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Why not to reward children with food

children being rewarded with food
children being rewarded with food
Photo By: Bobbi Hammonds

When rewarding children, the main goal is to encourage positive behavior, the end goal to in the future no longer require a reward for the behavior. Though most rewards now days consist of food and candy and encourages a whole new set of responses. When rewarded with food some children become chronic overeaters to make themselves “feel good” by rewarding themselves. It teachs children to connect an emotional feeling with food and undermines healthy habits and that food is fuel. When presented such treats in classrooms setting it teaches children a connection between food and academic success. Many children learn to eat when they are not hungry or to spoil their meals simply for the feeling that food brings.

Parents should be aware that one in three children is overweight; one in seven is obese. It is incredible that these rates have doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the last twenty years. If a four year old child is overweight they are about 20% more likely to be an obese adult. Does it even need to be said that the cost of being obese medically is astronomical? The cost actually passed the expenses of cigarette related health issues.

Pre-teens with type-2 diabetes doubled in the course of three years; between 2002 and 2005. Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 showed a 166% increase in diabetic medication. Candy, junk food, and soda are considered staples of an American diet now days and they are contributing to the downfall of our children.

When candy or junk food is used as a reward research has shown that those foods used become more desirable to children than if they had not been used as rewards. When giving children empty calories and junk to fill their bodies as a reward for good behavior, are we not just saying "You behaved so well - here is some bad food.” When and how this practice came about is frightening and does it really make any sense as a way to encourage children?

There are so many other ways to encourage children to do well. There can be rewards of going to Mesker Park Zoo, Wather’s Golf and Fun, the movies, family game night, or the park downtown. If there is the need for physical rewards why not stickers, pencils, coloring books, stencils, a book, or another small object.

With a society spiraling into obesity, where clothes are made with adjustable waists to accommodate large to small sizes rather than addressing the true problem, parents and educators have to stop and ask themselves where the madness of food rewards ends! Get involved and encourage a better system of telling our children “good job!”

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