I spend my days teaching people how to achieve vibrant health, reverse disease, balance their hormones, sharpen their minds and raise healthy kids on a nutrient dense, whole, unprocessed fresh organic food…preferably gluten-free diet. I’ve raised my kids on whole foods since birth and as a result they have experienced amazing health and strength.
You can imagine my shock and horror at the news I heard about my younger son, soon to be 13 years old.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been getting calls and emails from several of his teachers about his behavior. It seems that he’s been having trouble focusing and has been goofing around with a couple of buddies. We’ve talked to him, tried to figure out if there’s something upsetting him, blamed puberty and hormones and suspected a gluten exposure.
Yesterday his teacher called again and I asked if she’d seen him eating anything he wasn’t supposed to have, like gluten, dairy or sugar. She seemed surprised that we kept him away from those foods. I was surprised that she was surprised because we’d met with the cafeteria and alerted those in charge of his dietary restrictions.
What a shock to get a call from him today saying that his teacher saw him with pizza on his cafeteria tray and told him to throw it away and call home!
In further investigating with the cafeteria, we were informed that he’s been buying chips, cookies and pizza for over a month…in spite of the fact that we’d had them register his dietary restrictions in their computer program…and they have perfectly acceptable vegan alternatives…beans, brown rice, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, veggie burgers!
It’s frustrating and embarrassing!
The good news is the time frame during which he’ been eating pizza almost exactly lines up with the time frame for the behavior problems! Even his older bother has been complaining about his behavior over the last month!
Before we put him on a gluten free diet, Kevin was what I would call oppositional. Very defiant. Hard to get him to sit still and listen to what we needed him to do. After removing gluten, he became noticeably calmer and more present – more mature.
So now he’s taking the stand “It’s my body. I can do what I want.” SO NOW what?
We told him when he’s out on his own and paying his own bills, that’s true, but our money goes towards good healthy foods not junk food pizza! Plus we need to help him be successful at school and food is a big part of it!
Our older son, now 17, was always such a dream about food…still is…so we never even imagined we’d have a challenge with Kevin!
I guess he’s going to have to be a student in our June “Kids in the Kitchen Class” and meet other kids his age working on a whole foods diet.
I believe we are challenged with what we most need to learn. Perhaps I am on the verge of breakthrough strategies for motivating kids to eat healthy food.
Sad part about this whole thing is I make the BEST pizza and all the kids I’ve fed it to love it! Why not my kid? Hopefully he’s satisfied his curiosity and when he gets back on his regular diet, he’ll notice such a profound difference he’ll be hooked! A mom can only hope!
We’ve canceled his lunch account and he’ll be bringing his lunch again. Kids his age hate that, yet it seems the only way. He lost the privilege.
I’d love to hear stories from other moms and am also open to advice!!!! Teach the teacher!
Please comment below.
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Medical Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo, drritamarie.com, and the experts who have contributed. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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This was a terrific post! Amy and I are always trying to get William (8 yrs) to focus, focus, focus and while we have always been aware of excess sugar in the diet, and we stay away from partially hydrogenated stuff and high fructose corn syrups, we never went beyond that. You may have really hit upon something here and I want to try a gluten free diet for him for a month and see what happens. I would love to start with your pizza recipe. Please forward a link. Thanks!
wow, I feel your pain. My son was behaving so contrary to his normal personality that we turned to the gluten/dairy free diet because we didn’t have anything else to lose. He does have ADHD and the medication he’s on has helped tremendously with those symptoms-but not the opposition. And, I have a Ph.D in counseling so can relate to feeling embarrassed and totally exasperated.
It’s my body! Sounds about right for an adolescent. I might try to use this as an empathy building time. For example, you have a right to your own body, but as a mother and wife you make certain choices that impact them positively. Have you tried letting him experience a taste of what it is like to be around you if you are not caring for yourself? Nothing radical-but enough that he is uncomfortable and wants the old mom back. My son seems to connect well with this type of exercise, even though it pisses him off.
