Do you use food as a reward for your kids?
Here is what the gals at Momversation had to say about this issue:
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Food has never been an issue at my house. Probably because food is simply a means to an end in my house – we don’t look forward to eating, we don’t eat out very often so we don’t put a social significance on eating and we don’t linger too long over meals – we eat and resume life. I don’t like to cook. The boys see and hear my attitude about food in general and they’ve grown up putting food on their list of things they simply have to do – nothing more, nothing less.
I raised my kids to eat when it was time to eat and if they didn’t eat when it was time, then they went without until the next meal. And we still have windows of opportunity when it’s acceptable to eat a meal and if they miss that window of opportunity, then too bad, they have to wait until the next meal.
Now when the boys were little, they ate snacks in the afternoon between lunch and dinner – I’m not that mean. However, I monitored what they ate and how much they ate so they would have enough appetite to eat when it was time to eat meals. Neither of them eats much between meals now, but GD is better about snacking and still eating a healthy portion at meals than MK is. MK … is whole other story. I don’t allow MK to eat very much between meals now because then he just picks at his food at meal times.
GD has always been a good eater. He rarely gave me any problems when it came to eating; he ate what I shoveled into his mouth and to this day, he’s not picky. In fact, GD can easily eat four or five meals a day and still be hungry.
But MK, wow. That kid and his food issues is a whole other story. I remember when MK was a baby and I would feed him any fruit or any vegetable and he would stubbornly hold that spoonful of food in his mouth for an hour. He would not swallow it. He didn’t spit it out, he simply held it in his mouth until I finally gave in, did I mention it would be a whole 60 minutes??, before he spit it back out.
Wow. Talk about a bitter pill for me to swallow given my controlling personality. But I finally got smart and mixed his fruits and veggies with other foods and fed him Pediasure, which he loved, but only the vanilla kind (he hates chocolate *gasp*).
Today, MK will eat his vegetables but only if I sit there and watch him and only if I give him an amount he’s expected to eat. He still won’t touch fruit, of any kind. He hates all of it. He’s such a strange kid when it comes to eating. His favorite foods are carbohydrates, like pasta – he would live on mac and cheese if I allowed him to. (And I suspect he will once he moves out).
I also raised my kids to eat what was served. I have always told them, and still tell them, I’m not their personal chef. But with that said, I won’t make my boys eat something they honestly can’t stand, except for MK because he can’t stand anything that isn’t pasta. But for example, GD. He doesn’t like sausage. So, if we’re having breakfast, for instance, and we’re having sausage, I’ll make him a couple strips of bacon instead. I will never, for example, make my boys eat liver and onions, if they don’t like liver and onions. (Remember that, mom? 🙂 )
At the same time, I found myself saying to the boys whenever they were about to eat something I personally didn’t like, “Oh, you won’t like that. It’s so gross.” Kevin would get so mad at me because hello! That was my opinion, they might have felt differently. So, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut when it came time to trying new foods so I wouldn’t influence the boys’ taste. As a result, they both love shrimp and I can’t stand it. (In fact, we’re having shrimp and rice tonight – well, the guys are, I’ll be cooking salmon for myself).
I have never used food as a reward or any sort of comfort substitution. When the boys were upset or needed comforting when they were little, I either picked them up, kissed their sweet cheeks and hugged them, or they hugged their blankies (MK) or sucked on a pacifier (GD), or I distracted them until they calmed down – I think giving food to kids as a reward or comfort item is bad, bad news. The kids then grow up to associate food with comfort and that usually leads to eating disorders. I think food should be treated as a necessary substance and nothing more.
I also don’t think children should be deprived of their favorite foods, either. As with anything, if you make it a bigger deal than it really is, then it becomes a bigger deal than it should be.
Case in point: I know a woman who used to allow her children to go trick-or-treating and then not allow her kids to eat any of their candy. Her rationale? Candy is not good for you. Candy will make you fat. Candy will make you sick to your stomach.
Well yeah, if you eat it all the time! But what about special occasions? I don’t buy a lot of candy for my boys, mainly because if it’s around the house, we’ll eat it. The same goes for soda. My boys simply don’t drink it very often because I don’t buy it. However, holidays and birthdays are different. They are more than welcome to eat all of the candy in their stockings or all of the candy from their trick-or-treating (they don’t do that anymore, but when they were little), or Easter baskets and savor the stomachaches that go along with it. I think it’s necessary to teach kids what will happen when they overindulge – it’s a lesson well learned.
Because I’ve been so relaxed on the candy/soda issue, my boys will often times have candy left over for months after a holiday because it’s simply not that big of a deal to them. It’s there to satisfy a sweet-tooth craving.
We also don’t eat dessert, either. I think the largest reason for this is because Kevin, nor MK, really like sweets that much. (This kills me, but it’s a blessing in disguise because I do and if we had dessert every night I’d be the size of my car – no joke). So we don’t have a “if you don’t eat your dinner you won’t get dessert” mentality because we don’t eat dessert.
I’ve always had trouble with people who have food issues, mainly because I don’t understand what those issues are; I can’t relate because food is not important to me. Again, food is simply a means to an end for me – I was brought up to think that and I’ve raised my boys to think that. To me, it’s as simple as “don’t buy it, don’t eat it” mentality. Though I understand that food is closely tied to emotional issues for many people.
As with anything, learning to control ourselves is really the key behind any food issue (or anything, really). The real challenge is to teach our kids the delicate balance between wanting it and then consuming it.
In other words: don’t deprive yourself, but know when to stop.