by Christina Ramon

Recently I was at the park with a group of moms and kids for a play date and picnic.  During lunch, we all started talking about various parenting issues.  One topic of conversation that stuck with me was the concept of treats and the obsession kids have with them.

One mom said she only lets her kids have a treat after dinner if they eat all their vegetables.  She said it with a guilty tone, because she knows we aren’t supposed to offer our kids treats as a reward for eating the “growing food” on their plate.

Another mom said that her oldest child just started grade school, so she wants to eliminate treats after dinner.  She counted the grams of sugar he has at school and it can be near 60 grams!  Her husband actually got mad at her and said he was still going to give the kids treats after dinner.  He has a sweet tooth and enjoys that time with his two sons.  She wanted our advice to help him to see it her way.

As each mom shared her story or opinion, I sat quiet.  I tend to be stricter and more conservative when it comes to treats.  But I do remember vividly, at about 2 ½, when my son became obsessed with treats.  He asked for one after breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I realized that we needed a house rule regarding treats!  What I came up with still works, two years later.

Initially, my son was getting a small treat after lunch and dinner.  But it quickly dawned on me that he was not a good dinner eater.  I hated giving him a treat regardless, even when he didn’t eat his dinner.  So, our rule became that he could have a treat after lunch, but no treats after dinner. 

Fast forward to today, two years later.  He still asks for a treat after dinner once in a while.  And even though he does eat all his dinner these days, I still just remind him that we have a treat after lunch only.  He has no concept of being rewarded with treats because he gets one every day after lunch.  It is pretty much black and white for us!  Of course, there is always the exception to the rule.  If we have friends over, or go out to dinner with family, we do have dessert.

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