If You Don't Behave...

It's happening again... The hairs on the back of my neck and arms begin to rise. I get this feeling that starts at the base of my spine and slowly rises until it reaches the top of my head: little bumps rising up as the shiver arrives at the top. My head starts to throb a little--I'm mad. Well, frustrated at least...I want to say something, but I don't.

Once again I am in the grocery store. As I turn into aisle 7, I see an angry mother scolding her 4 year-old girl as they stand next to their cart. "If you don't stop that, you won't get a candy bar!" Arrrrgh!!!!! As a mom of three grown children, I know that seems like a quick behavior fix in the heat of the moment, but parents, this is wrong on so many levels.

First, it teaches the child that food is a reward. A reward for good behavior. A child learns: if I am good, I get to eat.

In this case, as is the case most often, it imprints on young brains that sweet treats are the best reward. This give sweet treats even more power: cookies and candy go on a pedestal. A child learns: I have done something good, therefore I am good, so I deserve ice cream. That sad message often follows him/her for life.

Correcting a child's behavior (or your own, by the way!) should not be done with food. If you need a reward, how about a page of stickers, a pencil, cute pad of paper, or something else fun but not too pricey and non-edible? Or you could promise to play a game together. With these rewards we aren't messing up the future generation's heads when it comes to food.

When my daughter was growing up, we had a great adventure every time we hit the grocery store. We both enjoyed this game from the time she was small enough to be riding in front of me in the grocery cart, until she was checking off our list. She was allowed to pick out one fruit she wanted, all by herself, just for her. She didn't have to share it with her two older brothers, mom, or dad. She loved it! She got to look over all those fruits. Sometimes it was a starfruit or a kiwi. But, often she'd end up choosing one fun colored plum. Our "Fruit Game" was never tied to her behavior. And I am positive she enjoyed that plum she chose herself much more than any candy bar at the checkout! Long term benefits were many: love of fruits, awareness of the variety of fruits, quality time spent with mom, and great memories by the plum bins!

Try for 2 or 3 fruits today! Fruit: The Happy Sweet!