Years ago when I started learning the principles of self-government I was foster parenting really difficult children. Most of these children had some things in common. They were on medication, they had severe anger control issues, and they had terrible eating habits. The medication situation was evaluated, and in most cases stopped as self-government principles were taught. Sometimes the anger control issues stopped immediately when self-government principles and skills were learned. However, sometimes the anger control issues would correct temporarily and then go through a cycle and re-surface a while later, or in some cases a week later. With these youth I had to look at another aspect of their self-government, their diet.
In many cases I would notice the children were really addicted to sugar and junk food. I know it seems like an old wives tale to associate sugar or food to behaviors, but it's not. I am the kind of person who literally feels my chemicals change when I eat certain things, so I know food really affects the way a person feels and acts. For some of the foster children in my care I needed to alter their diets in order to get them chemically ready to learn self-government. Most of the diet changes were easy, I would remove sugar and lots of white flours and then introduce a lot more vegetables and fruits.
For some of the children who didn't like to eat food because they were worried about weight gain we would make a healthy living eating plan and encourage nourishing the body. For some children who ate too much and had food hoarding issues we would make a similar plan. At times, with both of these plans we even had positive consequences for following the plan.
In most cases, when the nutrition of the child was adjusted the behaviors improved and the contentment of the child increased.
What About Gluten?
As many of you know I don't eat gluten, which is anything with wheat, oats, barley, and rye because of a problem I have called celiac disease. This disease does not have anything to do with this next piece of advice about gluten.
Over the years I have had many people give me various testimonials about omitting gluten from either their own diets or their child's diets. I am sharing some of those stories with you here so that you can have another option to help your child be chemically ready to learn self-government. We are all so chemically different, that one diet doesn't necesarily work for all of us.
These last two years I have had multiple parents contact me for help with their angry, or difficult, children. I helped them with many of the structure problems in their homes and helped them improve the communication with their children, but the children weren't able to have complete self government until their chemicals were fixed. The main way that parents are helping children chemically in this time of processed everything is to remove gluten from the diet. Once gluten is removed, most of the children feel more calm and in control. They are not as volatile, and express feelings of increased security and happiness. Some of the children even mention that they think more clearly when they don't eat gluten.
You may have heard instances where parents with autistic children, or children with learning disabilities also choose to remove gluten from the diet of the child. This is very common in recent years because people have noticed that the chemical reaction of gluten on the body creates anxiety and mental confusion. So, if gluten can do that do a person with autism, wouldn't it also have the same effect of any of us?
I have a friend who, as a regular mother, was having a hard time concentrating. She really likes studying, but just couldn't seem to get as much out of her studies and couldn't stay focused. At this point she decided to go off of gluten to see if it would help her concentrate better just like it does for children with autism. After a short time off of gluten she was able to concentrate like normal, had a lot more energy and felt more at peace with her body.
At this point, because of so many testimonials which I have received, I don't feel like I am helping all I can unless I bring up that many many families have noticed increased focus and happiness when their difficult children are off of gluten. The same is true for sugar too.
So, if you are doing all the self-government teaching correctly, and your child is still anxious or angry a lot of the time, then you may want to think about adjusting their diet too.
Of course I am not suggesting that removing gluten is part of teaching self-government. However, I am suggesting that some children need more help. Each of us are chemically different, and if your child is really angry, or not connecting well with other people, then maybe a nutrition adjustment could be just the thing you need to make everything come together for that child.
There is a website called http://celiacshack.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html which one of our readers writes. It has a lot of posts about the effects of eating gluten.
What About Other Foods?
I am not going to pretend to be a dietician, or a person who knows the effect of all different kinds of foods. Honestly, I only know what I feel when I eat, and what I see and hear that other people feel. But, I don't want to limit my comments to gluten only.
It is true that the majority of the comments sent to me from people about diet have involved gluten and sugar, there have been others who have sent me findings about dairy products, corn, and soy. So, I guess the point here is, that if you get the feeling your child is having some chemical problems, before you go to medication, you may want to look at a change in diet first. It can take some experimentation, but when you find something that is affecting the mental health of your child or yourself and you fix it, you will be so grateful you went through the experimentation period.
If you are going to experiment with deleting foods I suggest going to a really clean diet of rice, meat, alternative grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits for a few weeks and then adding one food type at a time and watching to see what the effects are. There are a lot of really yummy recipes out there that don't have processed ingredients. Look around and be creative.
This article was not written to get anyone paranoid or fanatical. The Peck family has two people who eat gluten free and the other four eat regular food when it is served. Since two of us eat gluten free I cook gluten free most of the time.
However, this was written to offer additional help to parents who are struggling with really difficult children. We are all a combination of chemicals, feelings, and learned behaviors. All of these things need to be considered when helping a child learn to govern themselves.