Okay, I have a 5 year old boy and a 4 year old girl and have been battling with them over the last year or so to get through their thick little skulls that they are not allowed to get into the food without asking first. We feed them well balanced meals, they are very healthy and we are always praised for how healthy they are at all appointments. They get three nutritious meals a day and snacks (if they ask and it isn't too close to a meal). We don't feed them a bunch of empty foods that might leave their bodies craving nutrients. We have tried reward charts, both good and bad behavior charts, we have tried everything we can think of, nothing persuades them that it is better to obey. They will obey when we are at other people's houses. Not at home, though (or if we are camping or in a hotel). Today alone they thought it was a good idea to eat half a container of yogurt when I was taking the dog out (we live in an apartment on the top floor). I took 10 minutes to take a shower and they got into ice cream. I don't even remember the last time they got dessert because they lose it if they get into the food or are caught trying to get into it. Today alone from getting into the food or getting caught trying to get into the food they have lost games (both board and electronic) for today and tomorrow, the special craft we were going to do, TV/movies for today and tomorrow, breakfast (if they get into food before breakfast they lose that- thought that alone would be motivation enough, it would have been for me as a child), and dessert for today and tomorrow. They are upset about it, but it still doesn't motivate them to follow the rules. I am at my wits end, I have no ideas left for how to motivate them to obey this rule. We are on a tight budget in a high cost of living area. We cannot afford to replace the things they eat at the rate they consume them. Things like yogurt and ice cream (their choices for today) are luxuries we usually go without and to have them half gone in one day without even getting any yet is more than frustrating. Anyone dealt with this before? Have any ideas of what to do? Or why they are doing it? They say, upon being asked, that they don't know why they are doing it and won't obey. I swear, nothing phases these kids. And we can't install a lock on the fridge (or all the cupboards, because that is what it would take). And they don't discriminate. If we successfully hide the more appealing things, they will get into other things, like butter or flour or the pepper grinder... you get the idea. Help!
** I guess I need to clarify. We do not limit how much they eat, we only ask that they ask us first. I don't think that is too much to ask and have seen it work successfully in many homes with kids younger than mine. They lose breakfast when the amount they snuck is equivalent to a meal or close to it. Normal portion sizes for 4 and 5 year olds don't apply here. They regularly out eat my husband and I. For examle, for lunch today they are splitting a box of mac'n'cheese and are each having a sandwich with bread, cheese, spinach, tomato, turkey slices, and cucumber. Desserts are a priviledge, they finish their meal, they get dessert. That is only if/when we have them in the house. Hunger is not a factor here, many times I find the half eaten remains of what they got into hidden in various loations. They only do this when they know I will not be able to watch them for a couple minutes. At their age my two kids are fully able to process the concept of get into food=no dessert. Not only are they old enough, but even if they wouldn't normally be so, they are advanced and regularly comprehend things beyond their peers' ability (we have had professionals who deal with children confirm this, so not our personal thoughts alone).