Be your children’s detective. They can’t do it on their own and they need your help.
I often get stuck in the trap when my kids are misbehaving or acting out in some way of thinking that they are just trying to torture me. It will get me all riled. Often, this leads to just exacerbating an already stressful situation. BUT, I have come to realize over the years that when one of them starts getting out of sorts in a seemingly irrational way, there is often rationality behind it. And it often starts with what they have or have not eaten.
It is here where my detective skills come in handy.
I start searching for clues.
For my son, clues include red hot ears, irritability over seemingly small things, irrationality, dark circles under his eyes, and moaning.
What I have learned is he really isn't trying to torture me, but instead he is actually having a physical reaction to something.
For my son, that something is often some artificial additive in food that sends him into a tail spin. We like to pretend that he will grow out of such sensitivities, but as time goes on, we have come to realize that he has a “smart body” that simply rejects these chemical additives that pose as foods. We test our theory every so often relaxing the rules of what he can eat. And, each test often lands on its face, with a miserable child and frustrated parents.
For example, we decided to get some ice cream the other day. No big deal, right? Wrong! I was in a hurry and did not go to Maple’s the organic ice cream shop in Portland. Instead, we went to a well known shop, but one that uses artificial additives in its ingredient list. He enjoyed the ice cream thoroughly, but what followed was not so enjoyable. He was trying to do a simple homework assignment and his brain literally locked up. This “A” student couldn’t draft a simple sentence and then he became increasingly frustrated, being brought to tears. Panic starting setting in. It actually became scary.
Having been through this before, I knew what was happening and I knew he needed my patience. I was reassuring him that he was having a reaction to something he ate and to cooperate with me as we tried to work through it. I gave him water and some digestive enzymes, and then I started loading him with a real meal: homemade chicken on the grill, salad, and rice. He started to calm. His look of relief was apparent. His eyes brightened. He said, “thank you, Mom, you know what I mean; thank you in many ways.” He got on with his homework, finished it with ease, and we both said, “this is it, no more experiments.” Only real food for him.
We had a similar reaction just a few weeks earlier, but that time, it was because of a protein low. Again, my son became increasingly irrational over what seemed to be a very small issue. We were driving out of state so I could not bring him home. I stopped the car and called my husband in somewhat of a panic. He reminded me that our son had been going non stop with summer vacation trips and visitors at home and that we had not monitored his diet. Sure enough, he concluded that our son had not had sufficient protein in his diet for several days. We stopped in a real restaurant (no fast food for this family), got him a burger with a salad, and as he was eating, the panic started to fade. His body was no longer deprived. He looked at me and said “Mom, can we just forget this happened.”
For the rest of the trip, he was well fed and a charm.
It is easy in this world of fast food and boxed meals to forgot that our kids need real nourishment, not just convenience. Next time your kid acts up, do a little detective work, you just might find the answer on your dinner plate.
For a good source on the connection between diet and behavior, check out the Feingold Association website www.feingold.org