It started off with this new school that J and E were attending. Each time after school, J would waaaiiiiiilllll out loud that he’s hungry the very instant he sees me or my helper. Such incessant chanting of being hungry would ensue the whole 7mins of our walk back home. After a good whole week of such behaviour, I resolved to look into this matter to understand the meaning of his statement.
Was he hungry because there was insufficient snack given in school? I continued my observation for another week or so. After a sufficient period, it became clear that what had started off innocently enough as a real state of hunger became a habit of complaint which grew into a painful demand of instant gratification to be met.
Wait, before I continue, let me list a sample of our mealtime routine.
- 7am- Breakfast ( 1 big bowl of oats or 3slices of kaya and cheese bread with milo)
- 9.30am- (a banana or one pc of snack )
- 11am- Lunch (1 plate of rice with fish and mixed vegetables with Tau Kwa )
- 1pm- School break ( could be 1 or 2nd helping bowl of noodles/slices of bread)
- 3.15pm- Tea time ( Fruits and biscuits or bread)
- 6.30m- Dinner (3 side dishes with a soup and rice)
This is our NEW mealtime routine ever since the kids wake up together with my eldest who has to go to Primary School. We didn’t have the 9.30am break last year.
Someone please, tell me, why do they get hungry so easily and eat round the clock???
In the light of the above, it would not be wrong to presume J can’t be too hungry right? Granted, he is highly energetic and an intense kid who does everything with such zest and vigour, whatever food he took would’ve been digested in a flash. I however doubt that would be the same for my lil bunny girl who also started to complain of being hungry to the point where both would whine piteously till we reached home.
The big giveaway that this has developed into a habit – once the duo reached home, they would chat eagerly with A and forget their teatime! Another area, that of discontent became apparent when J started asking, “Huh? One bread ONLY??!!! WHY????…..”. Then the sulk and pout and mummy you’re torturing me look. You see, along the way, as a modern mum who values healthy and nutritional food, started to give a variety of snacks (e.g. 2 pcs of fruits, a bsicuit and a few raisins) for teatime. Nothing big in quantity but I realised a mistake in being spoilt for choices. On days when I give less, the whining slips in.
Nowadays, in our pursuit for our ideals, I brainstorm what to feed my kids, how not to repeat the menu so that it would be nutritious and varied for the body and appetite. In the process, I lost the value of teaching my kids the importance of delayed gratification and contentment. Looking at what other mums have so splendidly prepared their lunchboxes for their kids, I too wanted to give them the ‘best’.
Only when faced with 2 whining and discontented, ungrateful kids did I snap out of my idealist mode. How many times were we told in the past we should be grateful to have food on our plates? Why do I need to feed them so many times a day? Why can’t they have the same thing for snacks?
What followed was a firm resolution made. J and E will have to tell me only once that they are hungry and wait till they reach home for their snack. If they start their whining and complaining, they would have to skip tea and wait till dinner is served instead. J tested the boundaries and I had to follow through my consequence. We had more than an hour of tug of war. He threw into an angry fit and demanded his teatime while I stood my ground and asked him to calm down by drawing or reading a book (read point Point 5 ). I waited until he finally abided. It finally sunk in that I was not going to budge and he eventually took a book to read. Once he was calm, we reconciled and he obediently accepted his consequences and went to play. The thing is, he was able to last till 6.30 dinnertime and of course wolfed down his dinner gratefully. After dinner, I pointed out the fact that he was able to wait despite being hungry for a length of time.
After this episode? Fetching them from school became such a sweet journey of discussing what he had learnt from school. Yeah! No more tears!
Henceforth, I also made it clear that when I serve a meal, he has to take it and if I said that was all, he has to accept it. Using this as a teachable moment, I explained that when we say grace, we thank God for the food, we will be grateful, we will not complain of the lack of food or the lack of variety. Whatever is served should be taken with gratitude. Otherwise, whatever food they have shall be taken away as well.
On another occasion, I shared Luke 4: 4 on Jesus’ temptation and how he had gone without food for 40days and was hungry. Yet he resisted the temptation to listen to the evil one and used God’s words as his source of strength.
Dueteronomy 8:4 that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
I was amazed how the Holy Spirit worked in J as he nodded in agreement and was awed that Jesus could go hungry for so long! He then waited patiently for his breakfast to be served instead of whining why breakfast was late. The very day, I randomly selected a worship song and we were pleasantly surprised to find that very verse speaking to us!
Click here for the song.
Meanwhile, I am still figuring out how to strike a balance of feeding them food in such a way that it nourishes the body while instilling the value of contentment.
This also served as a precious lesson for my own habit of eating as well. We can learn from Paul’s example below. There’s a time for everything. When we have aplenty, we rejoice and enjoy. When we have less, we can still be content.
Philipians 4: 12-13
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
How do you teach contentment to your kids? : ) Do share your stories!
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