As the waves of childhood obesity still wash over our children, a fundamental lesson all parents, caregivers and adults in constant contact with children can learn is: you can NEVER punish or reward children with food. It can quickly and easily lead to disordered eating, over eating and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
Food is associated happily with good times; big family dinners, holidays and special occasions such as ice cream after a great baseball game. Food turns into the enemy when withheld as a punishment; not doing well in school or poor performance in extracurricular activities. Children naturally want to please their parents and when adults in authority positions use food as incentive, the wrong message is sent.
Food is fuel for our bodies; the better the fuel the better our bodies can function. Food is also amazingly tasty, good and should be enjoyed; even ice cream, chips, candy and “fun” drinks like soda and shakes are ok in small portions. When you’re eating healthy foods 95% of the time the occasional non-healthy foods have less impact.
In Salt Lake City Utah children at an elementary school (ages 5-10 years of age) had their lunches thrown away due to lack of funds in their accounts. What a humiliating situation; for the children and the school. There is no lesson in wasted food and causing children to feel they’re not worthy or able to eat. Taking the food from these children caused them to finish the day hungry which inhibits learning and leads to lasting social discomforts like shame and embarrassment. While the kids were provided with milk and fruit a full lunch should not have been taken away because of adult errors.
Learn this lesson quickly for your children’s sake; use food as sustenance, reward with praise and love and use punishments as a learning situation. Perhaps this elementary school needs to get back to the basics too!