We’ve all heard our parents say, “If you don’t eat your peas, you can’t have any dessert!” Man what a bummer it was to hear that phrase come out of my mom’s mouth! (Maybe you say it to your kids now, as you slowly make the full transformation into your own parents…don’t fight it, just let it happen.) So is it ok to use dessert as a reward? Since I don’t have kids of my own, I’m reaching out to my best friend Molly down in Florida to get her take on whether or not she uses dessert as a reward in her house.
Molly is a mom to her cute little two-year old son. As with all young kids, Molly’s son is no exception to the “picky eater” rule. Sure he likes his healthy chicken nuggets and almond butter sandwiches, but what about the almighty spinach and broccoli? When I asked Molly whether or not she uses dessert as a reward, she quickly responds, “No, I have very strong opinions about that.” “Perfect,” I say, “tell me about it.” Molly enlightens me with her motherly charm, “Little kids have these little bellies and the first priority is to get the right foods in first.” She continues, “I don’t want to put a premium on bad food, that’s making it seem like my child has to go through hell to get something sweet, and that’s not what eating is all about. I don’t want to set him up for failure, and I don’t want him to grow up having an unhealthy relationship with food; dessert isn’t a prize. Look at what happened to you, and don’t you remember those kids from the The War Of The Roses movie?!” She goes on to say, “My child is my biggest investment, and I don’t want to mess that up with some crazy food issues. I wouldn’t put bad gas in my new car, you know?” I asked Molly if she has any friends who do use dessert as a reward for their children, and she tells me that in some cases it’s a sad affair. She says, “When dessert is held up on a pedestal, it glorifies bad foods. I’d rather let my little guy know right from the start that greens are good for him. I want him to enjoy the right foods, and sometimes that includes something sweet (like fruit), it’s just a part of a well-rounded diet, it’s in moderation, but it’s not as a reward, it’s not the 1980’s anymore. If food’s not an issue, then food’s not an issue.”
We all know that as adults and children it’s important to get proper nutrition, and no it’s not the 1980’s anymore. (1986 was a great year for me though, by the way!) Parenting can be tricky and I’ve watched my sister and my friends come up with their own best ways to get their kids to eat right. I think Molly sums it up well, and her style definitely exhibits a healthy attitude towards food. I agree with her ideals and I think it’s smart to not push too hard one way or the other. (Those kids from The War Of The Roses movie were a hot mess there for a bit.) Keeping my own life in balance (work, diet, exercise, relationships) is enough for me to focus on, I truly admire all the moms and dads who are focused everyday on not only sailing their own ship, but setting out the journey of their little ones as well.
In my own experience, I was a fat kid who got lost in the cracks of his parents’ own journey and as a result formed an unhealthy relationship with food. I urge all the parents out there to allow your children to be the motivation to get your own healthy habits in check, that way you can do right for you and in turn do right for them. Lead by example. Like I mention in my upcoming book (“Lose Weight, Find Yourself! 6 Steps to Having a Healthy Relationship with Food…Bite by Bite and Pound by Pound”), if you aren’t doing it for yourself, then do it for them! Do it so they can enjoy a longer and healthier life with you! It’s that simple and it’s that important!
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