Experts say rewarding kids with sweet treats sends the wrong message.
As parents, we are all guilty of rewarding our children with food. Whether it’s getting good marks or as a treat or as a reward for a good deed, we have all tempted and cajoled our kids with food.
So what’s wrong with that? Here’s what tends to happen:
1. We offer food high in sugar but little or no nutrition. Reward foods aren’t broccoli or carrots. They’re usually cookies, ice cream or similar treats high in sugar or processed food and empty calories. For everyone, but especially growing children, too much sugar and too many low-nutrient foods can lead to health problems, including weight gain, cavities, and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
In India, there’s a growing epidemic of children between ages 2 and 19 becoming overweight or obese and may face adult health problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
2. We create emotional eating. Food given as a reward can lead to an unhealthy emotional and mental connections between eating certain foods and feeling good. The kids then use food for managing stress or when they are bored which further aggravates the situations and leads to guilt and body disorders.
3. We encourage a desire for sweets, junk food and poor eating habits. Giving children food for good behaviour teaches them to eat whether or not they are actually hungry as a wrong neural wiring connect is established. We send the message that such food is desirable.
By doing this we are in a way teaching our kids wrong habits. It’s like teaching children a lesson on the importance of not smoking and then handing out ashtrays and lighters to the kids who did the best job listening. Children learn by doing and observing.
Hence next time we have to reward our child lets us, “Let’s go to the park or for a walk or cycling since you did a good job!” Substitute the love for physical activity over love of food.