Ever have a kid not eat dinner, or not eat enough dinner?

Children who don’t eat enough can strike fear into a mother’s heart.

It’s not just that our kids might get hungry (although that thought certainly tugs at our maternal heartstrings) or that we feel like it’s our duty to keep our kids well nourished (it is) but with hunger comes the child monster meltdown – the irrational, screaming, crying, can’t-be-calmed kid who makes us want to tear our hair out.

Making sure your kids never feel hungry might be making your life more difficult than you realize.

It seems like keeping kids full is tantamount to keeping them happy, but in practice it undermines your effort to teach them to eat right.

Consider letting your children feel hungry.  (I don’t mean starve them, or make them weak from malnourishment.)  Temporary hunger can be a good thing.  Here are 10 reasons why.

1) Toddlers need to learn to connect the feeling (pangs in their tummies) with the problem (hunger) and the solution (eating).  If they never feel hungry, they’ll never learn this connection.

2) Kids who are allowed to get hungry eat better at meals.  They’ll sometimes even eat their veggies!

3) Kids who never feel hungry, never really know when they’re full – until they’re stuffed.  If they start eating when they are less hungry they won’t stop until they’re more full because it’s the change in states from start to finish that helps to signals satiation.

4) Kids who learn they can “survive” short-term hunger don’t learn to fear hunger (a feeling that leads many adults to overeat).

5) Kids who are allowed to get hungry have an easier time distinguishing between physical and emotional hunger (because they’ve experienced physical hunger) and are less likely to soothe their soul with food.

6) Parents who let their kids feel hunger, allow them to choose whether or not to eat. This gives their children appropriate control over eating.  Control is often what the eating struggle is all about.

7) Parents who are willing to let their children feel hunger recognize that their kids might not be hungry after all.  By erring on the side of caution, they don’t teach their kids to overeat.

8) Parents who are comfortable with their kids’ hunger don’t let them snack too much.  Snacking is the primary way Americans overeat and become overweight.

9) Parents who let their children go hungry after a skipped meal teach their children a valuable lesson: that hunger is the consequence of not eating. Toddlers don’t automatically know this.

10) Parents who don’t fear their kids’ hunger aren’t manipulated into being short-order cooks.

Teach your kids to eat right by showing them when, why and how much to eat.  Sometimes a little bit of hunger goes a long way.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~