When trying to build good habits in your kids, is it better to enforce strict mealtimes or let them eat when hungry?
That's the question that's driving one couple up a wall. Dad thinks their six kids, aged three through 12, should eat if they're hungry. Mom thinks a routine is paramount. The dad took to Reddit to ask who's in the wrong.
The food issue is a real sticking point for their family:
Me and my wife fight over very few things. Food is the main culprit. My wife is a strong believer in breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack before bed and that's it. I'm a firm believer in eat whenever you're hungry.
It's now coming to a head:
This has always been a problem, but it was never really discussed. Recently she's been getting overly angry about it, but I can't see what the problem is. I'm not going to make my kids go hungry because dinner is in a hour. If they're hungry, let them eat.
He says the kids have no issue finishing their dinner:
She also complains that they won't finish their dinner if I let them eat before. Our kids have never in their life left anything on their plates. Most days they finish theirs and steal half of mine.
If this was causing problems at meal time I'd get it, but in my eyes she just wants to constrict when out kids eat (and as someone who grew up in a household like that, it f***** me up pretty bad).
He says one of their children sobs with hunger:
It's even gotten to the point where I've come home from work to my second youngest (now five, although it's been happening since he was four) laying on the floor sobbing because he was hungry.
And his older children are hoarding food:
My older four already know what she's doing upsets them and she's the one holding food away. My younger two are just angry and hungry. I do want to talk to her about maybe setting up a better eating schedule, though.
The food the kids do get is precisely weighed out:
She's all for nutrition, and she follows a guide from the doctors, like each meal they have is precisely weighed. I think they wouldnt be half as hungry if she gave them filling food for once.
Their friends can't agree on who's in the wrong:
I've spoken to our mutual friends, and they all seem to think I don't get a say because she cooks and buys the food. Friends that are only mine seem to think, while she's being unfair, she's building character in the kids.
I think she's gonna wind up giving them eating disorders.
Either way, I don't really have anyone on my side besides the kids themselves.
The people of Reddit agree that if his kids are literally crying from hunger, something is terribly wrong with the family's current approach.
PugRexia says the mom might be underestimating how much food her kids need:
Growing kids can eat ALOT, I know when I was little I'd mow through food like no one's business and I was a skinny kid. I think a blend of both your and her approaches is good. Structured meal times is a good thing but healthy snacks in between is equally good. I give your wife alot of props though, 6 kids is alot to manage and I can understand why she wants structure.
JustLooking4aBit says both parents are in the wrong for letting things get this far:
[Everyone sucks here]. Without a doubt. [...]
You stated you know when your youngest are “pain crying” for food. This is not okay. Children should never be so hungry they are in physical pain AND still be denied food.
You admitted your oldest is now hoarding food they spend their own money on hiding it under their bed. They are already developing a food/eating disorder.
And svenson_26 agrees they need to figure something out ASAP:
Both you and your wife. You need to agree on a solution. They aren't malnourished. They aren't starving. It's not going to kill them if they get a bit too hungry an hour before dinner, unless they have health conditions like diabetes. That being said, is it worth it that your kids get to the point of tears just so that everyone can eat dinner at the agreed-upon time? Probably not.
But what's certain is you aren't doing them any favours if you go behind your wife's back and give the kids mixed messages. You and your wife need to reach some sort of compromise.
NorthernLitUp says the dad needs to step in no matter what the mom says:
Your wife has serious issues. I understand not letting them eat chocolate a half hour before dinner but that's not what we're talking about here. You need to step in on behalf of your kids. I don't know what you can do, but perhaps a visit with your wife to the childrens doctor is in order to discuss this.
And dr-sparkle sums it up:
Unless your kids are significantly overweight, there's no reason to restrict their food if they are finishing their meals. (Barring allergies or medical reasons). The only character she's building is a potential eating disorder or unhealthy eating down the road.
So there you have it. Whatever schedule the family ends up settling on, these kids clearly need more food.
Hope the parents can figure it out.