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Monday, February 22, 2016

Stop Using Food as Rewards (They are Kids, Not Dogs!)

STOP Food as Rewards

This has really been bugging me lately, and I have been thinking this blog post out in my head for some time now.  I’m not sure how to best relay my thoughts on the matter, but I really feel like something needs to be said! 

Maybe it’s bothering me more as I have been struggling as we go through an ADHD diagnosis process with one of my children, but when did it become a ‘thing’ to reward kids with food?!?  And UNHEALTHY food at that?  When did a sticker or a high five become NOT GOOD ENOUGH that we have to give them a ‘treat’ each time they succeed at something? 

As a mother, who is trying to instill healthy eating habits in her children, I sometimes feel as if the world is against me!  Being a homeschooling mom, this was something that I thought would be easy to avoid.  After all, my children are with me the majority of the time.  However, I am finding it everywhere we go:  Church, Co-op, Music Class, Cub Scouts… it’s never ending!  They all consider it just one small treat, yet those small treats all add up to LOTS of small treats over a week! 

Obesity is an epidemic in The United States.  The statistics are alarming:

Yet, we continue to instill unhealthy eating habits in our children.  Food as rewards is just ONE of many unhealthy habits we are teaching.

I don’t expect my kids to NEVER eat junk food, I mean I believe everything in moderation.  However, I feel that we are instilling an unhealthy relationship with food in our children.  Why should every job well done be rewarded with [junk] food? 

How many of us as adults, go to junk when we are feeling down or blue?  Why is that?  Think about it, seriously, think about it!  What are we telling our kids we use food as a reward, as a feel good, pat on the back method? 

Then there is the problem of ADHD in general.  A large portion of kids in school today are diagnosed with ADHD, and I don’t believe that all of them deserve that diagnosis. 

I’m not denying that ADHD exists, I’m dealing with it now in my own child.  HOWEVER, how many of these cases are food related?  Have you seen the FREE breakfasts they give to lower income kids in school?  Many schools have started to restrict the giving of food in class because of food allergies, but the food they serve at school, alone, is enough to make kids not be able to sit in their seats!  Additionally, not every school has this practice. 

How many holiday parties are had?  How much junk is eaten at them?  Let’s take Valentines Day for example (since this was the most recent holiday).  We had a party at co-op, TONS of baked goods and other sweets at the party, many kids gave Valentines with sweet treats attached.  Then Sunday at church, the kids were given FUN DIP, along with other sweet treats from their teachers.  I had other adults, who love my children, give candy to them as well.  Just take a look at the ingredients in FUN DIP:
Dextrose, maltodextrin, corn syrup solidas, and less than 2% of citric acid, magnesium stearate, artificial flavors, blue 1, blue 1 lake, blue 2, blue 2 lake, red 40, red 40 lake, yellow 5, yellow 5 lake, yellow 6, yellow 6 lake.

I cringe at the site!  UGH!  Sugar, Sugar, Sugar, artificial flavors and artificial colors…. 

This is why food decisions should be left to the parent, I mean, obviously some people don’t have an issue with these ingredients.  But, I do!  That same week they received a reward in Piano that was a FULL SIZE candy bar! (My kids had never had a full sized candy bar in their lifetime, call me a bad mom!).  Now I’m stuck with the dilemma of having to confront the individuals (I always do kindly), bite my tongue or tell my children that next time they have to just say “No, Thank you”.  Neither of which are comfortable or fun situations to be in.

I’ve brought my concerns up with people in the past, I’ve agreed that occasional treats are okay (previously, they were throwing a candy at my kid each time they answered a question, or sat still, or whatever).  So, don’t get me WRONG, I am HAPPY that they have cut back, things are better.  At the same time, I don’t understand why this even has to be an issue? 

We don’t train kids with treats, they aren’t DOGS! 

Maybe I’m jealous, when all these people give my kids sweet treats, I become the bad guy to them.  We like to have occasional sweet treats at home, but with the large number they are given out side of the home we have had to limit them even more at home.  The problem is, that I have more control about what we eat at home.  Even though we have sweet treats, they are ‘healthier’ sweet treats than what they are getting outside of the home.  They are also limited and NEVER used as a reward!

I understand working towards a larger reward, I mean I used a sticker chart when potty training my oldest, and after so many stickers he picked a prize (a toy train).  Though still, why does the big reward have to be food (and again always unhealthy food)?  

