Real Talk Parenting

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I wrote on instagram recently that I’d really like to have more discussion on here about parenting. Lots of hot topics out there and opinions, and I have some things I want to share and discuss!

But FIRST, I must shout my disclaimer from the rooftopsthat I don’t have all the answers! I don’t do things perfectly, I’ve got a lot to learn and practice.  But I am very passionate about creating a loving environment in my home, and a closeness with my family, and so far, we’ve achieved that fairly well, and if I have anything to say that can help others, I want to share. I know people don’t comment much on blogs anymore, but I also want this to be a place that opens up discussion, gets people thinking and talking….but also in sharing with me what has worked for you, as well. Will you join me in this endeavor?

Do you have a parenting topic you'd like discussed? Join the discussion and share your thoughts.

We don’t have it all together, but together we have it all. Love that group up there.


I want to talk about toddlers, tweens and teens and everything inbetween. Ok, and I just like saying that.  Less about toddlers though (unless someone submits a specific dilemma below) because I’m out of that phase!

Let me say that I’m a bit nervous to step into these waters for a few reasons:

  1. As I stated above, I don’t have all the answers
  2. I could say how well something is working and then find in 6 months it’s not working
  3. I don’t want to intrude too much on the privacy of my children, especially the teens
  4. Piggybacking onto the above, I know my teens friends follow me on social media, and not sure how much they come to read here

All that being said, I’ve been thinking about starting this discussion for a while, and I’m ready to tackle them, despite the obstacles that I’ll need to work around.  When I share stories of my children, I’ll tread lightly on details and names if it’s a sticky situation.

I thought it was appropriate to share in my disclaimer post a story of my imperfection, and how I truly don’t have it all together.

Let me start this story with a few points that give an important background:

  • I loathe that one of my jobs as homemaker is going to the grocery store, and keeping up on the food supply. I feel like a dog chasing my tail because it’s inevitable I have to go at least once a week, if not multiple (which is usually the case). We have 1 fridge, and at any given time, can safely fit 2 gallons of milk into, sometimes I can squeeze in a third. I have a hard time keeping up the milk supply for my hungry brood, and have discouraged cereal consumption besides for breakfast.
  • I’ll also preface this story with sharing that generally speaking, I’ll get “boring cereals” but lately with my daughters birthday, and then sending my husband to the store for a trip, we’ve had a handful of “fun cereals” in the house.
  • I will ALSO state that over and over I’ve discussed that after school snacks should be fruit or veggies, especially after 4
  • BECAUSE we always have dinner between 5:30-6:30 and I’d like them to be ready to eat dinner and not be filled up on snacks

You may see where I’m going with this…

I’ve got growing kids, and they always say that teenage boys will “eat you out of house and home” and I expect that, but within reason, especially with the points I mentioned above, rules that have been clearly defined. I’m pretty laid back with most things, I wish I weren’t so laid back about chores (something we are trying to hit home more with the kids, but that’s another post) and I KNOW THEY ARE HUNGRY a lot, I get it!

The other day, I walked into the kitchen to finish up dinner prep, when I see one child diving a spoon into a recently poured bowl of cereal at 5:45 PM!!! Dinner was literally 5 minutes away!

I kinda lost it.

As I reminded this child of all of the key points above, why eating this at that time was against several previously discussed house rules, I was beside myself that it would enter into their mind that this was ok. There may have been some eye bulging and some arms flailing on my part, 100% incredulous confusion.

I asked this child if they remembered these house rules, and they agreed they did. My other 3 children were close by, and stopped in their tracks to watch this tirade playing out before them. I try my best to contain my emotions, and they had wide eyes watching me. I spoke again for all of my kids to see that CEREAL is for breakfast, and I don’t want anyone pouring a bowl unless they ask permission. This cereal eating was getting out of hand (seriously some having 2 bowls after dinner each night). A lot has to do with not being able to keep up with the milk AND cereal enough to have it ready for breakfast!

When I realized I could no longer contain myself, I just walked away, and after I did so, I thought I should have done something dramatic, and dumped the freshly poured bowl of heavenly Apple Jacks into the sink, but it was too late, I already stormed off.

Once in a quiet place, I immediately regretted my reaction….

