Now that the long and chocolatey Easter break is over, let's think of some new ideas and ways to manage our children's sweet treats.
The familiar chant I am greeted with at the school pick up is ‘What have you got sweet for me to eat?’
Translated this means, I have had a hard day and need to feel your love again.
The craving to curb our feelings with sweetness commences super early in life. On top of this, we are perpetuating the habit by plying our children with all manner of snacks and sweet treats.
Even while our baby is being weaned, we offer little treats to prevent discord. Through toddlerhood, we manage meltdowns by buying quietness and compliance with candy. We give dessert as a consequence for certain behaviour, actions or in manipulation for eating main course.
Sweet food as rewards is as commonplace as the growth of grass! Parents, grandparents, teachers all use this approved method. Even strangers offer children sugary goods for no reason at all.
Yet in the scheme of humankind, sweet treats are a young tradition. Over wartime, rations prohibited such snacking. Tribal communities, without access to our Western processed foods do not use sugar methods to control their children.
Could our children survive without sugar?
The first taste a baby knows is indeed for sweetness, from a mothers’ milk.
In my case with my first child, she knew no sugar for the first few years of life. Then two things happened.
First, an unspoken agreement unfolded between child and parent upon pick up from nursery school. This stated that a snack must be provided. Well the snack started out healthy of course but then moulded into something sweet yet sugar free. The unspoken agreement dictates something sweet because of course when my child looks around this is what she sees being delivered to her peers upon pick up.
The second thing was when birthday parties entered the equation, she could see what she had been missing out on!
So of course our children can’t survive without sugar because it is everywhere. And one of the universal truths about children is a compelling force for fairness. If my classmate is having a treat, then why can’t I?
But that is not say that they or us should be ruled by sugar.
Children do need some sweetness and so the strategy that follows does allow for this.
They need sweetness to counter the seriousness in life; the birth of a new sibling, a move or some other change. The light, soft quality of sweet foods works well here to oppose the heavy pressure of harder times and/ or a melancholy outlook.
Children’s lives are driven by food and drinks. When our children begin drawing and writing, favourite foods are most often illustrated and scribed. New foods and sweet foods are incredibly exciting to the preschool and schooler.
Here are eight ways to reconsider sweet foods for your children.
The Sugar Strategy
1. Limited and cried over The tears from withholding sweet things come far more easily than they would from being shamed or hurt that day. Allowing an upset over finite treats mitigates against a whole afternoon of 'nothing is right'.
Many an occasion the demands for something sweet after school are not satisfied upon the first biscuit. Identify the relentless requests and with warmth and softness say something like ‘I’m so sorry darling, there are no more today.’
Then be present and empathetic with her frustration and tears. A limit on sweetness is so often and so easily the gateway for expression of futility. For sadness over something that happened today; for not being recognized, for not being included, for confrontation by a friend, or being hurt.
2. Connect instead of cookies after school
The afternoons when I jump straight into preparing the dinner are a recipe for disaster. The supper isn’t consumed and the task focused drill of dinner bath bed fills the air.
After school my five year old needs to feel my presence and attention again. Spend a few minutes cuddling, reading a story or talking together before embarking on anything else.
Afterall a calling for connection is the translation for all those sweet requests.
3. In moderation Simply stock sweet snacks in moderation at home and bring a limited amount of sweet snacks along on trips out.
4. Healthy alternatives Purchase or make more healthy biscuits or bars. I use rice syrup, barley malt, apple juice, sugar free jams or dried fruit as alternatives to sugar in preparing sweet treats. The syrups also go well with porridges or cereal.
5. Let your child know the effects of sugar Children know we dislike them having sugar but do they understand why? Point out to them the effects of sugar when they have experienced the chaotic sugar highs and then the inevitable lows. That sugar alters our mood, our skin, our blood quality, and is the forerunner to ill health. Let them know, without scaremongering, in a balanced way.
6. Balanced with other food types Combine sweet and savoury flavours and foods at snack time. Bring biscuits with crudités. Bring bars with sandwiches. Bring dried fruit with nuts and seeds.
7. Made together Making cookies together is one of my children’s favourite activities. Allow the mess, the tasting and the fun. We use almond meal, coconut, raisons, cocoa powder, rice syrup in various permutations for delicious results.
8. Give some control to your child
When children demand to take control of their eating, it is for us to get underneath their orchestrating facade. When we allow our children to take charge in another way, we soften their prescriptive defence.
We can lead our child to have ownership for some kitchen activity or table laying theme, prepare a snack or meal for a sibling, or even make their own favourite meal.
My children once stockpiled a container each with all manner of snacks. The joy was in the stockpiling as they could fill their containers as they wished. Their tubs seem to remain full for weeks on end since the initiative was all their own.
I wonder which strategy you will go for this week? I would love to hear how you get on.
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