What is the best way to handle this dilemma?  I don’t want to offend people, but I really don’t want them giving candy (or any food for that matter) to my children. More importantly, I do NOT want them receiving food as a reward! 

Have you been faced with this?  I honestly never thought this would be an issue since we homeschool and eat mostly at home.  But it seems every where we go they are giving unhealthy food to my kids!  I understand a small bit of what allergy moms go through now, except since my kids aren’t allergic…I’m just the pain in the butt mom that ruins everyone's fun!  

I think as a whole, people in this country are grossly undereducated about what is in our food and how it can affect us.  Ever put bad gas in your car?  It doesn’t run really well, does it?  The same goes for food and our bodies.  I don’t consider myself a health food nut, I really don’t (that form of extremism is not healthy either), but I do want my kids to have good food.  Additionally, I’m the one who has to suffer the consequences of the food these people give my children when we get home!  I want to enjoy my kids, it’s hard to do when they are climbing the walls, having emotional breakdowns, fighting, etc…  as a result of the poor food choices of other people.

Le Sigh!

I guess the problem also falls on where to draw the line?  As I write this I am planning a geography lesson for Co-op on Brazil and I planned to make some Brazilian sweets for the lesson.  It’s hard to break that cycle, so I get it.  It’s the food gifts and rewards that bother me the most though.  Overall, however, we could all stand to make better food choices!

The USDA points out that using food as rewards results in the following consequences:

*  Contributes to poor health
*  Encourages overconsumption of unhealthy foods
*  Contributes to poor eating habits
*  Increases preference for sweets

Therefore, as I finish my vent, I pledge to do a better job myself.  When food is offered in my classes (for learning purposes only) I will make more conscience and healthy choices, as if I were feeding myself or my family!

I’ve already planned to make a Paleo version of Brigadeiros for our Brazil lesson and some Paleo muffins for my other class.  This will also gave me a trip to the grocery store for ingredients!  WIN-WIN!

Now, if you choose to reward with food in your own home, that’s your choice.  The point of this post is that it shouldn’t be done with other peoples children.

Need ideas for NON FOOD rewards and gifts, here are a few to try:

Tickets or Tokens (to cash in for other prizes)
Pencils, Pens, erasers or other school or art supplies
Media time
One on one time
Books (Reading, coloring, activity)
High Five or Hug (when appropriate)
Certificate, ribbon or small trophy
Verbal Recognition
Book Marks
Craft kits
Little Toys
Money (reasonable amount)
Movie Night
Playdate with friend
Child’s choice of music, game, etc..

I know not everyone's idea of ‘healthy’ is exactly the same, but I think most can agree that candy is NOT healthy.  I just finished watching That Sugar Film (FREE on Amazon Prime Streaming) and it reinforced a lot of what I have learned doing the Whole30.  Recently (within the last year) the WHO changed its recommendations
for daily sugar consumption to 6 to 12 teaspoons a day.  4.2 grams of sugar equals one teaspoon, and one can of soda contains about 10 teaspoons! 

I highly recommend the film, it was very eye opening, and to be honest it’s the FIRST food documentary I have watched, I’m not one that generally watches things of that nature. (Though now I may watch more). The thing I found most interesting about the film was that it took place primarily in Australia.  We lived in New Zealand (comparable) for 4 months (about 6 years ago) and went through SUGAR withdrawals while there.  Their food is no where near as sweet as it is here in the USA, yet over consumption of sugar is still a problem there…how much more of a problem does that make it here then?

Another great one to watch is Fed Up available on Netflix!

One can easily say sugar in moderation is okay, however, when everyone is handing out sugary treats, moderation goes OUT THE WINDOW!   Never mind the fact that SUGAR is in almost EVERYTHING!  If it’s not sugar, it’s some form of sugar or artificial sweetener (which has the same effect on your brain). 

DISCLAIMER:  I want to point out that I DO NOT consider myself an expert or perfect by any means.  This is something that I have to make a conscience effort on every day of my life!  It is something that has come into play more recently, I do not expect everyone to share my beliefs on health food.  The thing I am most frustrated with is the giving of food as rewards/gifts.  This post is not intended to offend anyone, it’s just me thinking out loud and honestly looking for suggestions on how to handle the issue.  I can’t be the ONLY parent frustrated by this (or am I?  I certainly hope not!).

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