This isn’t the mom I want to be.

I should have handled that better.

This child is probably feeling awful.

I need to go apologize for my behavior.

Then I heard from the other room, all 4 of my children joking and laughing with each other about a conversation that had nothing to do with that exchange, and I immediately thought, “well dang, they are all already over it!”  The silent stunned reactions were no more, and they had moved on.

There are very few things that my husband and I see as punishable, and for the most part, we don’t “ground” our children. I’d like to think that my disappointment is enough to carry them through making decisions against house rules, but it doesn’t all the time.

As I continued to torture myself in silence, I started thinking about things:

  • this child is so kind and thoughtful, nice to family and reaches out to others
  • this child had straight A’s, doing amazing in school
  • this child is just HUNGRY, and I just went loco
  • my high school best friend Natalie often reminds me that one of her favorite memories of my home growing up was the seemingly unlimited supply of Cinnamon Toast Crunch we ate: bowl after bowl after bowl, and no one was yelling at me for that

In that silence I thought I could adjust my priorities.

I stand behind my frustration to breaking the house rules, but I blew up, and I think a mixture of a few frustrations to those rules built up and I felt like it was a slap in the face, just before a dinner I was preparing. But also the pre-existing frustration of not being able to keep up with the milk/cereal and I feel it’s MY FAULT when we don’t have those staples on hand.

So see…I don’t have all the answers.

I apologized to my child, told them I’d really like to come to a solution that can work for us, and I’m fine with an afternoon/evening bowl of cereal, but within reason, not every day, and not multiple bowls.

I just don’t want to be taken advantage of, and feel our house rules are respected.

So there, my disclaimer with a story!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the eating/snacking/breaking of rules thing. How is it handled in your home? Lets make this a discussion! (Any time you want to leave an anonymous comment below, just make up an email. If you want me to know who you are and reply to you, use your real email, but only I will see that).

ANNNNDDDD, after you leave a comment about the snacking dilemma (because I love to hear back from you when I tell a story) I’d LOVE for you to answer 1 or both of these questions about future parenting discussions. They are anonymous, so you don’t have to worry about people seeing, but I would LOVE to hear stories or examples of something challenging in your home that you would like discussed. I THINK WE CAN ALL BENEFIT FROM EACH OTHER! If it fits, I’ll bring it up to discuss in a future post here or social media, share my point of view, and others can weight in and do the same in the comments, so we are forming more of a community to help each other out and learn.

I’m very excited about this, so please share if you have something in mind!

Join The Discussion



  1. My littles (almost 4 and 2) snack all day long. We almost don’t have lunch because they just snack. I’ve always loved having healthy snacks available to them. String cheese, carrots, and some crackers but it’s getting ridiculous. Now to change this habit will be fun (insert sarcasm). I’m thinking of setting up alarms and telling the oldest about it. We have breakfast and then we don’t snack until say 10 am. Then we have lunch and we can have an afternoon snack. But right now just telling him no to a snack 5 minutes before dinner results in tears. I’m still in the toddler stage but I totally related to your story.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Glad you can relate! I think we snacked a lot more in that toddler stage, too, I think I go crazy now because they ARE old enough to comprehend what I’m saying. We are all forgetful though, and stomach often speaks louder than brain. We can all relate to THAT!

  2. Joy says:

    I currently have a teen, a tween, and a toddler. Some day (some weeks), I feel like my life is complete and total chaos. As far as cereal, I’m guilty of buying the boring cereals because when I buy something “fun”, it doesn’t last. I’m the one that will snack on cereal, I don’t eat it for breakfast. The toddler is the only one of my children that will eat it as a snack. As for snacks in general, my toddler is a very picky eater, and often would rather snack than eat dinner, which is extremely frustrating. I try to buy fruits, vegetables, granola bars, applesauce, and some crackers for snacks. I don’t keep chips in the house unless we’re hosting a party, or the occasional bag of tortilla chips. I work until 5:00 pm and pick my toddler up from the sitter on my way home, so we typically don’t have dinner until 6:30/7:00. I used to skip snacks, but my mother would buy them for my kids, or if they went to her house after school, she always had them on hand and would reprimand me for not keeping any in my house. My older two get home from school around 3:45, so I assume that they will have a snack before I even get home now, especially the tween. I’m okay with this, within reason. I keep “fun” snacks to a minimum. Nothing irritates me more than when I fill the snack drawer in our pantry, and then I find it nearly empty the next day. I have been known to lose it in this instance. I don’t like them to snack right before dinner, though they definitely try, especially if they have sports right after school. I try to keep after dinner snacking to a minimum as well.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      YES! Filling that snack bin, only to see it empty the next day is frustrating!!! I need to go back to those boring cereals, too. And tricky that your mom is suggesting snacks…We can make it through this, right?!

