out to find a entire box of strawberries gone and the package/greens laying on the floor and a mountain dew that I had bought for a science experiment, empty laying on the floor.  I would find it funny if she weren't constantly sneaking food and other things.

 

There are a lot of other examples, but basically I don't feel like I can trust my kids.  I hold honesty to be very important.  their dad (who I divorced last year) is the farthest from anything honest (which was the cause of our divorce), so I really have to wonder how much is my ineffective parenting and how much is him.

 

I model, I teach, I reaffirm...what else can I do?  Their dad is pointless in this, so it needs to be me.  Help?


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#2 of 23 Old 04-14-2012, 06:00 AM
 
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Well, she's not that sneaky if she didn't hide the evidence. I don't think it's fair to place the responsibility of, not only her younger sibling, but two other younger kids, on your 9 yo. She obviously isn't old enough to babysit so shouldn't be left responsible for three younger kids. It's one thing to go to sleep with the little one when it's just your family. But when you have other people's young children over, you should be supervising them until they are asleep.


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#3 of 23 Old 04-14-2012, 10:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Why are you focusing on the other two that don't belong to me--they were fine and laying on the floor 5 feet from my bedroom.  The problem is my 9 year old that doesn't follow direction.  She was completely sneaky.  She promised me she wasn't going to get into the kitchen and did anyway.  She very often waits for me to be away and then will get into things she has specifically had direction to not do.  Just because she didn't take care of her evidence doesn't mean she wasn't being sneaky when she did it.  Perhaps that just means I should crack the whip when I find the evidence, but if that's the case--then what do you do?

 

If anyone wants to comment on the issue at hand, I'd be open to suggestion.

 

 


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#4 of 23 Old 04-14-2012, 03:20 PM
 
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I would have a huge problem with the mountain dew, but is it possible that she was just too hungry to comply? Did the sleepover kids want something? What does she say about it?
If it were me, I would have told her what she could eat if she got hungry. But this doesn't seem like a huge deal.

Now if she knew she wasnt allowed to drink mt dew and did it anyway, I would be very disappointed. I think I would talk to her about it, and tell her you don't feel you can have soda in the house for a while since you can't trust her.

The strawberries I'd just let go. Just doesn't seem like a big deal--she got hungry and chose a healthy snack.



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#5 of 23 Old 04-14-2012, 03:39 PM
 
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I think you need to talk with her and try to understand what is motivating her to sneak. Is she still processing the divorce, is it always surrounding food? Does she crave sugar? Is there something going on medically? Is she just testing boundaries? Could she be looking for attention and craving more one-on-one time? If you are divorced and have a 2 year-old, I imagine one-on-one time is hard to come by. But maybe she can stay up a little later once in a while and you two could have some time together once the younger ones are in bed.

I think I'd have a problem-solving session with her. I don't feel like I can trust you. Give a specific example and see if she can give you any more info. What was she thinking? How is she feeling lately? What can we do to fix this issue because you want to feel like you can trust her.

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#6 of 23 Old 04-14-2012, 05:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you...

 

well, the strawberries are an issue because I told her she couldn't have anything else.  She does have a problem with food and we had just had a huge dinner.  She sneaks food regardless of what it is.  Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I don't know what else to do besides tell her no because she does not limit herself--she has no shut off.  And I don't know if maybe the other sneaking is stemming from the food issue.  I think she does have some impulse control issues.  I'm not really big into punishment, though I do time outs when warranted and take things away when warranted.  I would like to be able to say, if you feel you need food, then eat, but she'd gorge herself, I believe.  She is in equine therapy for self-confidence and other things, but I just don't know how to handle this one.  We talk about it over and over and I think it makes sense, she's just unwilling to stop the behavior if it's what she wants.


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#7 of 23 Old 04-14-2012, 06:08 PM
 
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I assumed from your scenario that all the kids were eating the strawberries and drinking the Mountain Dew, not that the 9 yo ate/drank them all herself.

 

Not hiding the evidence means she isn't really sneaky, but more lacking impulse control or having obsessive compulsions. It's still a problem, just a different problem. She isn't trying to keep you from finding out what she did and that's a good thing.


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#8 of 23 Old 04-16-2012, 05:19 AM
 
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Hunger is a pretty basic need.  If she's always sneaking food, it sounds like she just needs more than she's getting.  I'd make sure she always has healthy options that she likes around to eat,and make sure she's drinking enough as thirst can feel like hunger to a kid.  Teaching habits like have a glass of water before eating, don't watch tv while eating, always portion out your stuff and go back for more vs eating out of the package will serve her better in the long run than being cut off and feeling hungry. 

