When your child is screaming uncontrollably at the grocery store causing a scene it’s much easier to keep them quite by a well-intentioned, food-related bribe.
“Will you stop crying if I give you a lollipop?” you might ask.
But that small little bribe may have lasting consequences on how your child views certain foods (usually low-nutrition, junk food).
What parent doesn't want good behavior?
Rewarding children when they do something desirable is an effective way to bring about the behaviors adults value.
Unfortunately, however, parents often reward kids with junk food because they are convenient and valued by kids.
Even though bribing children with candy to stop throwing a tantrum and eat their vegetables may lead to silence and a clean plate, there are many negative long-term consequences.
Food rewards also teach kids to expect food when they've done something well, which can lead to poor nutrient intakes as they start to value low-nutrition foods over healthier foods that the child does not associate with good behavior.
If you want to reward your child for good behavior or a job well done, consider more non-food rewards.
If your children are old enough, brainstorm a list of incentives with them. Here are several to consider:
Play date with friends
Sleepover with friends
Special time with parents or grandparents
Sitting at the head of the table for dinner
Trip to the park, zoo, pool, skating rink, bowling alley or movies
More screen time (computer, tablet, TV, video games)
You may have a successful non-food reward system at home, but food rewards in school might send mixed messages to your children.
Speak with your child’s teacher about your concerns.
Offer other options such as temporary tattoos, student of the week awards, eating lunch in a special place, additional time for recess, class field trips and watching movies.
Sometimes others will continue to offer your children tasty rewards.
When this happens, make sure food rewards aren't valued as much as trips to the park or a family soccer game.
By emphasizing healthier rewards, your children will strive for those.
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