Life can get crazy sometimes, ok, a lot of times. Everyone needs a little motivation here and there, especially kids. About a year ago, I found myself using food as motivation for my kids to listen or get things done. It wasn’t technically food either. Often, promises of candy or ice cream were given if they behaved or completed housework and I also realized how traditions and holidays were basically food-based. It was as if every day held the need for a “special treat”. I started to realize that every little event turned into ice cream. No longer could a dance recital or school performance go without it.
As you all know, I try to be an example for my children with nutrition and I found myself telling them how food is fuel and just like a car, we can’t run on junk. I heard myself explaining how food effects our moods and helps our bodies to work correctly and yet in the next breath, was saying if everyone behaved we could have ice cream. Now, I see nothing wrong with ice cream, but it is definitely a sometimes food and should be enjoyed, not a reward. Good behavior is expected and shouldn’t be rewarded with chocolate and lollipops. Will children have meltdowns, yes, but should food be used as motivation, no.
I’ve been challenging myself to not reward my children with food over the last year, rather give them more time or the chance to earn experiences. Maybe it’s a game of Uno if everyone gets ready for bed nicely or five extra minutes before bed to simply stay awake if everyone completes their homework without any arguments.
I’ve also used a puffball jar at home for behavior. I got a glass jar and a bag of puffballs from the dollar store and if they are caught being good or their behavior is in need of rewarding, a puffball goes into the jar. Once the jar is full, we do an activity that we decided on at the start of the puffball jar. Maybe it’s a trip to the craft store to pick out a new project, a sleepover with friends or an afternoon at Chuck-e-Cheese (not my choice but they love it!).
So why is not using food as motivation so important to me? I really want my children to grow up making good choices and being mindful that food is fuel and to live by the 80/20 rule of eating clean 80% of the time and allowing the treats the other 20%. I don’t want them to associate happiness with food and to make food their joy, rather the people and experiences be the things that create their happiness. So for me, the lesser evil is a few extra iPad minutes or putting chores and nighttime routines on hold and simply rewarding behavior with time instead of food.
How do you reward your children?