Good luck to you and thank you for sharing. We’re all there…
I’m all for healthy, organic diet for adults and kids. We practice a similar lifestyle in our house…with one exception. What I learned as a kid and what I continue to learn with my kids is balance. The more I make them do something I believe in the more they rebel. We can only hope that the example of how we live our life and our beliefs will somehow rub off on them as they grow into adults and make their own decisions. Kids need to feel empowered, if you don’t allow him to do anything now he’s going to find a way to go behind your back. What if he was allowed pizza once every other week and some kind of desert once a week or something like that? I just believe extremes aren’t healthy for anyone and in the end he’s going to find a way to find his own power rather it be through what he eat, drugs, sex, or whatever it might be….my 2 cents from Jennifer in Austin
Wow…well I guess its that rebelious age that make them do things they are not suppose to. He is fortunate though to have patient parents who will help him with that and get him back into what is good for him, if only they would realize that at the very beginning. I have the hardest time trying to get my step kids to eat healthy. I can only teach them what I know and hope that they will learn and apply when they are older and on their own.
I have a 16 year old niece. It is so hard to be different with the peer pressure of your friends. You say he has been hanging around with a couple of buddies and I’m sure they have been encouraging him to go back to eating the wrong things. At that age they don’t understand that friends should respect each other I’m sure he hasnt been harping on them to eat healthy! Maybe you could invite them over and feed them they may be surprised!
Its a hard age…but, I think its more about what is being offered to our children in school cafeterias that needs to continually be challenged. Its hard enough for young, energetic squirmy 13 yr. olds to sit like good little soldiers for 8 hours, and be quiet, sit still, do what theyre told…and, not eat what everyone else is eating.
I’ll share my story with you and maybe it will give you some hope, all kids being individuals, of course. At age 13, my now almost 17yr. old (youngest child) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The first thing the nutritional counselor at the hospital told him was not to worry, he could still eat at mcdonalds and taco bell, and she handed him a pamphlet with the nutritional info/insulin requirements…which i immediately grabbed. we werent on a perfect diet, but we didnt eat at those kinds of places…and i was appalled at that being the nutritional counseling we were going to be receiving. can you imagine???? so, i started digging around for as much info as i could find, and discovered the raw food community online. wow!! i was excited!! he agreed with me to go cold turkey into the raw food lifestyle, which i loved loved loved!! i never felt or looked better…but he was not as excited as me…however, he went along with it for 6 months, faithfully! then he told me he wanted to eat cooked food again, but he would be vegan. He didnt see great results with his diabetes, so he thought it wasnt working, and he got discouraged. 3 yrs later, he’s still vegan, and still figuring alot of things out for himself. ive let him do his own experimenting, because, it is his body, and he needs to know what feels best to him. i understand that you have a boy who is much younger and still has quite a bit of school left to get through, but you may have an easier time letting him have some choices that you might not agree totally with, if he agrees to stay away from the real trigger foods like gluten and sugar. just a thought.
Much luck to you and your family..and by the way, thank you so much for your wonderful work and your inspiration, and your presence. I love knowing that we live in a town with someone as lovely and devoted to health as you are.
Blessings and love, Catherine
I can fully appreciate your problem. I too went through this with a 12/13 yr old many yrs (1977-1978) ago and it was extremely frustrating.
After a few calls and visits with the teachers and James, I was given a book on WHY YOUR CHILD IS HYPERACTIVE by Dr Ben F. Feingold MD. I read it and got my eyes opened.
Immediately I changed his diet and removed all sugar, artificial flavors, colors, etc from his diet. Then was told he might have low blood sugar. I was given the name of a Dr in San Antonio and made the 350 mile trip there for the tests. The diagnosis was correct.
The friend who gave me the book also suggested supplements to put him on and some came from the book.
After the Dr (I dont remember his name) finished the 5 hr test, James did have the low bood sugar problem. Then the dr proceeded to give me a list of things to put him on. I told him I had brought the supplements I had him on and showed them to him. He was very surprised and asked how I knew to use those things.
(I had done a certain amount of research in books on alternative health and applied to our diet as much as possible.)
He looked through all I had and kept James on most every thing I was doing and added a few more.
Long story short it turned him around over night. I hated the Ritalin the local dr had put him on because it made a zombie out of him.
