I recently received a question about Radical Unschooling that I wanted to share.
“My daughter will constantly ask for food but not finish it or will ask for something, take a bite or two and then say she wants something else”
The overall reason why I wouldn’t make a big issue out of this is because I choose connection over a power struggle. I choose the make our relationship the first priority over worrying about “wasted” food. The cultural idea of wasted food is a very conditioned way to look at a situation like you shared. Our parents and their parents lived in a very different mindset about these things. It was very much “parent-led eating” back in their day. There were many reasons for this back then, but times were harder, money and food were scarcer and the authoritarian paradigm was prevalent.
Today I choose to meet my children where they are and get creative with the food that they do not eat.
I’ve used foods that they haven’t eaten in soups, or salads, for the next meal, if I don’t feel like eating their leftovers that day. Or I have placed what they didn’t eat in the fridge, or gave it to our pets. We also compost. It’s all part of the many ways in which we can recycle food. Unschooling is a time of rethinking so much! You can choose to rethink your beliefs surrounding food, meals and waste as well.
For dinner Tiff always takes more food than the other kids. She usually puts everything on her plate that she can fit. She never eats it all, but she loves the look and feel of abundance on her plate. She arranges it beautifully and enjoys the process of creation on her plate. I don’t try to change her, but support her in her needs. She enjoys feeling that she has more than enough. It is a very secure feeling to her. There are times when one of us will kindly ask her to leave enough of this or that for everyone else, which she does. Also, I will just wait and let everyone else take what they want because I know I can just eat the potatoes on her plate when she is finished.
I also think it is great that my kids DO leave food on their plates and only eat to fullness! Isn’t this something we strive to do as adults and often times fail because we were so conditioned as children to clean our plates to meet the needs of the adults around us? When my children tap into their true needs and instincts food is often left over. I really appreciate this as a sign they are being true to their body’s needs.
Our children are aware that as a culture we are very fortunate regards to food. We discuss poverty and starvation in the world and their gratitude for their life is apparent. They are very aware and compassionate children. I do not try to make my children feel bad for their abundance, nor do I guilt them into finishing what is on their plates to meet my needs which may be associated with my own cultural conditioning. I am always rethinking deeply held beliefs to connect more with my children.
Children often have a unique way of experiencing foods and eating. I embrace this about who my children are. I am the one who can choose to connect with them and find ways to get creative, or I can choose to force and coerce them to eat like I think they should. In turn this would cause negativity and power struggles over mealtimes and snacks which would damage our relationship and create lifelong issues with food for my children. Instead, I choose to observe their choices without judgement, help them get what they want and respect how they choose to interact with their food.
In my opinion no food is never “wasted”. If the money is already spent, what difference does it make whether or not you child eats it, or the raccoons and rats at the dump do? Seriously! I love the fact that we are feeding the wildlife and insects with whatever we do not eat. I never see anything my kids don’t finish as “waste”. I feel connected to every living thing and know we are feeding an extension of ourselves in whatever creature consumes what we don’t eat.
You’ll never hear me tell my Unschooled kids to “clean their plates”, or that there are “starving kids in China”, like many of us were told as children. I will always honor how much they choose to consume and then be joyful in giving our food back to the Earth in a respectful, loving way. The idea of waste does not need to exist if you can see that we are all One on this planet. My children know this, and I am grateful that they remind me of it everyday.