For almost two weeks, I observed recurring unempty lunch boxes. As a parent who wakes up early every day to prepare her child’s food herself, that was frustrating. Especially if you diligently encourage your child to focus on eating instead of talking during lunch thus, showing gratitude to God for the blessings of abundant variety of baon.
The last straw was when I prepared her favorite sinigang and cut the meat in small pieces so she can eat faster only for her to come home with the box barely touched. I was very disappointed. I never thought I would administer spanking over food or eating habits, especially at her age of six. But repeated disobedience is the rationale behind it, ingratitude secondary.
“Grabe ka naman para mamalo just because of food!” some of you may think, but ‘stubborn’ eating habits to me reveal a deeper issue: stubbornness (disobedience) and ungratefulness in general.
My daughter may start to think its okay for her to not finish her food and disobey me because I let it pass—because I do not call her attention.
What she fails to see is that her food, the kind and amount, are prepared for her because her body needs it at the time she must eat. She is blessed to not wait for her stomach to growl before she eats or to looks for something to eat herself.
Secondly, she will not realize that food is a need provided by and also a blessing from God. Where children abound and beg on the streets, here she is taking her food for granted—just because there are a lot at home.
I used to be very strict with Gummy when she was younger when I was still building her palate and habits. But now that she is bigger and I have seen her self-control over the things she cannot eat at certain times, I have started to be more lenient by letting her choose her snacks – and yes, that includes chips, chocolates and candies.
In other words, she has her arsenal of junk food filling her that she has no appetite for real food. I realized that another problem was that I spoiled her a bit too much in that area. So we both had adjustments to make.
As a course of action towards resolving our problem, I decided to:
1. Pack all her treats in a bag to be given away to street dwellers—people who may never even get to taste those in their lifetime. It was painful for me to hear her cry in desperation asking me to not give away her chips and candies we both bought together. But I had to. This was to make her realize that when she does not value what she has, it may be taken away from her.
2. Feed her only three square meals per day—breakfast, lunch and dinner—because that is the reality in life; but if midday she will feel hungry she can get a banana or an apple. This is to allow her to feel hungry and make her appreciate the food we are blessed to have on our table. The goal is to also regain her appetite for real food.
3. Finally, on my end, I decided to control myself from buying her wants and emphasize the importance of valuing the “needs” first.
Parents, there will be so many times we need to put our foot down and be firm with decisions if it will be for our children’s highest good even if it is petty.
I know, it is equally heartbreaking to withhold some good things from them but we need that in order to prepare their hearts first to receive it. We need to take away what they take for granted to teach them value and appreciation of every single thing we have; to let them feel that agony, pain and frustration as a consequences of their choices so they will learn responsibility; to give them what they really need before what they want.
After a week of such changes, I saw an improvement in her eating. Hence, the cookie I treated her with. With that gesture, I wanted to show her the love of God—that though we are stubborn at times and we disobey and that though God allows us to endure the consequences of our actions, He loves us just the same, and He give us grace even when we do not deserve it. That is love.
My daughter knows though that her treat-detox is not over yet. She was just given grace to show my love and appreciation to her. Soon enough, I’m sure we will be shopping again for her favorites. But for now, she’s still on a strictly Mom-prepared diet.
May I ask you, what were the small ‘offenses’ that had big consequences for you as a parent?