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#9 of 23 Old 04-16-2012, 06:33 AM
 
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i snuck food like crazy when i was growing up. i wasn't hungry. so much was kept from me and i was not allowed many sweets/junk food so i snuck it. and snuck alot of it. i just couldn't stop myself. i still can't stop myself...if there is a pack of cookies or carton of ice cream, i'm gonna eat it all in 1-2 days, screw how it tears up my stomach. i have no idea how this compulsion could have been curbed as a child.

my kids have snuck food here and there but nothing to be concerned about. once #3 tried to eat a clove of garlic, and tried to say she didn't and didn't know why her breath smelled like that LOL she fessed up later :)


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#10 of 23 Old 04-16-2012, 06:34 AM
 
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we did always have fruits offered that i liked but it wasn't good enough...i wanted the junk that i couldn't have.


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#11 of 23 Old 04-16-2012, 11:26 AM
 
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Ya know- I have mild insulin issues, and I crave carbs like crazy. My insulin problem won't even show up on the common tests that a family doctor would run. However, when my weight is up just a little, I get headaches and so, so irritable if I don't eat constantly. I only discovered this because the extra insulin was causing me to have miscarriages. It took a reproductive endocrinologist to figure it out.

I think that you've tried consequences when warranted, and maybe try to have something more set in stone that she helps you decide. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen/Can Learn books by Faber and Mazlish have a system that might help. You talk about the issue, list the rules and then list specific consequences all with her. Then you follow through without fail- and also without anger. I'd also give her a list of foods that she can have unlimited access to for a while. carrot sticks for example. And if the issue is mostly food, then I'd talk to her doctor.

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#12 of 23 Old 04-17-2012, 07:29 AM
 
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Hunger is a pretty basic need.  If she's always sneaking food, it sounds like she just needs more than she's getting.  I'd make sure she always has healthy options that she likes around to eat,and make sure she's drinking enough as thirst can feel like hunger to a kid.  Teaching habits like have a glass of water before eating, don't watch tv while eating, always portion out your stuff and go back for more vs eating out of the package will serve her better in the long run than being cut off and feeling hungry. 


I don't agree with this. I trust the OP that her daughter had enough food already. There is nothing wrong with a parent telling a child that the kitchen is off limits. Especially when the child has an obvious compulsive overeating thing going on.

 

As an adult who also has had a past with overeating, I really think this needs to be addressed. She is not going to figure it out on her own. I would even bring her to a family therapist. It would not hurt for you to share your story and get some advice from a family therapist. It sounds like you need some support.

 

Good luck to you. I can't pretend that I have a perfect answer, but I can understand why this is a struggle.


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#13 of 23 Old 04-17-2012, 03:04 PM
 
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I trust that the OP is feeding her kid enough too, but that doesn't mean the child doesn't feel hungry.  I've had issues with overeating too.  I think that when my parents cut me off and limited my portions without giving me strategies to deal with my hunger and cravings, they made things worse.  

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#14 of 23 Old 04-17-2012, 04:41 PM
 
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I trust that the OP is feeding her kid enough too, but that doesn't mean the child doesn't feel hungry.  I've had issues with overeating too.  I think that when my parents cut me off and limited my portions without giving me strategies to deal with my hunger and cravings, they made things worse.  


I understand this. I think it can go both ways. My parents never limited my food. They would make pizza and I would eat so much that I could hardly walk for the rest of the night. I wish they had paid closer attention. They could have possibly limited me, or had some serious discussions with me...I really wish I had seen a therapist.

 

I can however say that most families close the kitchen off at a certain time of night. My kids are still so little that they go to bed pretty quickly after dinner but when they are older and staying up later...I will probably cut them off at some point. I don't know.

 



 


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#15 of 23 Old 04-17-2012, 05:19 PM
 
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If it`s just about food, I would address that question first. Is she still hungry after dinner? I would honestly give her very healthy options for food if she gets hungry at night.

If she is sneaky about other things as well, I would think it has more to do with defiance/disobedience. Kids like to test limits. You specifically told her not to go into the kitchen and she agreed. Explain to her that you cannot trust her unless she keeps her promises.


 


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#16 of 23 Old 04-18-2012, 02:27 PM
 
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I can however say that most families close the kitchen off at a certain time of night.

 



 


Really? I've never encountered anyone doing that.

 


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#17 of 23 Old 04-19-2012, 09:16 AM
 
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I was 8 when my parents seperated and i started binging at that time too. Some people use food do deal emotionally. I agree with the pp who suggested a family therapist. I wish that optio was explored for me as a child. Barring medical conditions its usually not about real hunger.

