Is it weird that my kids ask for food in their own house?

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

I am an unapologetic food controller. I didn't even realise this was a thing until recently, when my friend Jane was over at my house and she commented on my children asking me if they could have a snack.

"Doesn't everyone control the eating that goes on in their house?", I wondered.

"No," was Jane's baffled but simple response.

It's always been this way in my home. I have three children and I've been parenting for 15 years now, and my kids have always come to me and asked if they can have something to eat. 

My eldest child has always been an excellent and adventurous eater, so I'm probably more free and easy with snacks when it comes to him, but my other two are fussy eaters, and the last thing I want is for them to hit the dinner table with a belly full of Jatz and no appetite for broccoli.

But is this weird? Am I alone here?

I realised it's a question I couldn't answer, because it's not something I've ever thought to discuss before, so I set off on an investigation to see who is the weird parent, me or Jane. 

I put the call out on social media so that everyone could tell me I was doing it right, and Jane was clearly a snack anarchist who had no control over her unruly children, but that's not exactly what ended up happening.

Sure, there were a few of those:

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"I'd never let my children loose unsupervised in the kitchen," said Melbourne mum of two Kate. "It would be like a swarm of locusts had been through within five minutes – I'd never regain control."

And Miranda, a Sydney mum of four children aged from 10 down to two, said, "If I didn't regulate food in my house, nobody would eat the meals I prepare and we'd be trapped in that grazing headspace forever."

Miranda has struggled with her two oldest children particularly, to get them to a point where they'll sit down to eat a proper meal rather than just wanting to snack or graze all day long.

"There's a reason there's an adult in charge," she said. "Children don't know what's best for themselves. If we let them run the show it would be Tim Tams and TV until midnight every day."

But Jane had her share of supporters too. 

"How are they going to learn if you don't give them the chance to make their own decisions?" asked Hayley, a Brisbane mum of two. "If you can't trust them to make small choices like this, how are they going to build up their confidence to decide on things that really matter?"

Derek, a Sydney dad of one agreed, and added, "If you're worried about what food choices they're making in their own home, perhaps you need to look at the shopping choices you're making."

Touché, Derek, and ouch. (Also, you try finding a decent place to stash your secret chocolate when you have three crafty amateur detectives living at your house. And there are limited places you can hide ice cream.)

My amateur vox pop ended up showing about 60% of my friends let their kids have free access in the kitchen, and the other 40% are gate-keepers like me. 

And although I can see the merit of my kids learning to make decisions for themselves, I'm also all about showing them how to make good food choices and eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables (and not so much of the caramel popcorn). I'm not sure when my era of food control will end, but as long as it's here, I'll keep enforcing some healthy eating rules.

Before I know it they'll be off and eating whatever they like. I can only hope these years of healthy eating stick just a little bit.