How to Deal With Constant Requests for Snacks

Dear Kid Whisperer,


Snacking. My kids are eating 24/7. We have plenty to do, but everything we do needs a snack to go with it. I also don’t want to give my kids eating complexes. I’m trying to balance it out. I need phrases to get them through to the next meal. We do have a mid-day snack every day, but they want dessert after every meal, too! -Mary, Louisville, KY




What your kids want is utterly and completely irrelevant as it relates to when and how often they eat.


You should set limits regarding food according to what you think is healthy according to your own value structure.


How will your kids react to this?


The same way all humans react when they want to eat something, and they are unable to eat it: They will become frustrated.


This is none of your concern.


To be crystal clear: if your reaction to this is, “But they will be upset by me setting this limit, so I don’t want to do that,” you have major, serious, and potentially life-threatening misconceptions about kids and parenting that are likely going to destroy your kids and you.


If you are having this thought, here’s a quick primer. Young kids cannot make decisions about important issues such as food intake and safety because they do not have enough life knowledge and because they do not yet have fully-functioning brains.


Here’s how I would set limits with your kids regarding mealtimes. I don’t know your values relating to food, so I will just plug in my own. You should replace my rules with yours, but yours cannot be influenced by the whims of sugar-crazed kids. Their whims are bad. Allow what you think is best for your kids.


Kid Whisperer: Oh, my loves, I think I owe you an apology. I’ve been trying to make you all happy by allowing you to eat food that is unhealthy, and I have been allowing you to eat at times when you shouldn’t be eating, and eating foods that you shouldn’t eat.


Kid #1: Wait. What’s going on?


Kid Whisperer: From now on, you will have an opportunity to eat three times a day, during what we call “Breakfast,” “Lunch,” and “Dinner.” Dessert will be available three times a week. No other eating opportunities will be made available.


Kid #2: What about mid-day brunch?


Kid Whisperer: What did I say?

Kid #3: What about high tea?


Kid Whisperer: What did I say?


Kid #1: Licorice Wednesday?


Kid Whisperer: What did I say?


Kid #2: Midnight Prime Rib?


Kid Whisperer: What did I say?


Kid #3: What if we just take the food out of the refrigerator whenever we want it?


Kid Whisperer: It would feel strange to put locks on the refrigerator and cupboards, but I suppose I would have no choice.


Kid #1: But that’s not fair!!!


Kid Whisperer: I don’t know what to tell you. I love you guys.


Kid Whisperer walks away.


Calmly setting and enforcing limits according to your own personal values is healthy. Allowing kids control over areas of life that they are not yet ready to control is unhealthy. Getting into unwinnable power struggles with kids creates dysfunction and needless, continual conflict. Set the healthy limit once and then follow through with calm enforcement.