Tag Archives: mattannuta

Live and Learn: Fussy eaters and how not to create them

Panyaden students enjoy a healthy meal at school
Please don’t pass the greens!
Fussy eaters and how not to create them

by Neil Amas, Panyaden International School Director

Panyaden International School Director Neil Amas
School Director Neil Amas

As parents we all want our children to develop good eating habits, to be healthy, eat greens and avoid junk food. No one wants a fussy eater. Why, then, do so many of us have kids that won’t eat vegetables, who don’t seem to be eating enough, who skip school lunch, who only seem to want ice cream or French fries? Or, more to the point, what can we do about it? As a parent, I know that I wish so much that my daughters will eat the right things, and, more pertinently, will want to eat the right things. But I can hear myself nagging them daily, ‘you really need to eat more than that before you go to school’, ‘can you please choose something more healthy from the menu than a plate of chips’, etcetera, etcetera!

One thing that is clear from experts on diet and parenting is that parental attitudes towards eating are key to children developing good habits. If we see every mealtime as a battle, so will our child. If we pile the pressure on our kid to eat this or avoid that, we will not only increase her anxiety around food, she will probably end up doing the exact opposite of what we want. What are you most likely to want to eat if you are forbidden from eating chocolate brownies? Chocolate brownies, of course!

Panyaden students learn about healthy eatingAt school it is quite common for children, especially those who are new to the country or who don’t eat Thai food at home, to take some time to get used to school lunch. But experts warn that the worst thing you can do when you pick up your hungry child is to ask him if he ate his lunch. “Show him that you aren’t worried or thinking about what or how much he is eating at lunch. DON’T ask him what he ate. I see parents do this all the time. Pretend it doesn’t matter. Give him the message that he can manage his eating, even if he is still learning right now.”i

He may eat little at lunch, but with an adequate offering at breakfast, a planned snack after school and a good dinner, he will probably be just fine. It’s worth remembering that meals at school account for less than a quarter of a child’s weekly intake.

Children have a natural ability with eating. They eat as much as they need, they grow in the way that is right for them, and they learn to eat the food their parents eat (important note: this goes for both healthy and junk food!). Ellyn Satter’s no-nonsense guide to parents on who does what at mealtime, makes the case clearly:


The Division of Responsibility for toddlers through adolescents

  • The parent is responsible for what, when, where.
  • The child is responsible for how much and whether.

Fundamental to parents’ jobs is trusting children to determine how much and whether to eat from what parents provide. When parents do their jobs with feeding, children do their jobs with eating:

Parents’ feeding jobs:

  • Choose and prepare the food.
  • Provide regular meals and snacks.
  • Make eating times pleasant.
  • Step-by-step, show children by example how to behave at family mealtime.
  • Be considerate of children’s lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes.
  • Not let children have food or beverages (except for water) between meal and snack times.
  • Let children grow up to get bodies that are right for them.

Children’s eating jobs:

  • Children will eat.
  • They will eat the amount they need.
  • They will learn to eat the food their parents eat.
  • They will grow predictably.
  • They will learn to behave well at mealtime.


In short, don’t force your child to eat (it lessens their ability to self-regulate), don’t over-control and restrict the types of food your child eats or how much (research shows this actually increases fussinessii), model healthy eating habits yourself (enjoy mealtimes together so your kids can learn good habits from you) and never offer food as a reward or use unhealthy food as part of a celebration (associating junk food with achievement gives the wrong message).

One of the school’s Wise Habits, Mattannuta, means knowing the right amount. Whether eating, sleeping, studying, playing, using the computer or talking, the ability to find optimal balance through self-regulation is a skill which will lead to maturity and social responsibility. With modelling, skill and trust, we will help our children see that true value of food relates to health, not preference.


i Jenny McGlothlin and Katja Rowell, www.extremepickyeating.com

ii S Scaglioni et al, Influence of parental attitudes in the development of children eating behavior. British Journal of Nutrition, 2008. 99(1):S22-25 cited in Fostering Healthy Eating Habits in Children: the Effect of Parenting Attitudes by Gemma Buller


Panyaden 12 Wise Habits 2016

Panyden Wise Habit Mattannuta session at school


by School Director, Neil Amas

Mattannuta (pronounced ma‐tan‐yoo‐ta มัตตัญญุตา) means ‘knowing the right amount’. When practised, it helps us achieve a healthy balance in life. It is the quality of understanding that, whatever goals we set ourselves, there is an optimum amount of material and non‐material things that we need. It is the ability to assess what is enough, and to know when we are being over‐demanding on ourselves, others or our environment.

