Are there times when your child seems to be doing just fine one moment and then, suddenly, they are having a meltdown? If the problem flared up quickly, it could very well be due to the Hungry Crabbie.
We consider Hungry to be “The Sneaky One” because the signs can be hard for both the child and parent to recognize. Hunger can sneak up on children and affect their moods, seemingly out of the blue. The good news is once you learn to recognize the signs that the Hungry Crabbie has invaded, this is one of the easiest Crabbies to beat.
Generally, there are two different camps of characteristics you’ll see when the Hungry Crabbie is on the scene: overly reactive or almost lethargic.
Over-reactive kids might get loud, shrill, demanding, or argumentative. They have a high emotional intensity and may start literally tugging at you. You’re simply trying to make your way through the checkout line without making a scene. All eyes are on you as your child starts chanting, “I want,”...“I don’t want,”...“mom, mom, mom,”...“you never let me have anything.” They seem to protest everything. You might feel like you’re trying to talk to a brick wall. All sense of reason has gone out the door in that moment, maybe including you own! A feeling of desperation sinks in. Time is speeding by and moving painfully slow at the same time!
On the other hand, sometimes hungry kids have a sudden decrease in their energy level. They may appear sullen or tired, get clingy, become whiney or needy, and have a hard time doing things for themselves that they usually do with ease. They usually can put their shoes on without a problem, but now they want you to do it for them. Instead of walking, they want to be carried. They look sad and are likely to cry.
Hint: If these problems appear, ask yourself when is the last time your child ate. If it’s been a while or if you’re running behind when they should have eaten a meal, Hungry is probably the culprit. Just as we explained about Too-Tired, for some kids this might be a continual problem and you may have begun to think these characteristics are part of their personality.
When kids have the Hungry Crabbies, they are more prone to getting the Can’t-Do and Get-Along Crabbies too! Their lack of energy and some of the symptoms might also mimic the Too-Tired Crabbies. A thoughtful review of your child's day can help identify which Crabbie to address first.
Beating the Hungry Crabbie involves two basic steps.
Make sure your child eats healthy food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Be consistent with eating schedules. Try to eat meals at the same time each day.
We believe in the old saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” because when your child wakes up, they have not eaten anything overnight and their bodies and brains need food in order for them to function well. If your child does not eat a good breakfast, you don’t stand a chance at keeping the Hungry Crabbies away. Even later in the day, children do best if they eat fairly often. If you are in the middle of something when it is time to eat, and your child does not get food on time, you could find yourself scrambling like mad to beat Hungry.
We recommend being proactive so that Hungry does not catch you off guard. If you’re running late, give them a healthy snack to help prevent hunger. If you know in advanced that dinner will be late due to scheduled activities, plan ahead to make sure that your child doesn’t go a long stretch without eating.
Have healthy foods on hand, whether this is in the fridge, in your car, or in a purse! Depending on your family situation, this may require significant effort, but it is well worth it. If you find yourself in a pinch and don’t have a healthy choice available, we caution you against giving your kids Junk-Food, because then you’ll have another Crabbie to contend with.
If you find yourself struggling with how to follow our recommendations for beating the Hungry Crabbies, we recommend you consult with experts in your area for help with nutrition and meal planning. Also see our section on strategies for “picky eaters”.