Reward Your Children With Non-Sweets & Treats
When kids do well, we reward them with many different items. Examples of rewards can be:
1. Verbal praise (like saying, “You did a great job”)
2. Tangible items (like a toy or game)
3. Increased privileges (more computer time or an activity)
4. Sweets and treats (such as candy or sodas).
This last type of reward is generally the least desirable of all the rewards from a health perspective and can result in weight gain. In addition, children can develop issues with food by using it as a reward during their adult lives.
Another example of a poor reward situation is when parents bribe the child to behave when the child is so unruly and the parent is so desperate to shut the child up. Most of these poor rewards are in the form of food and drink such as candy, treats, juice, or flavored waters. Once again, the children are not benefiting from this type of reward at all. And I’ve actually seen many children beg and throw temper tantrums knowing that they can get what they want from screaming long enough. Now, the child has been perfectly trained and conditioned to know how to get the “forbidden” foods with their blow-out.
So how do we focus on healthy rewards for positive behavior???
First step: STOP giving the child a bribe or reward when the child is acting out. In the beginning, the child will put up a big fuss because the child is already accustomed to getting what he/she wants when acting out. However, after a few times (and it is quicker the younger the child is because the child hasn’t yet been conditioned long enough to expect the end result), the child will get the point that the temper tantrum won’t work and will begin to try another venue.
Second step: CHANGE your food/drink reward items into healthier items for positive rewards.
Here are some examples of healthy rewards for children ages 3-9:
• Activity with parent or family such as going to the park
• Creative activity using pens, crayons, markers, or stickers
• Playing an age appropriate game with a family member
Healthy rewards for children ages 9-13:
• Inviting a friend over to play
• Making a reward board where the child has certain rewards to choose from
• Watching a movie or playing a video game
Healthy rewards for children ages 13-18:
• Choosing music, clothes, or accessories
• Going to a special place with friends such as a concert or sporting event
• Getting materials to decorate their rooms
Remember: Anything can be used as a reward. Find out what your children really like to do and use that as their non-food/drink rewards.
What are your kids’ favorite rewards?
By Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN
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