The change in his diet and sending a protein snack and his lunch to school every day made the difference in his schooling. He even liked the way he felt.
You can take comfort knowing you are not alone in dealing with these things.
Hello Dr. Ritamarie,
When our son was 11 he went through the same experience. He was difficult to live with, aggressive at time which is not his personality. After lots of testing and food elimination process we found out he was allergic to lots of food, mostly processed food, gluten and meat. Our family totally changed our diet 6 years ago and never looked back. Our daughter who is now 2 years old will not eat anything that doesn’t look like whole food including raw food gourmet 🙁 this could be problem at time for us. Our son is now 17, he has better understanding about how his body reacts to certain food and will not eat them most of the time but he is 17 so once in awhile his skin would break out in eczema if he gives into his cravings.
Just a few thoughts…taken with a grain of salt…while his diet is ESSENTIAL I agree, he does need the space to grow and learn to care for his own body, especially at this age. It might be worthwhile that rather than punishing him for doing what you don’t want him to do, you create a reward system for rewarding him for what you do want him to choose. Right now you are setting up a negative experience for him that is causing him to see the gift of healthy eating as a punishment and a negative and something he really does not have choice about. Right now seems like the time to build the barrier into him, rather than around him. What about consequences for the specific negative behaviors associated with the dietary changes, rather than consequences for eating the food? This removes it one step for him so he does not get locked into resisting around food, and might have more space to see for himself how the food affects him, and that the consequences in society are not worth it to him.
Good sleuthing. I will imagine Kevin following his appropriate diet with ease and joy. Good luck!
Wow Dr. Ritamarie! A similar situation happened with our son, and after many years of eating healthfully on fresh living foods, both of our children ate vegetarian processed and refined foods whenever they were outside the home. My son became irritable and defiant, difficult to talk with. My daughter became very anxious and impulsive. I saw a huge change in Gabriela when she returned to a predominantly fresh plant food diet, especially noting that she became more calm and centered, better able to communicate and increasingly more focused. I love the articles you’ve written on Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free as I too in observing the children I work with as a speech therapist, and in observing my own children, have seen the amazing difference it makes for all children, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Sounds like maybe he’s sensitive to being ‘different’. I don’t have kids, but I was a kid once= )
My son, alomost 10, has ADHD and for a while he was on a strict gluten free diet and I could really tell that he was not as hyper and even less aggressive. As he is unable to make healthy choices at school he brings his lunch to school. He can only have pizza on Tuesday but I know we should find an alternative. Shopping for gluten free products gets pricy unfortunately. I bought a Blentec and print all the free recipes that you have on your website. We love the chocolate cake. Just need to find the time to incorporate more of your recipes. I enjoy your blog tremendously.
Thanks Dr. Rita Marie.
My friend was raising her kids strictly macrobiotic. One day she was cleaning out the kids room and found a bag of sugar with a spoon in it in the closet. The kids was dosing herself with sugar.
As good as your pizza is, most of us want what the majority gets. Your son will need to learn on his own that gluten changes his behavior for the worse. We can offer but they can choose to take or not.
Hi dr Rita Marie
gosh this is a tough one! i too have 3 daughters that eat foods that i know are causing them some challenges both physically and other but my daughters are older and I didnt start eating healthier until later on when their eating habits were established, i have though hopefully sewn seed so when they are ready can choose to make dietary changes- sometimes its hard to let go and let them find their own way, however tough, and then they WILL get the true message
I so relate :)I’m teaching parents how to feed their children whole foods to help with ADHD and learning problems and I have the pickiest girls in the world! Our neighbour’s kids like my raw treats and smoothies, mine think they are awfull and wish I would just feed them “normal” food even if they feel tired, grumpy and have meltdowns on dairy and gluten. So what to say??? there has to be something about our expectations that they are mirroring back to us. Or perfectionism? A friend of mine who was raised on healthy vegetarian food in the 60’s said that as soon as she was out of the house she went for the junk, white bread was like cake to her! But what she said also is that as the foundations were good, later on in life she balanced her diet with lots of healthy food again. grass is always greener on the other side and it seems so true! Please let me know if you have a breakthrough or another idea popping up: what about doing some EFT on ourselves about that? We could do an online group EFT session and see what comes up???? Floralie
This must be really hard for a mother who just wants the best for her child. But I would like to give you some insight into an adolescent mind. When I hit puberty I read some books about healthy nutrition and one about raw foods by Dr. Norman Walker. I was really convinced by all the information and wanted to change my eating habits. To keep the story short, I ended up being a bulimic. I couldn’t keep with what I felt would be right, overcompensated with junk food (vegetarian but junk nonetheless) and felt so guilty I threw it up. From where I stand now (age 34 and 90% raw) I understand that I wasn’t able to handle my emotions and just wasn’t ready then, but found my way on a detour and am feeling very happy now.
