I'm on a journey to find health and happiness through a more holistic and green lifestyle.

I find the world to be abrasive. =) That is to say, I feel the need to armor myself, physically and emotionally, in order to face life. Don't we all? Maybe. For whatever reason, it has become a priority in my life to rid my immediate environment of irritating things. And I'm sensitive! So there is much work to be done. But. I have thought for a long time that the things I come in contact with every day, and the stuff used to clean and maintain these things, need to be gentle and non-toxic. I have had eczema my entire life. For a long time I just dealt with it, and accepted that sometimes it's bad, and sometimes it's not, and that it will fluctuate a lot. Gradually over time I have come to find that certain things, fabrics, cleansers, materials, are more irritating to my skin than others. Stress can exacerbate it. In more recent times, I have realized that every aspect of my life improves when I improve conditions for my skin. Hah! What a concept! Thus my (long time) interest in going green, and my more recent desire to live a more holistic lifestyle. (I think I've felt a desire for a long time to live in a harmonious way with myself, my surroundings, and nature, but didn't have a name for it.) Anyhow, this blog is a journal of my trials and errors, and basic crooked path to find a balanced and peaceful existence for myself and my family. Thanks for your interest! I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Self-Conscious She, Self-Conscious Me

My daughter is 5 years old, and intensely self-conscious. Sometimes. And very, very timid. Sometimes. And it's a little unpredictable. So starting school last year was challenging for us all. Now she's midway through Kindergarten. And in my eyes, knowing her as I do, she is doing incredibly well! She has no problem when I leave her at school in the morning. (anymore) She reports having a good day, every day. By report she is doing well at school. She comes home enthusiastic about what she's done at school, and loves to write and draw. She's made loads of friends, and the kids really seem to love her. Before school started, she would barely engage with other kids at all. All great stuff.

But, she refuses to eat at school. She won't use the bathroom at school, ever, unless I am there. She won't throw anything away at school. Not ever.

My interpretation? My daughter is making the best of the situation, but is taking control wherever she feels she can. Because otherwise she feels completely out of control of the situation.

So, after two months of the school year had passed and my daughter had not eaten anything for snack or lunch, I decided it was time to act. The school felt the same. So I started to put things in place to "encourage" her to eat. Or really, to discourage her from NOT eating. I told her she could have no sweets at home on the days she didn't eat. I took away after school outings. And so forth. And the school, from what I've been told, informed her that she had to have at least three bites of food at each meal. They threatened to take recess away from her, her favorite part of the school day. All of this, or some of this, worked. She started eating at school. Granted she turned "at least three bites" into "I only have to eat three bites," but she ate. Then she got incredibly picky about what her lunch could be. We ended up giving her 6 bites of pizza every day. Three bites for snack, three bites for lunch. For weeks. Then suddenly, two weeks ago, she stopped eating. Every day, when I picked her up, she would inform me that she hadn't eaten that day. She was upfront about it, but had no explanation. The only thing she could come up with was that there was a teacher watching over lunch who did not usually do so. This threw her off. But how does that explain a run of not eating, which, to this point, has been two and a half weeks?

Sighs. So I decided to take a different approach this time. Instead of approach it as a discipline problem, which I never thought it was to begin with, I decided it was time to try to find out what makes her so anxious that she needs to take control in these ways. I didn't feel like giving her consequences for something that she herself doesn't understand. Let me add that the school, of course, has noticed, and has appealed to me to act in some way. Or decide what should be done about it. I have mentioned, twice, that I want to figure out what the problem is, instead of making the resulting eating issues the problem. Does that make sense? One teacher stated that perhaps part of it was anxiety and part was behavioral. Regardless....

So today, with some pressure from school, I discussed the situation with DD in the car on the way home. At first, she told me that she couldn't talk with me. Then she said that she doesn't like people watching her, and wants to eat by herself. I told her that this was not really possible at school, as it was expected that the group eat together. I asked her if she would eat if she could sit near the group but on her own (she had been doing this at the beginning of the year. Not eating, but sitting separately) and she said yes. Hm. So I emailed her teacher, and I await a reply.

There are a couple of other situations at school where the school feels DD should be made to conform to the school-day routine and DD feels differently. One is greeting other students in front of the entire school each morning. She puts her head down and refuses. Another is speaking up in class. Again, unless she is feeling confident at that moment, she won't.

I am curious. What would you do? Would you insist that she get with the program and do what the school expects her to do without question? Would you accept your child's discomfort and try to find a way for her to fit in while keeping her desires/comfort level in mind? Would you seek an environment that suited your child's temperament better? (i.e. Montessori, where no child is forced to speak in front of the class unless he/she chooses to)Thanks for your thoughts.


  1. Hi Dais,
    My 6 yr. old has a friend at school who refuses to eat at school, too. She also refuses to eat at the dining table with her family at home, so she has her own mini table in the kitchen! Poor Mom!

    The mom's response is to simply feed her daughter as soon as she gets home from school. I think she believes that if her daughter is hungry at school, she will eat, but there is no need to pressure her. To me , that makes some sense. So she sends her with food, but has no expectation that she will eat it.

    I would ask school to leave her be- not even bring attention to it and see what she does in response. She will not starve- just be uncomfortable if she is hungry.

    I have always believed that as a parent, one should match the school to the child. One model does not fits all. That, of course, assumes one can afford any form of education. I think Montessori is wonderful for many reasons, but do not have my children in Montessori based on expense. BTW, I went to a lot of schools as a child because my mom looked for the "right school" for me, and I think I turned out OK despite having to make new friends every couple of years. I always had my friend from across the street to rely on ;-)

    I'll be curious to see what others think...

    Good luck!


  2. You know, the whole just makes me feel sad. From her refusal to eat, to the schools reaction to it, to my own reaction. I just told my daughter that she needs to compromise with the school. If they are willing to work with her, she should be willing to work with them. I don't know that I really feel that way in this situation. It just seemed to make sense as I was saying it. There is a compromise somewhere between kids doing what they want and doing what is expected. They need to learn to be themselves, but ultimately get along with other people in this world, and that means conforming to some extent. I agree about the school, and as you know, I'm actively looking into Montessori as a possible better fit for my daughter. I fear that I have too much invested in the idea, and am gearing up for disappointment. I will try to be as objective and realistic as I can be.

  3. Tough situation! My gut says to also let her be and not draw attention to it. If the only consequence of her not conforming, or taking control in this way (to help soothe her anxiety), is her own discomfort, then so be it! Let it go and it will likely fix itself. But if she feels resistance, perhaps she'll stick with it. I have to say I really admire her determination. For some kids, they would be done with this by now, but if the consequences/pressure aren't working, they aren't working. She is serious about this! My inclination would be to say you tried several reasonable approaches, now it's time to let go. (Actually time for the school to ease up IMHO, you're doing great!) Who knows what will happen once the pressure eases up. Worth a try?

  4. Because I've discussed a compromise with her already, we'll try that for the rest of this week. Failing that, I will tell them that my feeling is that we should leave it, and her, alone. Give a child, this child, a power struggle, and she'll show you who's got stamina in the war! Take away the power struggle, and what do we have? I have been trying that at home as well. Instead of getting into it with her, I give her options, and she chooses. And that's when there has to be a choice of one thing or the other. The more we can empower kids to make decisions for themselves, the more they will take that seriously and do so. The decisions may not always be what we would choose, or what will work best ultimately, but there is confidence to be gotten in being given the room to grow in that way. I will try hard to live up to that with her. We both have growing pains!! =)