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#18 of 23 Old 04-19-2012, 02:19 PM
 
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It sounds like emotional over-eating. The emotions need to be addressed, not the food. I dated someone who was pretty insecure as a child, as your DD may be if she has self-consciousness issues, and her mother limited her access to the kitchen to try and control her weight. She ended up sneaking food anyway and choked on food she wasn't supposed to be eating when she was caught once, leading to an even more traumatic experience. She still has an unhealthy relationship with food to this day.

 

My girls don't have a weight problem, but I still don't let them snack (besides fruit or juice) right before dinner and "close the kitchen" an hour before bed. This was mainly because they were using snacks as a stalling technique, but they would also pour drinks and then fall asleep two sips into them so we just close it off now, and they know when "last call" is so they can get something if they really are hungry. If we eat a late dinner, it's usually not a problem, but I find this helps cut down on the unnecessary junk snacking. We also tell them they can pick one junky snack item a week and that's it (besides dessert or the occasional treat). Obviously, that won't help with the drinking-mountain-dew-when-they-know-they-shouldn't, but firmer rules about when it's not appropriate to raid the kitchen may lead to less confusion.

 

IMO, other kids usually suggest these ideas and your kid doesn't know how to say no to them. I wouldn't place blame entirely on her here.
 


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#19 of 23 Old 04-23-2012, 03:06 AM
 
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Really? I've never encountered anyone doing that.

 

 

So everyone you know allows their kids to just grab and go at all hours of the night?


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#20 of 23 Old 04-23-2012, 09:37 AM
 
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So everyone you know allows their kids to just grab and go at all hours of the night?

 

Evidently. Or I don't spend enough time with them to know otherwise. I can see my one grandma doing that, though. She liked to have her kitchen all clean after dinner and have it stay that way. To me, the only issue would be having kids clean up after themselves. 


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#21 of 23 Old 04-23-2012, 11:54 AM
 
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Compulsive overeater without an "off switch" here. I think your daughter is coping with stress through eating. Does she sneak or steal food more frequently during times of stress? When there is stress and she makes "bad" choices, do you withdraw emotionally or criticize? Just questions, please don't take offense. Just saying that in my case (which might not even be remotely the same as the situation with your daughter) these issues all exacerbated the problem.

 

And again, not to offend, but I do have a few suggestions. Keep in mind that I don't know your kid at all, so these things might not be relevant. I would suggest that you seek counseling for her. She has some underlying issues that need to be addressed and therapy is a "safe" place to do that. A good therapist will offer insight to her problems and suggest alternatives for the poor eating habits. Secondly, I would address the way that you are handling her sneakery. And be honest with yourself. If you come across as critical or less than supportive, understand that some subtle changes in your behavior or seeking counseling for yourself might be beneficial. And finally, I would remove poor quality food from your home if it upsets you that she desires it. If she is a true overeater, like I am, the urge is almost beyond control. We'll seek out any food item that "banks" calories. Call it a mis-wired evolutionary drive for calorie storage, but we are motivated towards high value treats. If you know she will eat them, and you expect her to have self control where she has proven none exists, you will set her up for failure.

 

I hope that I don't come across as harsh. I don't intend to. And I am certainly not placing blame on your or your environment, I hope that you understand that. But as parents, we have to manage our situations in ways that hopefully facilitate the best outcome. And that is what I am trying to suggest. 

 

Good luck!

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#22 of 23 Old 04-23-2012, 04:48 PM
 
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The title of this thread stood out to me - "teaching my kids basic human-ness." I think the child already has some basic humanness figured out - like the need for food and shelter, those are hard-wired and she's too young to fight the hunger.

 

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I can however say that most families close the kitchen off at a certain time of night.


Really? I've never encountered anyone doing that.

 

Me neither. I always had a hard time at summer camps, etc., where the food time was limited. The food policy was like that of a prison to me - what was I supposed to eat in the evening? Why no access? Am I supposed to starve? At one summer camp, half my group started sneaking food out of the cafeteria, they gave it to me so I could eat at night. I still remember that with a lot of gratitude.

 

One of my aunts had this policy of "If you are making dinner, do not eat anything until the dinner is served on the table". I still remember that once I had to cook with her, and I was starving, and I tried to grab something to eat and she wouldn't let me. I was so mad about that, and I still am. She just didn't understand and didn't want to listen. Sometimes people have different food needs. What some people might call "a huge dinner", for me might be "appetizers". Hey where's the rest of the meal? I'm hungry!

