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Your Kids and Treats
As I venture through the first days of summer, I notice the numerous social events that seem to take place once the warmer weather arrives. Along with the social events, come all the delicious treats. For some children, summer represents a “free for all” where they can indulge in unhealthy food whenever and however they wish. Often these children have parents that were raised strictly, who do not want to put their own children through the same “torture.” I can understand their way of thinking but when it comes to food, it is simply too important to one’s overall well being to let children make all the decisions.
Don’t get me wrong. My children have tried and continue to try many of the junk foods available to mankind. However, here’s the clincher. These splurges are occasional treats, not the staples of our diet. In comes the valuable concept of moderation.
Some “health nuts” would say, “Your child should not eat any treats. The body only needs and should only be fed healthy food”. That is, of course, entirely true! Certainly there is no need to expose a pre-school child, without older siblings, to treats. However, when it comes to older children, ask yourself these three questions:
1. Do you want your child living in a bubble? When your child sees their friends enjoying treats, your child itches to do the same. This is simply a fact of life. The trick is teaching your child moderation and self-control.
2. Do you want your child to have the experience of tasting something that is totally delicious? It’s an interesting question because if you always feed your child healthily, many times they will try a “real” treat and say, “I don’t like it” or “It’s too sweet”. However, that won’t happen every time. There will always be something they’ll try that will fill their body with ecstasy. For my girls, that treat is ice cream.
3. Do you want your child to grow up without treats, then leave home and proceed to gorge themselves with junk food? Deprivation will do that. So that is exactly what will happen if they never have treats as a child. Human beings, by nature, are curious. They also want to experience what others experience. Why? Well, that’s human nature too.
So, if you agree with this philosophy, how do you handle treats? How much do you give, how often? This is, of course, entirely up to you but I’ll just give you some ideas as to how I handle this.
It had been two years since my eldest had been in any pain from constipation. Taylor forgot what the pain felt like, so she was no longer afraid to experience it. At the age of four, she started sneaking food. She began with babysitters, telling them she could eat certain foods when she couldn’t. It proceeded to her having a small piece of cake at a birthday party to which I had not accompanied her. I was astounded because Taylor had always been completely on side with me when it came to taking care of her body. It didn’t take me long to think it through. This was a child, a child who craved treats, real treats and but never was able to have them. Could I blame her? Not for a second.
In comes the concept of “Treat Day”. This means having a “Treat Day” once in a while so that your child can experience other foods but ensure that his or her body doesn’t go into overload. You see, it is better for your child’s body to have one day of eating some unhealthy choices as opposed to eating one or two treats every day. Important: Do not use this day to feed your child a food to which they react (e.g. eggs), if you want your child to be able to handle the food one day. Strictly avoid any foods to which you want your child to overcome their sensitivity or allergy.
My girls have a “Treat Day” once or twice a week. The concept can only be put into play for your child if your child is able to handle unhealthy treats without major repercussions and knows what he or she is missing. Here’s how the concept of “Treat Day” works for a child two years old and up…
You explain the concept of “Treat Day” to your child. Examples of what you might say are: “I know how much you love treats and I want you to have them.” Or “It’s great that your body can handle treats of this kind now; remember when you couldn’t have these things?” “Here’s the thing, if you have too many treats, your body will start telling you that it can’t handle them again.” “Also, you are asking for treats wherever we go, bugging me all the time. So here’s my idea. You can have treats every once in a while on what’s called “a Treat Day”. We can make a calendar and mark all the days on it that you can have treats.”
Both of my children loved this idea. I said “Okay, let’s look at our calendar to see when we have birthday parties or special occasions coming up.” We found that over the next month, we had one to three special occasions a week. I felt that we could have a Treat Day once a week for that first month and we would see how things went. On the weeks where there was more than one special occasion, I asked the girls to choose the event at which they wanted to enjoy treats. They wanted to have treats at friends’ birthday parties but didn’t feel the need to at family barbecues. In this way, we were able to put stickers on the calendar marking four allotted Treat Days over the next month.
The build-up in excitement as the Treat Day fast approached was quite tremendous. Initially, they continued to ask for treats whenever they saw them. I would always respond, “It’s not Treat Day” or “Wait for Treat Day”. I never gave in and because of this, Treat Days remained sacred. Eventually, they stopped asking for treats in between those days, as they knew I would never waver.
When Treat Days arrived, my older daughter would awaken, immediately remember, and come flying into our room, yelling “It’s Treat Day today!” The younger one (three years old, at the time) would slowly awaken, as she always does. The first thing she’d say was “Is it Treat Day today?” and her arms would go up and down in a silent cheer once I told her it was.
Eventually, if they were given candy by someone else on a non-Treat Day, they would say, “Can I have this on Treat Day?” I would say, “Yes” and put it in a special spot for them to have on the next Treat Day. Children never forget that you have a treat waiting for them, by the way. So, don’t even think about eating that treat yourself, supposing they’ll forget all about it by Treat Day because they won’t!
It is up to you to decide how many treats to give your child on a Treat Day. If you give them too much or allow too many treats just prior to bedtime, your child might take hours to fall asleep and then have frequent wakings throughout the night. You need to look at your child’s symptoms as the determinant. If their symptoms are bad for their health, such as diarrhea or your lives are being ‘ruined’ by poor behaviour or constant tears, you know you need to either cut back on the treats or do away with Treat Day all together. You might decide that only one treat is allowed on a Treat Day. You have to determine how much you will allow yourself and your child to suffer.
Keep in mind that there are better times in the day to give your child treats when it is Treat Day. Breakfast and late evening are not the optimal times. Right after a meal is ideal; sweets cause fewer blood sugar fluctuations if they are consumed following a meal of whole foods than if they are taken between meals.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…the choices you make concerning what you feed your child will affect every single area of their lives. It will affect how they feel, how much energy, strength and brain power they have, how they look and whether they will age with vitality or not.
How about you? Do you have Treat Day at your house? I love receiving feedback. Here on my blog, you’ll get commentluv. This is a plug-in that gives you the opportunity to leave a link back to your own site when you leave a comment.
Until next time,