Phra Prom Kunaporn

The Buddha taught that the middle path should be followed by both body and mind. It is a path of neither sensory indulgence nor extreme austerity, but rather one of thoughtful moderation and balance. This does not only refer to specific actions or thoughts in isolation, for example, consuming the right amount of food, but also to achieving the right balance between all the different things we do each day and throughout our lives.

To illustrate this, Phra Prom Kunaporn refers to the importance of balancing the five indriya, or spiritual faculties: conviction (saddha), perseverance (viriya), mindfulness (sati), concentration (samadhi) and wisdom (panya). For example, if our conviction or faith is very strong but we do not use wisdom, we have a tendency to become gullible, a person who follows without question. Conversely, high intelligence but little faith leads to scepticism, and an inability to look inside oneself for the truth. If our perseverance is strong but our concentration is weak, we are likely to become agitated and stressed. Too much concentration and insufficient perseverance, on the other hand, leads to excessive daydreaming or idleness. To find the right balance between these, we need to use the faculty of mindfulness (sati) to observe and manage the impulses that habitually drive our actions and thoughts.

In today’s world of branded ‘must-haves’ and ubiquitous advertising, teaching the new generation how to consume the right amount is very important. Natural resources are stretched and we are experiencing increasing environmental degradation. Understanding mattannuta, therefore, is vital for our students as they grow up and shape the future of our society and our world. Venerable Ajahn Jayasaro counsels that if we think more is better simply in order to make our lives more comfortable, we will end up just wanting more and more and will never be satisfied. His advice is to encourage children to work out the mattannuta point for themselves. Whether eating, sleeping, studying, playing, using the computer or talking, the ability to find optimal balance through self-regulation is a skill which will lead to maturity and social responsibility. This means not dictating the rules to children, but rather helping them see the results of too much sleep – irritability and heaviness – or not enough – drowsiness and the inability to concentrate, or over-eating – stomach ache – and so on. When we ask our children how much sleep they think they need, how much food they should eat, instead of routinely imposing our own limits, they begin to understand mattannuta. If we encourage children to persevere for just another five minutes on a task they are bored with or wish to avoid, or to stop doing something they really crave a little earlier than they would like, this further helps put into focus the pushes and pulls of the mind and the benefits of balance.

Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro, Panyaden International School spiritual advisor
Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro

Venerable Jayasaro suggests that a family which practices mattannuta is one where parents and children are able to come to mutually acceptable agreements. This means deciding how long we think children should watch TV or play on the computer, for example, but also respecting our child’s ability to think for himself and come to a sensible agreement on the right amount of time. When the time has passed, we simply remind our child of the agreement. In this age of ever-increasing ‘screen time’, as adults we also need to reflect on the amount of time we spend on ‘smart’ phones or laptops in the presence of children, and the message we are giving them about what we consider to be important.

Mattannuta means understanding that any goals we set should take into account the optimum balance of supporting factors required to achieve the most beneficial result for ourselves, others and the environment. Practising mattannuta helps us to understand the desires and aversions created by our mind, and that understanding, in turn, increases the peaceful moments we experience. Mattannuta is, therefore, a vitally important wise habit to teach our children, but also to practice ourselves if we are to achieve true balance in our lives.

lotus2 transparentClick here for article in Thai: มัตตัญญุตา

Mattanuta at Panyaden

Mattanuta, knowing the right amount

Learning about wise habits at Panyaden School Chiang Mai

Another disciple of the Kung Fu Chef, Master Mattanuta and her team of apprentices arrived this morning at Panyaden to teach our students this week’s wise habit, mattanuta or ‘knowing the right amount’ in situations such as eating, using glue for artwork, sleeping or playing.

