Parenting struggles… oh don’t we all have them. I have LOTS of struggles, just like any other moms on this planet. I don’t know about you but there is one thing that I struggle with my little daughter; and that is her constant demands for snacks throughout.the.day.

In fact, I have been struggling with this for months, maybe even years.

It is driving me INSANE!

She comes home from school and she looks at the snack stash cabinet
She comes home from school and she checks out the snack stash cabinet. I know how it looks dangerous and all, but she has been very good at staying safe while climbing..

Believe me, I have tried so many things to help her cut down her snacking. Nothing seemed to work.

From all the nice ways like asking nicely with ‘please’, begging and bribing (I know this is not nice but it seems peaceful LOL), to using power over approach when all that nice ways did not work, andI got angry and frustrated.I just said no with so much power and no room for negotiation each time she asked.

And then looking for sweet candies in the fridge...
And then looking for sweet candies in the fridge…

Well, this didn’t work either because she would ask and ask and ask and ask, that takes my focus off from my work. (The downside of working at home and having a persistent preschooler)

I finally offloaded my frustration to a listening partner, who gave me lots of empathy and support. I knew this was a control pattern for my daughter. She gets bored, she wants to eat. She gets upset, she wants candy. She wants my attention but I couldn’t give it to her, she wants chocolate.

Control pattern is something that we use to repress feelings. When we have big feelings around something, instead of facing up to it, we distract our sadness and anger by stuffing around Facebook endlessly scrolling the news feed, stuffing our face with food, have a cigarette, long hours of screen time and so on.

Children are no different than us. Their control pattern comes up when they found something that they can use to ‘comfort’ themselves, or to stop themselves from crying and releasing those feelings.

For babies and young children, control pattern could be non-nutritive breastfeeding, thumb sucking, bottle, pacifier, screen time, security blanket that is used over and over again when there are big feelings around unmet needs. These feelings don’t go away when they ‘comfort’ themselves. They get accumulated and over time, these feelings erupt in a huge tantrum or meltdown.

While they are accumulating, these feelings that are not heard and sitting underneath the surface might start to cause unwanted difficult behaviours such as hitting, biting, clinginess, rigidity in the outcome of things and crying over a broken cookie. These are trigger points that show that our child have pent up feelings that need to be released.

Back to my daughter; I am fully aware of her control pattern but my ways of being nice to beg and bribe or being authoritative have not been the right ways to connect with her.
In the Aware Parenting Instructor Mentoring Course I’m currently taking with Marion Rose, one of the modules is on Attachment Play. We are asked to focus on this for a whole month with our children and share our experience with the other course mates.I realized that my daughter have been feeling powerless and have unmet need for connection with me. So I chose to initiate a lot power reversal games such as horsey back ride, playing catch but she always managed to catch me no matter how hard I run, we race but she wins all the time, she creeps up on me and say “boo!” and I pretend to be so frightened and so much more.

I also mindfully gave her lots of choices when we go out, when we go grocery shopping, when she gets dressed, and especially when her next snack time should be. For example, if she has a snack immediately after lunch (around 2pm) I often give her a choice of two different times: 4pm or 5pm for her next snack, making sure that there is at least 2 hours gap. She almost always picks 4pm lol. Since she can now read numbers, she would check on my phone for the time.

This has helped tremendously because I no longer need to say, “not now sayang, we have snack later” and for her to come to me again 10 minutes later, and me saying the same phrase again and again. I just remind her to look at the time, if it’s already 4pm. She hardly tries to beg or negotiate because the time was set by her, not me.

To meet her needs for connection, I introduced the “love lotion” game. I would announce loudly, “Who wants some love lotion?” And the two girls would always drop whatever they are doing to be lathered in the love lotion.

So they take turns, they sit down with me on the sofa, and I pretend to pour a huge amount of love lotion and rubbed them in my palms. Then I spread the lotion all over their body from head to toes, not forgetting their nostrils and armpits! When we are finished, they give a me BIG hug. 🙂 🙂 🙂

The more physical the games I play with them, the more they are getting their connection cups full. And when they are full, the house is more peaceful. They play nicely with each other, and they are more willing to clean up after they are done playing with their toys. And I get to have longer uninterrupted stretch of work time.

This doesn’t mean that we have eliminated her demands for snack. She still occasionally would still ask for it when it is not time yet. What is great is that, I know what the root cause of her snack demands and how I can help to overcome it without using harshness, bribes or rewards. More importantly, she meets her needs for autonomy and choice – so she does not feel powerless when she truly wants to enjoy her snack instead of using it as a control pattern.