 

Obviously the OP would know if there is overeating, but what if the problem is subtler than that? Is the kid hypoglycemic? Is she skinny? Does she need many small meals, instead of three big meals a day? You mentioned that she had to "watch a movie and go to bed". For some people, watching a movie is enough time to get hungry for another meal. Maybe she's like that, too?

 

Another thought.. a before-bed snack is important. What does she usually have?

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#23 of 23 Old 04-23-2012, 10:20 PM
 
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Your OP was a little short on details, since it only gave us one example to go from... is she only "sneaky" with food?  If so, then that is a completely different issue than if she's sneaky in a dozen different ways.  You also didn't indicate how long this behavior has been going on - a fairly new behavior would need different handling from a more long-term behavior pattern. 

 

If the only real issue is food, then I agree with DoubleDouble, maybe you need to rethink your stance.  The rest of this post is based on the assumption that food is the "big" issue here. 

 

A person's relationship with food is very individual, and at 9 she doesn't have the ability to express it to you - it took me well into my 20s to be able to express some of my food relationship, and to figure out certain things.  Any number of things may be going on, from low blood sugar, a growth spurt, peer eating to compulsive behavior, there's just not enough information for *us* to help determine that.  You also said she doesn't have an off-switch, is she "overweight"?  Is her doctor concerned with her weight?  Is she able to be active and move and interact?  Many kids around the tween and teen years become virtual bottomless pits for food, and it is completely normal.  If that is the case here, then all cutting her off is going to accomplish is creating bad feelings between you, have her sneaking food, and/or starving her.  None of those is a great idea.  You need to find a middle ground - healthy foods she can eat when she feels hungry, teaching her about making good food choices and how to satisfy her body, and not leaving a mess for you to clean up. 

 

Here are 2 drastically different examples of food control during the formative years and how it shakes down.  My DH was raised in a household where food was strictly regimented.  He was allowed to eat X amount at Y time, and no more.  When he entered the army after HS he was severely underweight and malnourished because he had not been getting enough food for his growth pattern. He gained 50 lbs in boot camp to get to a healthy weight.  After the army he went the other direction, as 20ish boys tend to do when they discover they have a great metabolism and extra cash.  When his metabolism shifted, he didn't change his eating patterns, and gained a fair bit of weight.  To this day he needs 3 substantial meals/day or he gets cranky.  I make sure he always has food on hand, although we make better choices now.  But he will literally eat anything I put in front of him without question because of his years of being deprived.  He doesn't turn down food, ever.

 

The other side of that was that I was raised in a household with no controls on the food.  At 12 I took on the task of doing the grocery shopping because there was no one else to do it.  What do you think your average 12 yo is going to come home from the grocery store with? Junk food.  Frozen pizza, chips, mac & cheese, PB&J... the things that don't require cooking and will keep in the pantry/freezer between the once monthly shopping trips.  Not a whole lot of fresh fruit/veggies involved in our diets back then.  The result was a (so far) lifelong battle with my weight, some pretty severe damage to my health, and compulsive eating habits.  To this day I have difficulty having anything in the house that I'm not "allowed" to eat.  My DH had to learn not to bring home his treats because I could not control myself around them.  It's not a matter of me being childish or not having will power or strength of character or whatever you want to call it.  I just cannot control myself around certain foods, so I control my environment as best I can - I keep those foods out of the house. 

 

We are both hypoglycemic though.  He gets it really badly in the mornings - if he doesn't eat soon after getting up then he's a bear all day.  I'm the other way - I have to eat something before bed or I can't even function by morning.  For either one of us, "closing" the kitchen is never an option, nor will it ever be something I consider for a child, for that exact reason. 

 

So obviously you don't want either of these examples for your child.  I'm just pointing out that whereas my DH's mother thought she was doing what was right for her kids, she did a lot of damage.  And my dad was the same way, he thought he was doing right, and a lot of damage resulted.  All of us would have been much better off by discussing food, learning about food and proper diet, learning to listen to our bodies, learning how our bodies work and communicate with us.  These are not intuitive things in our culture.  But if you can help your children learn these things about themselves, you may very well learn something important about them too.  Maybe your daughter is a compulsive eater, and if you don't want her eating it then it needs to not come into the house.  But maybe she's hypoglycemic and is feeling light-headed and needs to eat something right before bed.  Or maybe she's in a growth spurt or having high activity days and just needs more fuel to keep going.  You aren't going to know that without helping her to find the words and the awareness to communicate it.  And ultimately I think that will be far better for everyone than the path you're walking right now of getting mad at her for "sneaking" food. 

 

HTH


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