To come back to your son, I think having a mother that is so much into healthy food a child can feel a lot of pressure. I am sure you are a loving mother, but just you standing strong with your convictions can be pretty hard for a child that is trying to find their own identity. And children hitting puberty usually have to options: becoming their parents or fighting against them to become the opposite. Your older son obviously feels fine by following what you feel is best for him. That your other son is rebelling against it isn’t just a bad sign, I think. It is natural to try what is forbidden. Of course it’s hard to see him change that way. But you could also think of it as being better than taking heroin… If that is the way he needs to act out it might be one of the less harmful paths a youngster can choose. Thinking of my own adolescent self I would advice you to not push too much. He will find ways to rebell and do what you don’t allow anyway. But if you take away some of the pressure he might just come around and figure out himself, what feals best.
But with all the blabla to the side, just trust your instinct and have faith in him. I wish you the very best outcome for all of you.
Sunny smile from the heart,
Ritamarie, you and your husband’s old school stand is on money. Hopefully Kevin’s diet change was only adolescent acting out. I’m sure he’s endured peer pressure regarding his dietary lifestyle and wanted to take a stroll on the wild side out of curiosity. Unfortunately that junk tastes good and is addictive, but since he didn’t feel good (as evidenced through his behavior) and disappointed his parents this may be all he needed to know.
You should consider a cleanse for Kevin, due to the GMO, antibiotic, excitotoxin, and growth hormone-laced toxic foods he has consumed for a month.
Bask in the glow that your oldest son was and still is a dream re food, and realize that your boys naturally have different personalities. Your experiences with this are sure to help others dealing with the same issue. Wishing you the best!
I am a mother of five, ages 21 – 37. I continually put pressure on them even after they were teenagers (ok, even as adults) to stay away from sugar, artificial colors, soft drinks, etc. They said such things as, “Mom, I think you would rather I drank a beer than a coke.” Even though they were healthier eating whole foods, my tactics ended up causing them to hide their indiscretions rather than learn self intuitiveness. My youngest had the least pressure because I was able to see the results of my over-exuberance with the older ones. She is much more in tune with what her body needs as a result.
The suggestion I have is to figure out a way to begin handing over the responsibility of caring for his health to him. Perhaps let him know that you believe that he is learning to make good decisions and learning to listen to his body. That you would like him to come to you with a plan that will allow him, when school is out and he has turned 13, to find out which foods make him feel the best and how often he can eat less healthy foods and still maintain emotional stability. That since he is growing up that it is time for him to have input in the decisions affecting him and that you will listen to his desires, and the three of you can figure out together what will keep him safe and healthy. Ask him for solutions to his problems and listen for what will work best for him. Adding your experience to his knowledge of his own body and mind, negotiate the plan of action. Let him know that there are only 5 short years until he will be the only one responsible for his well being, and you already can see that he is growing up into a fine young man.
One other thought, a child often knows more about what a parent thinks and wants than he knows about what he thinks and wants. Becoming his own person and finding out what is best for himself is no easy task and may start before there is enough maturity to stay safe. The strength and initiative to choose contrary to a parent’s wishes is a desirable trait when applied to peer pressure. That trait can be developed to stand alone for what is best for himself against all odds when he reaches adulthood.
Wow great post Dr Ritamarie!
