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!