  3. I don’t have a toddler, tween or teen yet. Mine are still in that pre-tween stage. We also believe in having fruits/ veggies as snacks. We minimize wasteful snacking (I sound like a tyrant!) by not having it in the house and if we have “fun” snacks, because of a party or whatever, when it’s gone, it’s gone. That helps them regulate themselves too because they know that if they eat an entire box of Lucky Charms in one morning, then they’re out for who knows how long. We don’t really restrict their snacking much after school but we also eat dinner pretty early at 5:00. And they have a snack, usually some fruit, after dinner. We do a big shopping trip once a week and I usually stop to pick up more provisions (how do they eat so much yogurt!) at least one extra day. I probably would have also blown up at blatant house rule breaking. I don’t really have much tolerance for that. I do like how you went back and apologized and explained yourself and how you all need a better system so you’re not running to the store every other day. I think that part is the important part and the ones your kids will remember, not so much the arm flailing.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      You are much more organized about the snack purchasing than I am. I could use some tips from you! Thanks for sharing…And yes, I really believe in explaining and apologizing, so Hopefully they appreciate that, if not now, then later.

  4. Melanie says:

    My teenage son is a competitive swimmer (swims before and after school), so he is always hungry! I’m pretty relaxed on snacks, since I know how many calories he is burning. 🙂 Regarding cereal specifically, he doesn’t eat cereal for breakfast, so I usually let him eat a bowl of cereal for a snack. But I buy cereal like chocolate mini wheats – still a treat, but not as crazy as other cereals out there.

    In answer to your Instagram question regarding this post – I always apologize if I lose my temper or make a mistake. We’re all going to make mistakes and lose our tempers at times. I hope I’m modeling appropriate behavior when those things happen so he can learn from my mistakes, too. 🙂

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Sounds like you are modeling good behavior, thanks for answering my question, ha! A swimmer, yes, lots of calories burned. My boys are runners, so it’s less about the treat than it is about not eating dinner or keeping up with it all! A reminder that I just need to be more patient. I do love those boys, and apologizing I did right after.

  5. Amy says:

    This strikes a cord with me today! I love that you are doing this. I feel like we have the best intentions, and then at the end of the day us moms are just tired! Dinnertime is the worst! I feel like everyone is an inch away from a meltdown-including myself. 😉 My kids are younger. 3-10, but one thing that helps for my younger ones is a fridge lock. Got it for like $4 on Amazon. When I’m at my mommy-best, I remember to lock it up while I’m making dinner and make sure they know I’m serious about staying out of the cupboards. One time I was so fed up that I took crepe paper and blocked off the entire kitchen. They thought it was hilarious, but they got my point and stayed out. You should try that with your teenagers! 😉 Other days I’m just to exhausted to care about preventative measures, and we just get by! It’s a work in progress for sure!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      HI Amy, thanks for piping in! Yes, we do tend to have great intentions, but yes, the “witching hour” as I’ve heard it called before dinner can get us all cranky! The lock sounds great, and that crepe paper display sounds amazing, I bet they were wide eyed while you were putting it up!

  6. Nichelle Z says:

    I have 2 teens and a tween they too love their cereal and their snacks. I try my best to have good, healthy snacks on hand but since all 3 play various sports they are always eating. I have found the best way is to leave a box or two of cereal out where they can see and say that’s until the next trip but actually have quite a few stocked up and hidden elsewhere. The snack bin gets fill with only half the snacks and I try to rotate that out every couple of days from my snack stash. The kids don’t realize one of my sewing cabinets is a snack/junk food storage are. I really love the portion size bags so that I can pick how much they are munching rather then them choosing.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I love that you hide snacks and cereal in your sewing area, ha ha! I’ve hidden in my room before. I think I just need to relax and let go a little…thanks for weighing in and sharing your thoughts!