Thanks to Kevin for reminding all of us that the food we eat really does influence how we show up in the world. I don’t have children- but l I have “fur children” hah!. When we changed our 2 pups diet to mostly raw and high quality, we saw a big change in them. They were less ‘antsy’, and one of our pups has his fur completely regrow back in in nine months- most of it had mysteriously fallen out when he was just two years old.
And the same for their human parents. I sleep better and feel calmer without gluten, processed foods, dairy, sugar coursing through me. All of my clients report the same. Plus so many nagging ailments just fall away- skin issues, headaches, digestive stress and more.
Good luck to Kevin and to you- he’s got an awesome Mom in you! 🙂
A general article for any parent interested in
a No-Nonsense Way to Teach Kids to Eat Right
My older son (turning 15 soon) had his own epiphany. At his grade 8 graduation, i bought about 5 cases of pop. he had 30-40 kids over for a party and they openned every single can of pop and ate chips and i didn’t say a word. normally my kids don’t drink pop, so the next morning he was ill. he looked like he had a serious hangover (no alcohol involved). he dragged himself around for a day and a half. i told him that’s what pop does to you. he said it was my fault for not letting him have it regularly so that when he drank 3 or 4 cans he would still feel ok, like his friends did. i explained that his friends didn’t know they felt crappy because they drank pop all the time, so they didn’t even make the connection. after that, he didn’t want pop anymore. he started making healthier choices on his own, and has eliminated the foods that he notices make him feel blah. it just took the dramatic contrast of an extreme binge for him to realize and now that he is choosing, life is good. My younger son (just 13) also wants to make healthy choices but it is harder for him because he has a sweet tooth. i just talk openly about healthy choices and encourage him to try new things. Raw food is not how i make a living, so it is easier for me that way, but i do think it is important for them to feel they have a choice within certain guidelines. it is also important for you to realize that you are not your son. his choices really do not reflect on you in the way that society would have you believe. he is his own person, and at the end of the day, all you can do is guide him, and love him, and love yourself in the process.
don’t worry (too much) It is only natural for teenagers, that they don’t want to be different than their friends. Also, he is trying to figure out who he is, and a part of that is thinking about the parents values, and wondering if he will make it his own, or replace it with something else. Of course we want our children to adopt our values, but they need to find out, that it is valuable. Aparently your son is checking out, if this “food-value” that he is raised with, really is good, and hopefully he will experience that it is.
I think that we can’t continue to force our children to do what we want. They need to understand why, and you know, people (and children) are different. Some people can learn by other peoples experiences, some have to feel the consequenses on their own bodies. And some learn quicker than others…
So let him know, that you love him no matter what he chooses, but his life will be easier if he eats well…
Thanks for your honesty! I’m sorry to hear that about your son misbehavior.I relate with you one hundred percent. The nightmare of health conscious parents. I went through all of this with my two children when they were teenagers. I tried to send them with healthy lunches at school but all of their peers were eating white bread, chocolate, drinking sodas… They weren’t gluten sensitive or something like that but when they were eating the lunches of their friends even stealing it, they would become sick or spoiled not to say addicted to sugar. I tried homeschooling but it was too hard on me. I think we try to protect our kids the best we can but they live in an unnatural world and temptations is bigger than than parents rules.
I tried to be of an influence to my kids. What I’ve learned since is if your children attach to you instead of their peers they will listen to you. The book to read is: Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld. An attachment theory for any age. It saves me. I focused on building a relationship with them instead of teaching them. Then they become receptive to your message.
I certainly would like to see what you’ll come up with a program for kids in the kitchen class. I teach raw food class and would like to go in school and do some nutritional program with kids. Some mothers asked me to do it. We need also to teach the parents so maybe a program with parents and kids at school teaching the importance of greens, green smoothies and also test for gluten.
Thank you so much Dr. Ritmarie for all your teaching.
I found this article…loved it…thought it might help support you in your challenge with your son http://www.enjoyparenting.com/daily-groove/terrible-not
He is a teenager growing up in american society. Don’t worry too much.
