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Understanding That Mom

Everyone knows who she is: the mom who doesn’t “let” her kid have treats the way other moms do. The one who is anal about food coloring in drinks, and has hysterics if you offer her child candy. The one who reads the ingredients label on every bite of food offered to her child and often refuses to allow him to have any kind of treat. The one who brings her own (kind of yucky looking) treats to every get-together or party that her child is invited to. Her child always looks disappointed, and if you’re being honest, what you really want to do is hand him a big, huge, pre-packaged, sugar-and-preservative-filled cookie.

This might just be enough to strike fear in that mom's heart.
This might just be enough to strike fear in that mom's heart.Emily L. Goodman

But here’s what you don’t know about that kid…or his mom.

He’s had those treats. He knows what he’s missing. His mom knows what he’s missing, too—and what they do to him. The fact of the matter is, no one has the time to be that restrictive unless there’s a reason for it. And the truth is, that diet isn’t a perfect fix—it’s just the best one he’s found. Odds are, his mom has tried all sorts of crazier solutions. Restricting his diet—even as much trouble as it is—just makes it easier to function every day.

Function. Not “be perfect.” You’re not looking at a kid who occasionally pouts a little bit when he doesn’t get his way, or who has trouble concentrating if he’s trapped in a classroom for too long. You’re looking at a kid with serious behavioral problems that mean he can barely function in normal society…some of the time. If not eating candy means that he can function more easily or more often, is the candy really worth it?

They make him crazy. And I don’t just mean the brief sugar high that your kid gets, either. Sugar highs are manageable. This kid has behavioral problems for days if you give them those things. Sometimes, it’s fairly minor: increased hostility and an increased tendency to bicker about stupid things—kind of like a sugar crash that lasts all day. Other times, it’s much, much worse: a child who is utterly infuriating, who can not sit down and is incapable of following simple instructions, who will throw a raging fit for an hour or more…over picking up his own mess. You don’t know what that child is like when he has those substances…and you probably don’t want to.

It’s never “just this once.” You’re thinking, “Oh, come on, lighten up and let the kid have a treat! It’s just this once!” Maybe it’s a birthday. Maybe it’s a holiday. But here’s what you’re not seeing: there’s always a birthday. Or a holiday. Or a “special occasion.” It’s like waiting for a “good” time to start a diet at the end of October: there just isn’t one. If she let him “have a treat” every “just this once,” it would be just as good as never having him on a specialized diet at all—which defeats the entire point.

If he sneaks a snack, she’ll know. You think by looking the other way, you’ll let him have a break; but the truth is, a kid who already has behavior problems probably isn’t a stranger to sneaking. He’s probably done it before. His mom knows the signs. She deals with them every day.

Look at it this way: is it really worth it? You don’t know what will happen if you give her child candy—but she does. Assume that she probably doesn’t enjoy fighting that battle—so if she’s refusing to let him have it, there’s probably a reason.