  7. I have a 8 and 5 year old and sometimes a 23 year old (college student who use to live with us) They have always been huge snackers about every 2-3 hours I will hear “I’m hungry.” 3 years ago before the oldest joined us we had sliced apples, grapes, string cheese, raisins, etc available in individualized portions so I could say just grab it but they started going really fast and I couldn’t keep up. They also expect something right before bed even if we JUST ate dinner. Their go to is pbj but I started putting my foot down because they would fall asleep eating it and then the bed would be a mess. Now they have granola bars but I have crumbs everywhere and it is driving me crazy. Especially since they have decided to share a bed they will switch rooms if there are too many crumbs. As soon as we are done working on the bathrooms and there is no more construction mess in their rooms I plan to require them to go to the kitchen to eat if they are still hungry. Not easy right now because they trip over tile or whatever is in the way. Although we are entering the stage of they don’t like what I offer…fun.

    I hate to use it as an excuse but I am a redhead and have a short temper. I have learned to control it but there are times I just fly off the handle. I try to make sure to apologize and come to an understanding of what upset me but why it was wrong for me to get mad. The last couple weeks have been a constant battle for me because I have been under stress with sickness, work, babysitting, remodeling (you get the point), we were nearing the end of school (homeschool) and they were getting lazy and rebellious. I knew I had to take a step back and breath before we pushed forward. I think communication is the key to helping reduce the stress.

    All this to say I understand where you come from and am looking forward to these discussions to hopefully prepare myself 😉

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I love hearing that others are in my same boat, thanks for sharing! I would not be able to handle crumbs in the bed…ha ha! We have a “no food upstairs” rule at our home, which is their rooms, and really only food in the kitchen, which it’s often broken. I’ve also tried to implement just fruit/vegetables after 7pm or so. If they are really hungry, that will surely curb it until bedtime.

      Thanks for weighing in!

  8. meg says:

    you had gold glitter glasses. now blue. fun. That is wonderful you are open. I have apologized to my kids. I am working on not raising my voice because I don’t want them to raise their voice. I’ve also thought about how our heavenly father chasten’s his children. He does it loveingly…….. so I am working on that as well. Thank you for your post. I think I enforce the rule enough that my kids know that we don’t snack between meal times. Sometimes around the witching hour in the afternoon there are some melt downs about being starving I just ignore them. Because most likely I’m in the middle of dinner prep. And we will be eating soon. Mostly I think my kids want to know they are going to get fed. Sometimes I let them help in the prep and it helps the transition go smoother. My kids are a lot smaller than yours and I’ve heard that older boys eat a lot and frequently. “Close your Eyes and Feed Them”- Quote from Hinckley about boys.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Oh yes, I’ve really come to love those cheap glasses and giving them a color once over! CLose your eyes and feed them, I gotta do that more! THanks for sharing your thoughts, it’s fun to hear what others are experiencing right along with me.

  9. Heather S says:

    My kids have always asked for snacks so at 7, 12, and 14, they still ask. I hardly ever say no, unless it’s super close to meal time. I also push fruits often and they love them, so I don’t mind. And as for apologizing after losing it, I think it’ss important and a good lesson for them to see that we make mistakes sometimes too. And that its respectful and kind to talk about it later. And I say, get an extra fridge for the garage. We have one just or drinks. It’s worth the sanity!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I have really been wanting an extra fridge, but I’d only have milk and bottle water in it, and would be tempted to store produce that likely wouldn’t get eaten, so that makes me nervous! But I should…I just need a mini fridge, maybe.