Yes, he is acting out this way but seriously it could be sooooo much worse. He will come back around to what you taught him. …maybe not as soon as you’d like but you will get him back. He’s grown up with good healthy eating habits. So, take a deeeeep breath inhale and have a little Faith : )
I can relate to your son. When my mother took us off sweets (Cocoa Puffs and Fruit Loops) and put us on a healthier diet back in the late 60’s, we didn’t openly revolt. I took my hard-earned babysitting money and drove miles to the grocery store to purchase candy…..and proceeded to make myself ill gorging secretly in my room.
I was always a skinny kid so my mother never suspected.
You have certainly struck a cord with many parents here. Our two older children (now adults) have wheat & dairy allergies, however, they have very different reactions when exposed to these foods. The older one feels and looks ill if he eats wheat or dairy so he has never had a problem with avoiding these foods. However, our younger son has behavioral reactions when he eats allergy foods, i.e. he becomes very aggressive & is quite unpleasant to be around. He feels no need to restrict his foods since there is no negative feeling for him; since he is now responsible for all his food choices he has gained weight as well as not looking very healthy. I applaud the steps you have taken; it’s sometimes difficult to be a parent and make the unpleasant decisions. More importantly, you have demonstrated doing the right thing versus the popular thing; this is the best age to learn that so they can stand up to friends who want to try drugs or alcohol. Good luck to you and your son.
I don’t have a teenage son, but I do have three children. I’m reading a book called “Awaken the Giant Within” by Anthony Robbins and he basically says everything boils down to pain and pleasure and what we do to avoid persieved pain (not eating what his friends eat). Maybe you should let him eat what he wants let him feel what it’s like to eat what his peers are eating; let him feel the stomach pains the tension with his teachers the aggitation. Let him know what he is doing to his body and the negative effects it’s impacting himself and on everyone. He is a smart boy he will learn on his own what is healthy for him, and his choice will empower him. Then there may more pleasure for his healthy eating because it’s now his independent choice.
Great comments from your readers so far.
I have five teenagers from the ages of 13 to 19. The middle school years were the hardest with each of our children. So glad we are on the last child in middle school.
My suggestion is that you allow him to take lunch money and make his own choices with food. Tell him that you trust his judgement, and that you have decided that he’s old enough to make his own choices. However, let him know that you will not ever serve him foods that you believe are harmful to his body, so his freedom of choice applies to when he’s outside the home only. Eventually, (maybe months, maybe years) he will return to what he has been taught by the wonderful example you have set.
Also, set up consequences for his negative behavior in school, but say nothing about his lunch choices when you have to give him the consequence. The consequences should be clear and fair. He needs to know what they will be before he gets into trouble. For example, a call from a teacher means a day without electronics, or a referral means no friends over the weekend. Don’t ever say, if you’d eat better this wouldn’t happen….you’ll be tempted, but don’t do it. Keep it all low key. You did x behavior, and the consequence is y. End of discussion.
If you think it is his new friends that are causing the new behavior issues, get him involved in sports so that practices and games monopolize so much of his time that he has very little time left to spend with new friends.
Don’t despair. Because you give him the opportunity to make his own choice, he will become your biggest ally when he is older. He will have made his own mistakes and he will have seen the results through the eyes of experience which really is the best teacher.
Hi Dr. Ritamarie, The picnic class sounds interesting and I have toyed with the idea of raw vegetarian, however, my son is allergic peanuts, pinenuts, and tree nuts. So many raw food recipes rely on these ingredients. How do you work around this? Thanks for your input.
we use no peanuts or pine nuts. We do use some almonds, cashews and other tree nus.
we’ve found that just about every recipe can be made with seeds or coconut as a substitute for nuts
First of all I wanted to tell you thank you so much for being honest and open with your readers. I am grateful that I read your post, I too, went through the same situation with my son, HE TOO was buying lunch at school and NOT telling me. I was furious and felt ashamed that I didn’t see this coming. I grounded him for not telling me the truth for so long (over 6 months). Although he was purchasing the lunch vegetarian plate (my son has been a veg since birth) he was keeping it from me.
This episode taught me alot about the mom I am and the person he is. I am looking forward to hearing more from your lessons about alternatives food choices for children and mainly how to get our children to understand that what they eat IS IMPORTANT, just as much as homework, exercise, friendships, etc.
