"Food Rules"

Lack of rules—need for thought, good judgment, consideration

In a discussion, someone was asking about how to loosen up about letting children choose foods. Someone gave a quick, hard piece of bad advice:

-=-From now on you allow them to eat what, when and where they want.-=-
This is a rule, applying to the parent, handed down by…. "UNSCHOOLING"?
No. And it doesn't really make sense.

I responded:

I think there are some exceptions, but there shouldn't be hundreds of exceptions.

An hour before something like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, no.
At a wedding, before food is served, no.
At a funeral, not even kind of.

At someone else's house? You might not have the option. You might need to go out for a walk and offer them something you have stashed in your bag.

Don't bring your hot dog to the vegan friend's house. Don't bring stinky food to places where others can't get away. Don't bring great-smelling food to a hospital room where someone is on a restricted diet, or on an IV with no food allowed.

Some families don't let food into bedrooms. Some have formal living rooms with expensive carpet and food doesn't go in there.

Getting up at 2:00 a.m. shouldn't be an "eat anything you want" situation, especially for someone very young, or someone who's older but can't get food out without making enough noise to wake people up.

"It depends" is a good first answer when someone asks whether something is or is not okay. There is no "rule" that says unschoolers can eat anything they want any time. But there should not be arbitrary restrictions, just really logical, sensible ones involving courtesy and common sense.


Thoughtful decision making involves considering as many factors as you can. No rule can be applied in every place and at all times. There will be special cases, and times to put courtesy and etiquette before any other considerations.
Then there are other rules that make sense:
Showing people your chewed-up food isn't polite.

Making a lot of noise while eating isn't polite.

Chewing with one's mouth open isn't courteous.

Double dipping (biting something and then sticking it in a public dip) is wrong.

These things are learned gradually, but parents should not think that unschoolers are exempt from any expectations of courtesy or etiquette.

Visiting other lands or cultures
Find out before you go what might be expected.
       Not eating with the left hand?
                        Finishing and asking for more?
                               NOT finishing, but leaving a bit on the plate?
                                          Fork and knife at all times?
There are places that are Not Where You Live. LOTS of them.
"From now on you allow them to eat what, when and where they want" is unlikely to apply.

Judgment Rules (Principles vs. Rules) Etiquette Courtesy