  10. Stacy says:

    I know how frustrating it is to go to the work of having dinner ready and then watching as your child(ren) don’t eat it because of snacking too late. A thought that came to my mind, is that I am curious if you ever snack on the food your might be prepping? Do you grab a handful of the veggies you’ve just sliced? Or taken a bite or two or three of the main dish to make sure its all ready? I know I am guilty of eating food I’m prepping for dinner. I am trying to be more aware of my actions to try to make them more in align with what I am saying.
    Also, another thought in regards to the snacking. Cereal is an “easy” snack for your child to get. Basically you just dump two items together and voila, you are off eating. I know that ease of just quickly getting something appeals to most everyone. If you want your child to be eating more fruits/veggies, are there fruits and veggies easily ready for them? I know that if i have peppers sliced up on the counter top when my kids are home, they come grab those. Same things with watermelon, or whatever it may be. If I have taken the time to make sure the types of food I want my children eating are quickly accessible, they are more likely to snack on them. Like I said though, it is a constant battle of following rules and trying to encourage good eating, while maintaining kind, loving harmony in the home. Good luck!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      That is a great idea to have them out and accessible. I have them fairly easy to grab in the fridge, but that extra step of putting them out may actually do the trick. Thanks for mentioning that!!

      • Veri says:

        We have a “rule” that anybody can snack on prep veggies for dinner while I/we’re making it (I always use veggies in dinner) but not on other foods. We actually never needed to establish that rule as it came with example. When they were little they were always around when I was cooking and if they were hungry they were always able and encouraged to take the prep veggies. They really liked that (and still do – to the point that I had to limit it as than I had nothing to put into the dinner:D Now I know to wash 2 kg of carrots if I need 1:D).

        They can also take fruits and other veggies at all times but for other things they usually ask (except on weekend’s mornings if we’re still in bed and they help themselves which is fine by us:). We all like dinner together and everybody is happily waiting for it so it’s not such a struggle (the struggle is to end it – they eat sooooo long!). They know that we don’t eat other foods before dinner but if anybody’s hungry there are always fruits and veggies that keep you full enough while dinner is cooking. If I see they are hungry before I cut some veggies and/or fruit to last them to dinner and if only someone is hungry and/or I haven’t noticed that they do that themselves.

        I don’t think it’s so bad to be angry if kid is taking a big snack right before dinner. I would probably be as well. I don’t know how it looked like at your house but I certainly wouldn’t be pleased with that:D. I would probably take the bowl away and they get it after dinner.

        We eat dinner together and it’s not just food… I cook everyday and they appreciate it more than I thought (when we were moving we couldn’t do it every single day for 2-3 weeks and they were devastated – it really means a lot to them) so it’s fair that they wait for a few minutes even when they’re hungry. It’s not like they are starving, right?;) They probably ate less than 2 hours prior;).

        But it’s true that they really like our dinners and wouldn’t trade it for cereals. They often choose the menu and like the whole cooking thing (they love love love homemade pasta and gnocchi, homemade pizza and so on – I don’t know is it the flavor or the preparation). So when they say they’re hungry and I’m making dinner I tell them dinner is in … minutes and they can take … If I know it will take some time to make it or that dad will be home late I let them it a bigger snack (though that is usually not needed as we already eat a lot of times:D) but 5 minutes before dinner it’s just fruits and veggies.

        Maybe you feel too guilty for demanding that the kid is hungry for 5 minutes. Nothing bad will happen. It is natural and they will be able to enjoy dinner much more if they feel hungry. Let them eat healthy stuff that will not make them so full – fruits and veggies are perfect. If they are hungry, they can go and wash an apple or peel a cucumber. My kids really like that and they never remember cereals at time before dinner (they do eat it for supper or breakfast sometimes). Maybe it just became a habit as it is easy, tasty and filling.

        In your case: what about bread or toast or dobulebake, polenta,… for breakfast if cereals are gone? Does it have to be milk and cereals all the time? In our house – if it’s gone it’s gone, than we eat something else. It’s no big deal. If we are at the seaside where we can’t get certain things I remind them that this is our last peanut butter for example but if they choose to finish it they may and than we’ll eat other stuff. The won’t be hungry if there are no cereals and/or milk.

        I think it is all due to your memories: you connect the happy childhood with the supply of cereals and milk. But childhood is much more than that and kids are not unhappy if there is no cereals and no milk on hand, trust me on that one – it has happened a lot in our house and they seem happy nevertheless;). Don’t feel bad for demanding your kids to be hungry for 5 minutes and for not having cereals at all times. It’s not what makes kids happy, it just a little thing that can brighten a day sometimes but it’s not necessary for happy healthy kids.

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