A Special Treat For Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro

On 13 July during morning assembly, our children treated Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro to a special presentation of the 12 Wise Habits. Heading this presentation was our favourite Kung Fu Chef who joined us at the assembly hall after the students called out enthusiastically for him. He brought along a video featuring our children acting out various roles to show examples of the wise habits they have been learning. This was a great hit with the students as well as Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro, judging by the smiles, cheers and applause.

Ven. Jayasaro at Panyaden School Chiang Mai Ven. Jayasaro at Panyaden School Chiang Mai: presentation of wise habits by students

Our Captains of Mattanuta and Avingsa then read out letters their Prathom schoolmates sent in to share how they put both wise habits into action these past few weeks. Our kindergarten 3 students put up a wonderfully creative presentation with pictures they had drawn about Mattannuta (knowing the right amount) and questions to the audience like “Do you watch too much TV?” and “Do you eat too many bananas like me?”

Student presentation at Panyaden School Chiang Mai

Soon, everyone was up on their feet doing the 12 wise habits kung fu moves they know so well. The Kung Fu Chef summarised what we have learnt about Mattanuta and Avingsa and invited Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro to share his thoughts on the 2 virtues.

Later in the afternoon, Taan Ajahn Jayasaro met each of our teachers one-on-one to offer guidance and reflection before flying back to Bangkok. We hope he will be able to visit us again soon!

Kindergarenen students and teachers, Panyaden School Chiang Mai
See more photos here.

12 Wise Habits

Guiding Principles For Our Children

Panyaden School teacher displaying 1 of the 12 wise habits to the students

The Wise Habits of Panyaden are 12 core virtues for all of us to understand, learn and practice. Given to us by the school’s spiritual advisor, Taan Ajahn Jayasaro, we are looking at fun and creative ways to teach both our children and ourselves good habits which will last a lifetime.

Panyaden School teacher in chef's costume as part of role playing  Teaching through fun and games at Panyaden School  Panyaden school Thai teacher in costume at school assembly

So each Monday morning in assembly, enter stage left ….the Kung Fu Chef. (The what?!) The Kung Fu Chef teaches us a kung fu move to represent each habit and tells us to practice that habit all week. This week is ‘Mattannuta’ (knowing the right amount). The kung fu move helps students remember while having fun at the same time.

The next week, if we have all practiced well, he puts the ingredient ‘Mattannuta’ into a big soup pot. After all 12 ingredients have been added, he promises to make a delicious soup….

Panyaden School Math & Science Teacher in costume   Dance demonstration by students of Panyaden School, international school in Chiang Mai  Bilingual school students of Panyaden School at assembly hall

This is not only for children. Teachers also meet each week to share examples of each wise habit from their own lives. Because we all know that if we don’t practice them ourselves, we cannot teach our children.

Here they are:

  1. Using the senses wisely (‘Indriyasamvara’)  การสำรวมระวังอินทรีย์ (อินทรีย์สังวร ระวังรักษา ตา หู จมูก ลิ้น กาย ใจ)
  2. Knowing the right amount (‘Mattannuta’)  การเป็นผู้รู้จักประมาณ (มัตตัญญุตา)
  3. Not harming (‘Awihimsa’)  การไม่เบียดเบียน (อวิหิงสา)
  4. Being patient and tolerant (‘Khanti’)  การอดทนอดกลั้น (ขันติ)
  5. Desiring knowledge, truth and goodness (‘Chanda’)  ความยินดีในกิจที่ทำ (ฉันทะ)
  6. Being truthful (‘Sacca’)  ความซื่อสัตย์ (สัจจะ)
  7. Persevering (‘Wiriya Chakriyanuyok’)  ความเพียร (วิริยะ)
  8. Being generous (‘Caga’)  การเสียสละ (จาคะ)
  9. Being kind and compassionate (‘Brahmavihara’)  ความเมตตากรุณา (พรหมวิหาร)
  10. Being mindful and alert (‘Sati’)  การมีสติ
  11. Being calm and focused (‘Samathi’)  การมีจิตแน่วแน่ (สมาธิ)
  12. Applying the mind skilfully (‘Yonisomanasikara’)  การคิดเป็น (โยนิโสมนสิการ)