It might shock some people that my children can choose whatever they want from the supermarket, just like I do. Our financial limits vary from month to month, but within our budget, they have the freedom to choose what they want for snacks and meals. They will very often take their own cart and just go off and shop themselves. I love this aspect of the Radical Unschooling life!
Honesty and balance are important values to me in the relationship with my children. During a recent interview about Unschooling, the interviewer told me that her child once wanted some candy at the store. She suggested an apple and told her child that he would get sick if he ate the candy. Personally, I would never say something that was not true or exaggerate to my child as a means to control them with fear to sway them in their choices. It isn’t in alignment with Radical Unschooling philosophy.
For my kids, some candy would not make them sick. In fact, if I said that to them and they ate it and did not get sick, how would that affect the trust between us in the future? I know they wouldn’t take what I said as truth very much after that, knowing that the “information” that I was giving them was false and a means of control.
I believe that any foods in moderation are fine for our bodies. I know there are people with allergies and food intolerance’s and I am not talking about those people here. I know there are exceptions to everything. Right now, I am sharing about my children who are healthy, happy and thriving who have real freedom with the foods that they choose to put in their bodies.
What is interesting to me about how some parents process freedom surrounding foods is that they tend to think in extremes with fear as the backdrop. If children have had food restrictions and limits and have been controlled in the past, and then suddenly these restrictions are lifted, the natural response is overindulgence with the foods that were taboo.
The children do not know when and if the restrictions will be reinstated, so they get as much as they can struggling for their own autonomy. A grocery cart filled with candy, cakes, soda and chips would more than likely be what their choices would be. This image is what most in our culture think of when they think of Unschoolers with food freedom. In our experience with four Radical Unschooling children with food freedom, this is not the case at all!
Children raised in the Radical Unschooling philosophy who have true food freedom make very different choices than the average child. Just like you and I have the freedom to choose what we eat and we do not fill our carts with candy, cakes, chips and soda, neither do children with true food freedom.
When Unschooled kids are allowed to tap into their own inner knowing and bodily cravings and they know about their bodies and what nourishes them, they can make choices in what they are just drawn to. I believe that this is the healthiest, most organic way to raise my children surrounding food. A healthy, balanced person with freedom to choose does not make unhealthy choices. It wouldn’t make sense to my kids to not eat a balanced, healthy diet. They love and respect their bodies and crave and desire fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, protein and also sugars.
Another important thing that I would like to share is that I do not blame my children’s “behavior” on certain ingredients in foods like so many parents in our culture today do. So much is blamed on foods and I believe this attitude is so unhealthy for the parent/child relationship. I feel that the parents aren’t taking the responsibility for their role in their children’s behavior and are using foods as a catch-all blame bucket. Parents today are desperately trying to control what their kids eat in an attempt to control them. A more respectful way to parent, in my eyes, would be to focus on the needs under a child’s behavior, instead of trying to control behavior with food restrictions and limits.
Honesty and trust are paramount to a Radical Unschooling life and a child having a healthy, balanced relationship with foods. I personally do not have fears, or taboos with certain foods like many people in our culture today do. There is nothing off-limits to my family. The entire grocery store is our buffet and we choose from everything there, without limiting ourselves when we enter. We love farmers markets and we have a very large garden that the kids help with and enjoy also. We love food and trust our bodies.
I think coming to this place in life surrounding foods and how I respect my kids choices is a combination of things. It is my personal beliefs surrounding my body and the foods that I put in it. It is the trust I have of my children’s choices. I give information about foods and my children have the freedom to choose what they want based on their knowledge and what they are drawn to and craving.
I think when people envision Unschooling and children having food freedom they are basing their image on the distrusting, disrespectful ideas that most people have of children’s choices. Most people have never witnessedtruly free children. They are basing their beliefs on children with limits and controls which may have been temporarily lifted. Kids are often looked at as not capable, or experienced enough to know what is good for them and what isn’t. I believe that children are so much closer to balance then adults are because of the fearful mixed messages and conflicting ideas surrounding food in our society that we have been conditioned with.