Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"But I'm too full for dessert!": and dealing with pressure from family/friends

When we were with family last month, we did things a little different. I try to follow the general flow of others when we are staying with family or friends. I don't ask for dessert with the meal for example. (I do, however stick up for my child if she is being pressured to eat something or limited-and I will give a few examples at the end of the post.)

Well, we had wonderful foods, and occasionally we would have dessert. It often wasn't decided until the meal was almost over what and if dessert would be...

Poor M... A couple times she would finish eating and then our hostess would bring out these delicious little yogurts. I remember her crying, "But my tummy is too full for dessert! I want dessert, why didn't you tell me there was dessert!"

I didn't want to impose serving a child-sized portion of dessert with the meal as we often do at home (in fact, M has gotten pretty good with food regulation-knowing how much to eat-that we often give her the choice of when to have her dessert at this point.)

So, I talked with the cook/main meal-planner before the meal to determine what she wanted to do for dessert. I then told M before the meal if there was dessert so she could "save some room." This seemed to work out fine. I wasn't sure how it would go, but I remained curious, stayed true to the Division of Responsibility, and it worked out pretty well. (I often was happy for her to have "dessert" yogurt since she is still not a big milk drinker and we try to offer other sources of calcium-rich foods.)

It showed me again though, that she is listening to her body. She did not stuff it in just to enjoy the dessert. We also remained flexible and curious to see how things would go. We don't always get things right the first time :)

A few examples of pressure you might encounter and what you might say:

grampa: "If you take that piece of toast, you have to finish it all."
you say: "Actually Dad, that's not how we do it. Please follow my lead. Billy, why don't we start with half a piece, and if you're still hungry you can have more."

waitress: "You can't have dessert sweetie, until you finish your broccoli!" (really!)
you: "You are getting no tip." (just kidding)
try: "We're doing just fine here. Please bring her dessert now. Thank you."

gramma: "Let's hide his bottle. He's distracted. He eats too much and haven't you heard that obese babies will be fat adults and die before you and get diabetes and, and, and ..."
you: "Gramma, we like to let little Timmy decide when he's done eating. He'll let us know. May I have his bottle back, please?"

Uncle Bob: "You'll hurt Betty's feelings if you don't eat any of her sauce."
you: "Oh, Bob, that's silly! We love Aunt Betty, and thank her for making dinner, but we don't eat anything we don't want to. I'd like some sauce, please."

School: "You have to eat at least half your main food before you can have dessert."
see post... on teaching kids to overeat

how do you deal with it when family/friends/teachers pressure your child with his eating?


  1. The comment about the bottle brought to mind my 6 year old who would rather drink all her liquids then not eat any solids. Do you have any tips on this? Typically drinks are water and/or soy milk (as that is what we serve). She seems not to have this issues with these liquids, but if she is in a place where she has juice or chocolate milk, she will satisfy her appetite with that and then eat nothing else. Problem? Let it go?

    I'm still working out this division of responsibility and am pretty shakey, worrying that she will not get the proper nutritional balance. For me the theory sings, and the practice makes me really anxious!

  2. Siobhan,
    You are like so many of my clients, they really understand and like the theory, but find that putting it into practice is much harder. It is truly a leap of faith. I liken it to a spiritual journey. You have to TRUST that it will work. Most parents lose their nerve. I'm getting ready to head off to a workshop, but may I add you post to my reader question list? This will become a twice-monthly regular post. It is difficult, because we do want to limit sweets, and sweet drinks can be very hard. So, continue most days to offer soy milk or water with meals or snacks, saving the sweeter drinks for the occasional snack. (I also water down juices.) A special snack might be popcorn and watered down lemonade. I also will let M have a cup or two of the juice, and then let he know that the next cup will be water. very neutral, matter of fact. That's a quick and dirty, but there is more to it! Good luck! Read through Satter's newlsetters, read as much of her books as you can. I'd love to get some kind of support group going with this... Primarily I am often that supporter who can help parents hang in there during the transition period...
    You're on your way!

  3. I'm thinking about telling my family to treat my kids as they would treat any adult guest they invite to their table. None of the comments listed in the article would ever be said to an adult guest at the table. Imagine saying to a guest: No dessert until you finish you're broccoli!

  4. Thank you, Katja, so much. And yes, please feel free to add to your reader question list. That would be great.

    Trust is the key. Other than watering down the juice (hadn't thought of that since they were babies), I do the rest of the things. Now to work really hard on the neutral and matter of fact approach. :D

    Thanks for the support!