A couple things have come up recently with M and the nuances of “healthy feeding” that got me thinking. I have heard criticism of the model I work in, in that it is “too rigid” or has too many rules. I would say, “no.” The division of responsibility, the structure, the way we handle sweets are general guidelines that make for mostly pleasant meals and snacks, and a kid who learns to self-regulate and learns to eat a variety of foods. It has helped me approach feeding and be confident in how I feed my daughter, how to respond to whining for treats etc. But, there is nuance. Read on.
Experts in feeding agree, “don’t reward kids with food” and “don’t manage behavior with food or treats,” but I probably have done, and will do both again. (Note, this was written the day before my surprise appendectomy, so things didn’t quite happen this way, but the point is the same…)
On moving day (in about 2 weeks- 2 days!) I am planning a celebratory DQ outing to top off what will be a stressful day. I want M to have something to look forward to, to have a nice treat and then off to our new apartment where there will likely be a present waiting on her new bed. (She is expressing a little sadness and trepidation about moving- makes sense, this is the only home she knows.)
Is it a reward? Is it OK?
In this case, to me it’s not a reward. It’s not being used to control her behavior, as in, “If you’re good all day, we can go to Dairy Queen,” or “you did so well at school you can have Dairy Queen,” or “our team won the softball game, lets have ice-cream!” (Again, it’s nuance, a trip for ice-cream after a game is great, maybe not every game or practice, and not tied to winning or losing?)
And, she’ll have her first sleep-over the night before the new-member ceremony at our church, and you know what? I am going to manage her tired, whiny self with some hard candy that she can suck on during the ceremony (we have to sit in the front of the church and go up on the stage for a flower…) So, I’m managing her behavior with candy. I think this too, is OK. We are moving the following week, will need kid-free time to finish packing and garage-selling items and I know she won’t get great sleep, and I know what that means! It’s not every Sunday for church, or every trip to the grocery store, or every doctor’s visit. Also, some of these examples are appropriate with a 2 year old, but not a twelve year old. Read on…
I got her through her first 3 or so haircuts with suckers… I admit it! Sucker after the cut? No no! During– and then there was no more squirming and screaming… Horrible-tasting penicillin for those 3 strep-throats? A dum-dum after to make the taste go away. Eye drops at 22 months? Suckers again. I will even admit in my desperation to trying candy with potty-training, but that didn’t work. (Oy, did that not work. They say you can’t make a kid eat or poop, and they were right!)
So, there you have it, my confessions. In parenting, there are few hard and fast “rules.” (Other than the obvious about cruelty or neglect, or in feeding not to force a child to eat…) There are times when I let my kiddo have sweets between meals (not often, but you saw some examples above) there are times when I let her eat sooner than the 3-4 hours structure, but those times are not too often either. We eat pretty much every breakfast and dinner together, I’d sit with her for lunch and snacks too when we were at home all day, we hold to the structure and sweets strategies most days, and it’s going well. So, if you bribe your kid with a sucker to get a haircut, don’t sweat it. If you bribe him with a sucker every day to get his shoes on, or to go to bed, or do his homework, you might want to re-evaluate.
Does that make sense?