Quit Rewarding My Child With Food

Quit Rewarding My Child With Food

As a child, I don’t ever remember receiving food as a reward. You were given food and ate when you were hungry, not given a “treat” because you competed a task. Plus, if I ruined my appetite before dinner, my mother would be less than “thrilled”. When did that change? Am I the only one that wishes others would quit rewarding my child with food?

In the media, we constantly hear about the obesity epidemic among U.S. children. Junk food and unhealthy eating habits are two of the main factors in that epidemic. So why is it perfectly acceptable to reward children with food? Does he/she really need a lollipop or candy for reading a book, finishing soccer practice, or completing a swim meet? What kind of message is that sending?

Growing up we had reward systems too. We would get a shiny gold star, scented sticker, or a stamp on the hand for a job well done. If we did something wrong, there is a system in place for that too. Do you remember what you received as a reward?

Rewarding children with food has become so mainstream that it can make a parent feel uncomfortable when they don’t agree with the practice. A while back, one of my children was playing on a sports team that wanted to provide snacks after each practice. I was against snacks because their practice ended at 6:30 pm on a weeknight. We would be going home to dinner and unnecessary snacking would curb his appetite. When I spoke up, other parents couldn’t understand why I was depriving my child and excluding him from the group activities. I felt scrutinized because I didn’t want my child eating empty calories from junk food right before dinner.

So now I’m “that” parent who politely declines junk food and snacks before meals. Instead of unhealthy junk foods, I choose to feed my children healthy foods. Even though it often excludes us from the group, I’ll stand by my decision to quit rewarding my kids with food. I used to get annoyed at others who just didn’t get it. Now, I know I’m doing right by my children and teaching them what healthy eating really is. I’m proud when my children decline junk food in lieu of healthier options and try to explain the benefits to others. They get it and hopefully others will too!

What’s a parent to do? What would you do?

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9 Responses to Quit Rewarding My Child With Food

  1. Melody Byrum October 28, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    I am so glad that I am not the only one who does this. I thought I was alone. My biggest problem is that Grandma is the caretaker of my child while my husband and I are at work. It has caused problems. He was 2 when she have him his first soda which I didn’t want him to have. I yelled at her and it caused some tension until my hubby stepped in and said he agreed with me. Now he gets a soda on her rare occasions and now at the age of 3, he prefers water. And yes he Will sometimes ask for candy as a snack, but he is just as happy grabbing an Apple or a cheese stick from the fridge. And I never let him have snacks right before dinner. Grandma and I have had fights about that too, but she slowly coming around to my way of thinking. It helps when my sister in law and husband are on board since its his mom.

  2. Nicky October 28, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    Melody, you aren’t alone. My mother was the same way. She’d load the kids up with a huge bag of candy everything she saw them. Now, she’s better about it and does it in moderation.

  3. Angela November 3, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    Curious as to how parents have addressed this with daycare? Our in home insists on a treat for a good day (something small like a tootsie roll) and for a “super good” day a ring pop… My husband and I have talked and aren’t comfortable with (especially) the ring pop (but would’ve fine with no candy!). The issue is the candy is cheap and that’s what the other kids get. Do we offer to provide stickers etc just for our kid, or all the kids, or just tell her tough luck… Give our kid something else?!

    • Nicky Omohundro November 5, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

      I wouldn’t be comfortable with the ring pop either Angela. My kids are much older and we didn’t have this problem then. I am curious to hear how other parents with younger children handle it.

      • Kelly Guinn
        Kelly Guinn November 6, 2015 at 8:24 am #

        Yikes! I wouldn’t like that, either. My daughter is almost 2 and in daycare full time. They have NEVER offered treats at the end of the day for good days. She gets stickers at the end of her ballet and music class and is always thrilled about it – surely stickers are even cheaper than candy! Maybe you can suggest a switch.

  4. Sarah November 5, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    To me, the after sports practice snack can be pretty necessary, depending on the kid. I remember coming home from swim practice and needing a snack RIGHT. NOW. Didn’t matter that dinner was in an hour, I’m eating that too! Obviously you want it to be something to refuel your body and not junk.

    • Nicky Omohundro November 5, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

      Oh I agree with you. There are times my kids are STARVING after practice. But I think ut should be up to the parents to provide snacks after practice. It just seems like my kids were being offered candy and junk food after dance class, after a trip to the bank, the doctor’s office, for coming to class, etc. It was just getting too much.

  5. Najeeb November 6, 2015 at 2:53 am #

    This really burns our insides, bravo for taking a stand! And this is the most horrendous thing about it: “When I spoke up, other parents couldn’t understand why I was depriving my child and excluding him from the group activities. I felt scrutinized because I didn’t want my child eating empty calories from junk food right before dinner.”

    Junk food has been so mainstream-ized by the media and manufacturers that people have become sheeple. The really sad part though is that this includes nearly all college-educated parents as well. I guess stupidity and ignorance really has no bounds!

    “So now I’m “that” parent who politely declines junk food and snacks before meals.”
    “I’m proud when my children decline junk food in lieu of healthier options and try to explain the benefits to others.”

    Good for you and your children! Our daughter and we are the same 🙂

  6. Samantha D February 23, 2016 at 8:23 pm #

    I don’t agree with all of this. Snacks after practice and games isn’t a new thing. It was going on in the early 90’s when I was a kid. I will gladly supply snacks for a team of kids but I would make sure they are healthy. I have a child with special needs and I know that they give her snacks when she needs motivation to do testing. I’m fine with that. It works. It gets her work done. I’m not okay with them taking things away from her for not performing though. When stickers mean nothing to a kid and a small piece of cookie or a gummy snack do then I say go for it. It’s not going to make my kid fat or spoil her. I work hard at home to make sure that my family has a nutritionally balanced diet so that these rewards don’t make more than a small dent.

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