Thanks so much and I can relate in so many ways to this. My husband and I just were in awe, I am not glad this happened to you, but I know that everything happens for a reason.
I love your work and what you do for your readers.
Thank you and God Bless~
My name is Taija, and I’m 9 years old and in 4th grade. My mom teaches classes to help people to learn how to be healthy too, so I know how your son feels. I am not allowed to eat junk food either. Sometimes I get mad and feel left out because I don’t get to eat what the other kids are eating and that makes me feel rejected.
I made up a reward system where I made a deal with my mom that if I didn’t eat junk at school I could get a reward. Like if I didn’t eat junk all week, on the weekend I get a video game night with my friends or a movie night. If there is a party or treats at school, my mom sends me healthy treats to eat instead so I don’t feel left out or if I bring the treat home instead of eating it she will trade it in for privileges or a healthy treat. This way I feel like I am getting paid back for how hard it is to make good choices.
If its hard for your son to think about doing this forever, its easier if you just try to do it for one day. So if he eats only healthy food for a whole day, at the end of the day he can get a reward immediately instead of waiting for a whole week.
thanks so much for writing Taija.
You have given me excellent ideas.
In fact he and i had a talk and agreed to take him to the place that has gluten free dairy free pizza once a week . I do like the rewards idea…we have used it at halloween with great success..Thanks so much
Hi Dr. Rita-Marie,
This post hit so close to home. I do not have any children, but have been contemplating my own upbringing with food a lot recently. I was raised vegetarian with an emphasis on whole foods, esp. fruits and vegetables. My parents tried to feed me what they thought was the best—veggies with lunch and dinner, often grown in our organic garden, a variety of fresh fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. By all standards it was a very healthy diet. Mostly, like you, they tried to make the healthy food fun. But they also let us have treats, “regular” pizza, ice cream, cookies, etc. on occasion. I have multiple food allergies they were also dealing with.
I have been thinking about this because in most ways they did really well-I would probably do something similar if I were raising children. Our home was loving and supportive, affluent, and successful. I was encouraged without pressure and generally allowed to blossom into my own person. But there was definitely an emphasis on good food/bad food, even if it wasn’t stated in those terms, and in my third year at boarding school, after bingeing for two years on sugar and junk food because I was finally out of their control, I decided to eat healthily. But that was taken so far I ended up with orthorexia/anorexia, which I have been dealing with internally for the last 12 years. Most people would consider me long-since recovered, but there are still layers I am dealing with. The reason I am bringing this out is not because I have a solution and feel what you are doing is either right or wrong, it is only to give a broader perspective of when parents supposedly do everything right, the kids can still rebel, and will still make their own mistakes. I think the most important thing is not to make too big of a deal about food choices one way or another. Educate children about the reason for eating well, point out improvements in their behavior, mood, etc. when they eat well, and then let them discover for themselves. They will do it sooner or later, and it is safer to explore while still under the protection of the parents.
Understanding the long term damage caused by eating gluten when you are intolerant to it, (which your son certainly seems to be given the multiple calls regarding behavior and the timeframe matching perfectly to the onset of ingesting gluten) makes it hard to just say, oh, just let him decide. I’m sure you have educated him as to what gluten does in the body. Often when kids have a true understanding of why they are being asked to abstain, they become their own best advocates.
Going along with the common thread of responses, a conversation about what compromises can be made without causing harm to his body would likely be helpful.
Short on time, but just wanted to offer my two cents and support for what you are going through.
Dr Ritamarie, I am so sorry for the heartbreak you are experiencing. I am glad to hear you are not agreeing to pay for his bad food. Although he may choose to do later with his own money, but hopefully he will not. Some things that came to my mind were the following. Fitting in: my brother had this issue. I did not care to fit in with stupidity and he felt that he would die if he did not fit in 🙂 Resentment against you: I remember resenting my parents, for no good reasons such as hormones, etc. Uncomfortable with change: he is changing, is this his attempt at trying to figure out or attempting to make what he thinks maybe a grown up decision? I feel he has the best source of education for a Mom and that he will be kicking himself later in life for not treating you right. However for right now he may need education from another source. Just so it is not you telling him but he is the one ‘discovering’ the things you have been teaching him all this time. Bless you and hang in there.
