While it's tempting to offer your child their favourite dessert for eating their vegetables, or encourage desired behaviours with the promise of a treat, here's why that can be a problem.
When children are rewarded with food, or, for example, are given a cookie to soothe them after a minor scrape, they link these emotions with food.
This connection can stay with them throughout their lives. So later, when they feel sad, anxious, or even happy, they'll want to eat.
As a way to help manage behaviour for children and youth with mental health challenges, food can be commonly used as a reward both at home and at school. Rewards may be used as a strategy in behaviour therapy.
Try to find other ways to reward children.
Ideas for non-food rewards:
- Assign a helper role: Children like being given important roles, like being your assistant grocery shopper, or the teacher's helper for the day (e.g. line leader, passing out paper, making deliveries to the office).
- Enjoy a fun activity together: Play a favourite game, spend time reading together, or have a family movie night. You can also get moving and head to the park, take a bike ride, or go for an outing to a favourite place.
- Allow them to choose: They could choose a craft for you to do together. Children may also have ideas for other rewards, brainstorm a list with them.
- Give special time or privileges: Sometimes it's a little extra time with family before bedtime, sitting at the head of the table for dinner, or getting to select an activity of book for class that can mean a lot.
- Buy some small items: Pencils, stickers, or other supplies that can be taken to school are great ideas to encourage your child to complete a task. A book or new craft supplies can also be a big hit.
See other great ways to reward children in the resources below and keep the focus on healthy eating.