Before I had children I was certain that they would not be allowed sweets, chocolates, junk food and most of all fizzy drinks. I believed those things were not healthy and bad for your body and I was going to ensure my children knew this from a young age. I even banned my husband from having certain food and drink in the house. “We are their role models and they need to see us eating and drinking healthy at all times!” Was one of my arguments. All was fine until Rayne started asking for fruit shoots and sweets at soft play centres and she was no longer happy with eating the separate food I had brought for her at children’s parties. I relaxed a little and let her have certain things when she asked but there were some things that I definitely was not going to say yes to. These things included cola and fast foods. I felt strongly (and still do to some extent) that these things are bad for our bodies and there was no way my children were going to put these terrible things in their precious bodies. I naively thought because I didn’t like drinking cola, my children wouldn’t want to either.
I remember the first time Rayne saw cola, she was 4 and all of her cousins were drinking it. She asked for some and before she had a chance to take a sip I said “ no darling, cola isn’t good for you, have some water instead”. A few months later she was asking her cousins for sips of their cola when I wasn’t around and they were keeping it a secret from me. Similarly, every time she asked for fast food I would give her a big lecture about how unhealthy it is and how their adverts and bus stop signs are designed to make us want it blah blah blah!
So what happened I hear you ask… She kept asking! My lectures and role modelling were not working, in fact, it just made her want it more! I realised that my many years of experience and decision making was not enough for Rayne to not want something and she needed to figure things out for herself with no guilt or shame attached. So to help understand, I have a few questions for you; Do you ever want something you cannot have? What would you do if you had the opportunity to have that thing? Would you take it or leave it? If you took it would you enjoy it with no guilt or shame or would you feel really bad afterwards and tell yourself you shouldn’t have had it? Where does that guilt and/or shame come from?
I don’t want my children to feel that guilt or shame when they are enjoying something they really fancy. I definitely do not want them to hide what they are eating or drinking from me because they know I will disapprove. Lastly, I do not want them to go on massive binges when they are older on things that were restricted as kids.
Taking away the restrictions does not mean I have stopped cooking fresh healthy meals or that I have replaced fruit and healthy snacks for sweets and chocolates in my weekly shop. What it does mean is that if we are passing a McDonalds and Rayne says she really fancies a burger, instead of giving her a massive lecture as to why she cannot have one I will say “yes” with no guilt or shame attached. It will also mean that I will pick up a bar of her favourite chocolate or grab Rose some of her favourite sweets when I am popping into a shop for bread and milk and I will ensure I have some loose change in my purse if we are going somewhere with a vending machine so they can choose a drink of their choice.
Since truly taking away restrictions about a month ago, Rayne has bought about 5 bottles of cola, all within the first 2 weeks. She did not manage to finish one of them and even said she didn’t want it as it made her feel sick but she was buying it because it felt exciting to be allowed something she hadn’t been allowed before! She hasn’t asked for cola at all this week! Rose actually had less restrictions than Rayne from the start due to being my second child and having easier access to things her sister was eating and interestingly, she is more likely to choose a carrot stick or pear over sweets and chocolates! Also, Sy is now happy he can eat and drink what he wants so it is a win all round!
What has been one of your biggest challenges while deschooling? I would love to hear from you…