We’ve talked about marketing yourself Ritamarie and I think you may have touched upon a new niche here. Parents will always be concerned about their children’s health and well being, especially how they perform in school. You can do some soft marketing and soft sellling by focusing on children’s health and making it a part of your regular routine of blog posts. I think parents will think of their kids well being first before thinking of theirs. And once they start taking care of their kids, they will take care of themselves. There is so much in the spotlight going on right now with obesity in children and groups advocating eating right by staying away fr McDonalds, etc.
thanks.Bruce..this post stirred a lot of activity.
i am going to be teaching a kids class and announcing a kids recipe book at the end.
I appreciate your feedback
Dear dr Rita,
Please dont be afraid and dont panish your son.
He is a MAN and must experiance to be strong
and understand what is good and what is bad.
He wants to go like other boys,may be somebody told him that he is a mummies baby…
It must be HIS decision what is best for him.
I think the other children can help a lot –
and this is the only way.
To say “no” is very
easy, but you will have “war”at home what is
always very risky,esp. in his age.
My son is 43,and now we are rather “far away from each other,unfortunately, because- as a daughter of teachers – I was very strict in “what and how all should be done”.
My love,respect and best wishes from Poland
PS>I am so busy that can not read all your great news in the proper time – sorry. HK
we also have 2 sons. and we have almost identical situations to yours. i almost cannot summarize all these years in a few sentences. let’s just say that in order to enforce better food choices, we chose to punish the bad behavior resulting from bad food choices in our younger son, as one of your readers suggested, rather than his food choices. this was wise, and helped emotionally. but in the long run, nothing has really changed. we have been blessed with a strong willed son. his choices, for whatever reasons, run opposite to ours. we are not didactic people, we just want the best health for our boys. but life brought us greater lessons than what began as food choices… our sons are both college age now. our elder, is still as he always has been – he eats the healthiest diet imagineable. his idol is david wolfe. he is almost 100% raw vegan, grows a large organic garden, boasts an enviable physique, and he eats perhaps healthier than we do. our younger still does everything the opposite of us all, and not just food. he drinks pots of coffee a day, chain smokes cigarettes, overdoes the current collegedrugsofchoice , eats chain food like daily macdonalds, and maintains his 80+ pound overweight frame….much has happened and we have therapized ourselves alot. we currently accept them both for who they are, ( no i am not advocating drugs ), celebrate their talents, enjoy them 100%, laugh at how they are so different from us, and these days say nada about their food choices unless we just happen to spontanaeously share what works for us and what we are excited about nutritionally. we find today that the more we are true to ourselves and our passions, the more interested they become. – tho they do it all their own way! your son is not college age so that part is very different. but, perhaps his is, like ours, a different personality, mental outlook, etc…
we wish you and him the very best , the best choices, and the best outcomes ever.
Thank you Dr. Ritamarie for that deep,
inspiring, wonderful article about your
son. I am beginning to understand why so
many kids (even in Austin) act up in and
out of schools.
The attitudes that people acquire
could be explained by the many processed
foods that people eat consistently on an
everyday basis, which is of course not
Hopefully, I’ll see you next
Saturday at the Vegan Potluck. God
bless you and see you soon.
Happy Memorial Day.
My son showed since kindergarden age a “rebellious” behaviour and which reached a top level when he started going to school last year. After some talks with his 1st grade teacher, who is a very nice woman who understands homeopathy and spiritual healing, I considered a doctor specialised in kinesiology testing. He said, that my son´s behaviour results from lactose and gluten and that we both should have a diet. He also said that it takes 6 weeks for the body to be clean of lactose or gluten. After a couple of weeks I noticed a huge change in my son´s behaviour and I was very glad, that everything was running good for him. On a shopping trip about 4 weeks ago, he had a slice of pizza AND his old behaviour came back the same evening.
This experience showed me even more what an effect lactose and gluten have not only on the body but also on one´s mind and soul.
I am about to inform other parents about our experience, since our health care system and the media do not know (yet) about this fact.
Greetings from Germany!
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