Withholding Food from Children: What Are They Thinking?

On several occasions recently, I've posted comments that referred to the practice of limiting children's food for purposes of discipline or unconventional psychotherapies. I think I've made it plain enough that I disapprove of this practice in anything beyond the common "no dessert!" form. It would be hard to argue that it is or is not effective, as there is no evidence that is relevant. Read More

Food witholding

I seem to recall it was a key point in the rescue of the Boy Called It - that he was known at school to steal food from rubbish bins and other children's lunch boxes. Took a long time though before anybody acted.

I'm hoping to hurry them

I'm hoping to hurry them along a little!

Oprah Interview with Boys who were Starved

Oprah recently did an interview with the four boys who were starved -- truly heartbreaking, although fortunately this does have a happy ending, as the boys are doing very well in their new home.


The 14 year old only weighed 40 pounds. Their foster mother, Vanessa Jackson, was released from prison after serving only 4 years of a 7-year sentence.

Whoa-- how did i miss this

Whoa-- how did i miss this interview? Thanks for bringing it up.
The trial did not bring out the motives or reasoning of the parents in this case, unfortunately.

Right, it was unclear whether

Right, it was unclear whether they she was influenced by someone giving her advice or if she was just a highly abusive person to begin with. Sometimes it is both. The kinds of recommendations made by the unconventional psychotherapies you mention are likely to appeal to people who are sadistic and abusive to begin with although, of course, that would not always be the case.

The "Parenting with Love and

The "Parenting with Love and Logic" books had a particularly disturbing example of this. A boy went to a carnival and spent all his lunch money for the week. I expected his consequence would be he'd have to make his lunch all week. That made sense - if you spend your lunch money you can't buy lunch at school, and it's a reasonable lesson. But his parents said that he would just have to not have lunch that week, since they had given him lunch money already and they didn't want to spend money on more food. Even if a kid wouldn't starve from missing lunch for five days, a hungry kid isn't going to be able to concentrate on school - I can still remember my high school classes that were before lunch because I'd be counting down the minutes until I ate. (Depriving food to a perpetually hungry teenager also seems like a bad idea, even if they're fed a few times a day.)

It's interesting that a

It's interesting that a dictionary meaning of starvation is "acute suffering from deprivation of food or drink". I understand that when people are dying from inanition they no longer feel hungry, but an early stage hunger can be very uncomfortable and, as you say, distracting from concentration--- especially for someone who is growing rapidly.