Being the Candy Police is high risk for teaching your children the wrong habits about candy. It’s also one reason kids become obsessed with sugar.
I understand the concern about candy. By some reports, our kids stuff 5% of their yearly candy consumption into their Halloween candy bags. Turn that statistic around, though, and it means kids consume 95% of their candy during the rest of the year. Kids are increasingly snacking throughout the year on…you guessed it…candy. No wonder many kids are obsessed with sugar.
But here’s a question to consider:
Would you trade one day of unlimited candy consumption for an entire year of healthy eating habits? I would. That is what’s at stake.
From a nutrition perspective, sugar is everything during Halloween. But from a habits perspective there are other, more important fish to fry. Especially if your child is sugar obsessed.
Now is the time to think big. Change your mindset. Catch the Habitude.
Not only can you teach your kids to control their own candy consumption but you can teach them the habits they need to have a lifetime of healthy holiday eating. After all, Halloween candy doesn’t disappear when you become an adult. (Anyone else out there know what I mean?)
5 Unintended lessons kids learn when parents try to restrict Halloween candy consumption.
1) I’m going to dump it so you better eat as much as you can now.
All the suggestions to take candy away from your kids are especially high-risk. These include letting your kids go at it for a week (or giving them one candy for every year old they are) and then dumping the rest. Buy-back programs that send candy to overseas troops are wonderful if your motivation is to teach your children the habit of generosity. But this strategy only works if your children want to share their haul. If they don’t, they’ll feel that what is theirs isn’t really theirs. This type of insecurity leads to gorging, hoarding, kids who are obsessed with sugar and a lack of parent/child trust.
2) Candy has power.
Allowing your children to trade their candy for something else, such as a trip to the toy store, teaches kids that candy has power. Powerful items are sought after, not discarded. But even if this strategy works for awhile, it won’t teach your kids a thing about how to moderate their own candy consumption. What’s more, you’re not always going to be willing to pay their trade-in price. What then? Can you say car?
3) Feel guilty when you eat candy.
Some people advocate that you show your children pictures of decayed teeth, rotten from candy consumption. This is like showing smokers pictures of tar-filled lungs. These kinds of pictures don’t do much to change behavior, but they do a great job producing guilt. And for what? These pictures are misleading. Halloween isn’t to blame. One day (or even one week) of extreme candy eating won’t make your kids’ teeth fall out. It’s chronic candy consumption the causes all the damage.
Similarly, the suggestion to use Halloween to talk about nutrition is misguided. Nutrition education doesn’t change behavior because kids (actually all people) make food choices based on their hedonic value — i.e. their taste. Besides, kids already know the difference between candy and carrots. One more lecture won’t tip the scales.
4) It’s best to eat candy when you’re full.
In theory, filling your kids up on a healthy meal before they go trick-or-treating will dissuade them from sampling their stash…too much.
Unfortunately, when it comes to candy, it’s more likely that if you fill your kids up on a healthy meal before sending them out on the hunt they’ll still snack, I mean overeat. This is particularly true for kids who are obsessed with sugar.
5) You’re not to be trusted around candy.
Some people suggest that parents give their children a few treats and then put the candy where the kids can’t get to it. Of course, the idea is that what’s out of sight is out of mind. This definitely is a strategy that works to limit consumption but at what cost? It teaches kids to feel out of control and to covet the candy they crave.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~