I’m rewarding my kids with candy for doing well on their tests, going to the doctor and after sports games. I know this isn’t a good idea, but how do I stop it? –Sweet Rewards

It’s natural to want to reward kids for achieving goals or toughing out a stressful situation, but rewarding them with candy associates artificial stuff with good behavior, which sends the wrong message.  As they grow up, they will automatically look to sweets after every major (or minor!) thing they accomplish.  Here are some suggestions for ways to let the kids know you’re proud, without it affecting their diets and long-term health:

Try giving kids a special plate, like this one from RVParties on Etsy.com

  1. Healthy treats: How about letting the kids play chef and pick that night’s dinner menu, helping you out in the kitchen?  Or waking up a bit early to make a big whole-grain pancake breakfast the next day?  Food treats can be fun, so there’s no need to ban them, but keep in mind the nutritional value.  Try to make it a learning experience, or a family activity.  Families that eat together, stay together!
  2. Non-food treats: Candy may be an easy fix, but sometimes a treat that lasts can be even better.  A book, a handwritten note or toy that relates to the event (a new soccer ball, for example, after a winning goal) will be with them for much longer than a few bites of a doughnut, and will remind them of their achievements.
  3. Bear hugs:  Tell your child how proud you are of his accomplishment and give him a big bear hug!  Hugs are free and have no calories, but mean everything to your child.
  4. Movie Night:  Since she did so well on her test, she can choose a movie that everyone can watch over the weekend.
  5. Special Plate:  This was a favorite in my home growing up.  My mom bought this big red plate that said “You are Special” around the border.  When one of my two sisters or I (and mom and dad counted, too!) did something well (test, won a softball game, made the honor roll, did something nice for another person, birthdays, etc), that person ate from the red plate that night.  We all loved it!

Remember that the goal is to focus on what they’ve accomplished, and not on what they get, such as the sweets!  How do YOU reward your kids?

– Stacey Antine, M.S. R.D., author, Appetite for Life, and founder, HealthBarn USA

Do you have a confession to share with Stacey?  Want to learn how to improve an unsavory habit?  Send your stories our way to [email protected], and Stacey will help!

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