In the past few weeks, there have been quite a few posts on here about food hoarding, sneaking food, and the frustration that parents face, when dealing with such behaviors. For some children there is a legitimate fear of running out of food, so they stash some just in case, while for other children, sneaking treats is nothing more than a control battle.
This is something that we have dealt with in our own home for quite some time. When my adopted stepson was very young, there was often very little food. While he always had something to eat, there were quite a few times in his young life, when what was available for consumption was not necessarily desirable, nor filling, so when we first began finding food wrappers in his room, I assumed that he had a fear of not getting enough to eat, even though our cabinets were always stuffed with plenty of good things to eat.
However as time went on, it seemed to be more of a control issue. It is still unclear if the behavior of him taking food is a control battle in the sense of he isn’t going to allow others to tell him when and what he can and cannot eat, or a control issue in the sense that he has extremely poor impulse control and if there is no one to see him do something, he is going to do it. If he wakes up in the morning for school, and no one is in the kitchen, he doesn’t think twice about going through the cabinet and eating an entire box of granola bars, or perhaps an entire package of cookies, which is as frustrating as it is expensive.
The last time I went into the cabinet, only to discover empty packages of snacks that had just been bought, I had run out of cheeks to turn, and gathered up all the prepackaged snacks and set them on the counter. I retrieved a box from the garage, and called my adopted stepson into the kitchen and asked him to help me put all the snacks in the box. While we did that I explained to him that I was tired of having this issue, and he began to well up saying that he was too, but didn’t know why he kept doing it.
I told him that this was not a punishment, this was the only solution that I could come up with since neither of us could figure out why he keeps taking so much food at every chance he gets. There are always fruits, veggies, cheeses, lunch meat, yogurt, apple sauce, and other such treats available, yet those are never raided, it is the junk, so the prepackaged junk was leaving, not just for him but for everyone, we will simply no longer keep in lying around the house. After we finished packing up the junk food, we went food shopping together to pick up some snacks for the house that were not going to land anyone in the dog house.
All their snacks are now foods that must be prepared, which I was worried about at first as that adds quite an extra load onto my plate, but it has worked out beautifully so far I must admit. No longer are we finding empty wrappers stuffed into every conceivable crevasse in his room, but his complaint of being hungry all the time has gone away as well. Instead of coming home and having a junkie snack, and then sneaking snack after snack that does nothing to fill him up, he comes home and I make the two of them a nice hearty snack, that keeps their belly full until dinnertime. Part of his issue seemed to be legitimate hunger, yet his poor impulse control was not allowing him to make good food choices, leaving him consistently hungry no matter how many calories he stuffed into his face.
Now that the temptation of the prepackaged snacks are gone, I have noticed that the entire family is eating less, yet is not constantly hungry, many of us it would seem, were eating for the sake of eating. Now before I get bashed up and down for denying my children the pleasure of oatmeal cream pies, cookie bars, or sticky sweet sodas, let me assure you that part of this deal of removing the junk food is that they still get these snacks, just not entire boxes of them. Once or twice a week, after my adopted stepson and I pick up the little guy from school, we stop at 7-11 and they may pick out a drink and a snack. They really seem to enjoy this, it seems to make the snack that much more special. The two of them roam through the isles carefully inspecting the candy, donuts, and chips, eyes filled with excitement as they scan the packages until they gaze upon that one that sets their heart all a flutter.
For us, our battle with food sneaking has only ceased when we removed the temptation from the home, without removing their favorite treats from their lives. So far everyone seems happy, as well as less hungry, and I am enjoying preparing their after school snacks much more than I initially anticipated. It makes me feel wonderful to whip something up for them while they sit and do homework, and has allowed us to form a wonderful, relaxing routine in the afternoons. Who knew prepackaged foods could be so dangerous to have around the home, and that a home could be so much more harmonious without them!