WHEN RELATIVES SABOTAGE YOUR CHILD’S DIET

Every so often I receive a question that I think might be of interest to my readers. Sometimes I receive a question to which I simply do not have the knowledge or personal experience to provide a good answer. I’d like to start sharing some of these questions on my blog, in the hopes of generating dialogue and soliciting a variety of different viewpoints. My first such question comes from L., whose relatives are sabotaging her attempts to feed her children a Paleo diet.

Please note that all correspondence I receive is considered confidential unless I have received explicit permission from the sender to share it with my readers.

Dear One Fit Mom: What are your thoughts on how to deal with relatives who provide free child care but are reluctant to follow a parent’s wishes regarding nutrition?  I’ve tried to get them to understand, with no success. Many times when I come to pick up my kids, they have a peanut butter and jam sandwich or a cookie in hand. It drives me insane.

Grandma’s house is close by our house and she is always willing and able to watch kids for me. I am really thankful for this and I don’t want to come across as ungrateful. Some days I just want to tell her my kids are allergic to these things so that she’ll stop, but I can’t bring myself to lie.

If my kids really want a piece of toast or some ice cream, I’d rather it be my decision and not the grandparents’. It’s tough with all these treats, and with so many relatives who aren’t on board with Paleo. How can I help them understand how important this is to me, and stop them from feeding my children garbage?

L.

Dear L: That is such a tough dilemma! I am honestly very lucky that both my family and J’s are respectful of our dietary choices for Oliver. Though even if they weren’t, they all live out of town anyway, so it wouldn’t be an ongoing problem.

I guess my first suggestion would be to sit down with them and ask them (calmly, politely, unemotionally) why they are giving these foods to your children against your wishes. Maybe they don’t fully understand the concept of Paleo, and feel that they are providing what they consider to be “healthy” food. Maybe they feel that they know best because they already raised children who grew up healthy, and are feeding your children the same things they fed theirs. Maybe they feel that you are somehow depriving your children of foods that children ought to be allowed to have, and so they think they’re doing the kids a favour. Maybe they feel that it’s their job to “spoil” their grandchildren. Understanding why they are doing what they’re doing would be the first step in trying to change the behaviour.

Perhaps they just need some more explicit guidance. Would it help if you gave them a written list of approved and prohibited foods, to which they could refer if they had any questions?

Would they be offended if you sent your own lunches and snacks for your children?

I can certainly see how you are in a difficult position, not wanting to seem unappreciative for all of their childcare help by criticizing what they’ve been feeding your kids!

Dear One Fit Mom…                                                                   Source: http://www.unlimitednovelty.com

What would you suggest to L? How can she get her relatives on board with her children’s nutrition plan without seeming ungrateful for their help? Or should she just accept that her kids will eat what they eat when they’re in their grandparents’ care?

4 responses to “WHEN RELATIVES SABOTAGE YOUR CHILD’S DIET

  1. I think One Fit Mom is right. It sounds like they are just not educated enough about Paleo to truly understand. I do think it’s best to approach the situation with love, and explain to them that it really hurts your feelings that they are refusing to abide by your nutritional guidelines and that you would like to know why they continue to do so. Maybe after that door is open, in a way that does not put them on the defensive, you can begin to educate about why you are making these nutritional decisions.

    I do wish you luck, L. It’s a difficult position to be in but the best way to resolve it is through communicating.

  2. Yarg! That has to be difficult to deal with. When I have to deal with family, or those I have a vested interest in keeping the peace with, I’ll often use statements that begin with, “The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends….” or “The Health Canada guidelines are…” that way it’s not *me* being insane or overly particular. We’re just trying to follow these wacky new guidelines to keep our children healthy. 🙂 Going through the fridge with her and giving ideas of easy foods she could serve would likely help. Packing food is a good idea too.

    In hindsight, it has been somewhat of a good thing that our first was very intolerant of eggs and gluten. She just had to yarf white pasty stuff on the family floor once for the extended family to stop nagging us about giving her bread, cookies and other stuff. I suspect the temptation to feed kids “normal” food increases if there is no immediate reaction (no harm done, right?).

  3. Lol- I don’t know how many times I have been tempted to lie about my children having a food allergy. I have, however, taken advantage of ailments that my kids have and blaming it on culprit food. They have diarrhea because they can’t tolerate dairy anymore. They have a skin rash because they are intolerate to grains….
    Although, I really wish that my family stayed 100% Paleo with my children, I know that even if the occasional treat slips in, my kids still eat a wonderful diet 99% of the time. I am learning that I have to be ok with this. My oldest daughter (now 7) will come home from play dates telling me of the sugar and grains she ate. I usually stay quiet. I am trying to let my kids figure out from their bodies that certain foods are not good for them. They know that eating grains, dairy and sugar are not good for them…and they usually pay for it later on with tummy distress. I don’t like my kids to make themselves sick, but I will not always be able to control their diet, so letting them figure it out on their own is the next best thing for me! 🙂

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