Reformed Grits

Anger, food, and being a mom
January 25, 2008, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Life

I sometimes will get emails from young(er) moms just starting out in the trek we call motherhood.  This is a question I got recently and wanted to share it and my response, with permission, in case anyone else may have something to add to this or may possibly be helped by it.  Sorry it’s so long!

Question:  I have been completely astounded by how different motherhood has been
from my expectations.  Mostly, I am completely blown away at how very
quickly I can get angry :(.  Anyways,… here’s an issue I’m wrestling
with _ like I said I have a 15 mth old and she’s very self-willed.  We
do spank, and she rarely cries when we do.  She will stop the undesired
behavior (for a time).  However, I’ve been reluctant to spank for
eating issues.  I don’t want to engage unnecessarily in battles.  She’s
not very willing to eat many different kinds of foods and even gets
angry when they are offered to her.  And, when she is tired of
something or just plain doesn’t want it anymore, she will launch it
across the room.  Needless to say, I’ve begun to approach mealtimes
with much trepidation.  I’ve suggested to my husband that we end
mealtime when she begins to get crabby in the highchair, but he is
reluctant b/c she doesn’t eat much to start with.  I think we are on
the verge of her just having too many choices in this area b/c we have
never put our foot down in this area.  Any thoughts?

And, are the toddler years as maddening for everyone or is it just me?

It’s interesting that you mention this as anger was something new I had never dealt with in my life.  I’ve never been an angry person.  My parents never lost their tempers.  It was very unexpected for me too.  With all the parenting books and seminars, etc. I went through I had this expectation that I would discipline once, and the behavior would disappear.  Not so.  Honestly someone needs to write a book that says that you have to do the exact same thing in parenting about 500 times before they get it. I look back now and see hard discipline times were more "phases" than anything else.  You go for a month or two drilling the same thing, and next thing you know you really aren’t even talking about it anymore because they aren’t doing it… and you didn’t even realize they quit.
As far as mealtimes, we used to make it a huge training session, and it was so stressful when we just wanted to have a nice meal.  I began to "train" at meals that daddy wasn’t there, and then at dinner when he was, I’d suggest calmly correcting her, while VERY firmly holding hands (NO, we don’t throw food.) and giving one more chance.  After that, if she throws a fit, I’d just calmly pick her up and resign her to her crib with the door shut until the meal was over.  She will not starve, I promise you, and she will learn that mealtime is for eating.  Yes, it will take time.  Maybe 500 times.  🙂  You mentioned you haven’t put your foot down as far as mealtime?  Exactly when do you think it will be easier to do so?  😉  Like I said, breakfasts and lunches I will make what they like within reason, but at dinner "I make what daddy likes" and if they don’t care to eat it, we don’t make a deal over it or force them to try it but they do have to sit with us.  It just got too stressful, and we tell them breakfast will be first thing in the morning.  They are allowed to say "no thank you" but we absolutely insist that they are respectful and don’t make a face or say "EW" or whatever.  When they have done this, I look at them in the eye and say kindly but not fakely, showing they’ve hurt my feelings, "I have been in the kitchen for quite a while cooking dinner for our family, and it hurts my feelings that you would say something so unkind when I have been doing this for you."  Especially once they get 4 or 5 or older and really just ADORE their mommy, this works so well!  They actually are learning to be respectful that way; but if you teach them to eat it and say thank you and act all nice as if they love it, I’m kinda thinking you are teaching them a wee bit of deceit??  JMO.  But eventually they will eat.  My almost 13 year old went to a friend’s house this week and had salad for the first time in his life.  EVER.  I was floored.  I asked why he ate it, and he said he didn’t want to hurt her feelings… and that it wasn’t bad.  And then, that night we had salad again at our house– and he asked for some!  SHOCK!  If I had forced him to eat "a little bit all along" I really think it would have been more of a stubborn issue for him and he would have insisted he didn’t like it.  But then I know the masses out there disagree with me.  Just what works for us. 
Sadly, as far as anger…the thing that makes anger easier to manage… is perspective.  Which is exactly what you and I don’t have when we are worn-out from chasing our first!  I have more now; but not enough for my almost 13 year old.  I figure I’ll be a much better mom to my youngest at 12 than I am to  my firstborn at 12 because of perspective.  What to let go; what to hold on to; what to laugh about. 
I will say, that I am not one to recommend books because I tend to lean towards the fact that all we need is God’s word.  BUT… one book that has helped give me some perspective is Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart.  One idea in that book that helped me let go of a tremendous amount of anger was this:  the wrong that our children do is not against us; it is not about us.  It is against God.  Our job is to come between and teach our children how to be in right relationship with their God.  The reason that helped me so much was that I remember in my head when my oldest would do something as a young one, over and over and over, I would think, "YOU will NOT do this to ME."  or "How DARE you do this (to me.)"  Etc… I had to change my thinking to, "Oh, son, your sin damages your relationship with Christ.  He came to die because of this sin.  Let’s change our behavior and ‘sin no more.’"  Obviously those words were not what I used, but that was the attitude of my heart in discipline.  It was very helpful.  I still have days that I have to remember this, consciously however. 
Parenting a toddler is really hard.  You can’t reason with them.  But as soon as you throw your temper back at them, you become like them, and to parent effectively you need to be the adult so that you can shepherd your child towards a relationship with Christ.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Please post all the parenting advice you’ve got!

Comment by kel

Looks like we’re not alone dealing with anger!

Comment by Meg

Kim, I agree with your answer 100% and would like to add just one thing. I recently found a fabulous cookbook called Deceptively Delicious. It is written by a mom of 3 kids who sneaks vegetable purees into the foods the kids love to eat–no more fighting over food. It has worked on my kids the last few days, I have successfully snuck cauliflower into the kids pizza, sweet potatoes into the pizza sauce and spinach into lasagna. It works, they get the vitamins and minerals they need and there is no fighting, “Eat your veggies!”
While being sneaky may not be a Christlike attribute, I think this works for moms.
Another thing to note to this mom, children often go through phases where they are just not as hungry, believe me, they will eat when they are ready, keep offering small tastes of lots of foods.
Wow, I didn’t mean this to be this long.

Comment by MaryLu

Great advice – and a very nice blog! I will be back to check you out again.

Comment by dlyn

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