We’ve all been there. You bring a healthy snack for your children. All is right with the universe, until…dum, dum, dum…other parents mess up your plans.
The dilemma that ensues is complicated. Should you risk offending the other parent by not allowing your child to have the cookie, chips, fruit strips…whatever? ‘Cause you know that saying no feels like an implied judgment, no matter your intention? Or, should you “go with the flow” and let your little tiger tuck right on it? The dilemma isn’t just about the other parent though. Your child: does denying her the treats make her feel like she stands out—like she’s some kind of freak? Or are you potentially ruining her habits by giving in? Other parents can be real problems.
True story: When my daughter was little I always brought fruit and veggie snacks. My thinking was that if someone offered my daughter another kind of snack, she could have it. This was a win-win situation because I figured that the universe (i.e. other parents) provided the right amount of Goldfish crackers (so my daughter’s habits were preserved) and I got to be the good guy, always saying yes to her requests. In return, I shared fruits and veggies. That was my thinking. But guess what: other parents would start apologizing and offering excuses for their snacks as if I cared, as if I was judging, as if I wouldn’t want my daughter eating that stuff. And every time I would explain that it was alright. That I had nothing against cookies or Goldfish crackers. Honestly, I felt like a social pariah.
(Isn’t that a photo of what all moms look like? Ha!)
So there you go, one solution: Feed your children the best possible diet at home and let them eat their crap out of the house. It turns out to be a pretty proportional/healthy way of eating. Read Todd’s Law or the Guilt-Free Way to Say “Yes” to Sweets
The way out of the other parent snack situation is to think big.
The idea that other parents are ruining your plans, or junking up your kids’ lives makes the other parent situation seem impossible to navigate. But really, it’s never too soon for your kids to start learning how to handle the world of junk. Because, have you looked around lately? There’s a lot of junk out there!
- Different families eat differently. Difference is OK.
- Sweets and treats have a place in the diet. But that means we always have to make choices.
Parents often forget to talk to their children about the Big Picture Rules. Instead, they make decisions about each and every instance when it arises. This confuses kids because there don’t seem to be any governing rules. Clarify. Set guidelines.
You probably have a governing “rule” that helps you decide if/when your kids can have their crap. But your kids don’t know what that rule is. Kids ask if they can have something and your “yes” or “no” feels completely arbitrary.
- Decide on how many treats your kids can have on the average day. Tell them what that is.
- Let your children decide when they have their treats. If your children want their treats in the morning, say yes. Then, when treats come up later, either remind them that they’ve already had their treat for the day, and say no. Or, say yes but add that it’s good to “save” treats for later in the day because you never know what’s going to turn up. Remind them of this the next day when they choose their treat in the morning.
- Talk to your kids, outside the immediate situation. Ask them how many treats they think they should have in a day. (You’ll be surprised.) Talk about how to manage this.
- Use some kind of a marker at home (a magnet on the fridge, for instance) that reminds kids when they’ve “spent” their treat “allowance.”
Think about the long term lesson that you’re teaching rather than the immediate situation.
It’ll keep you on track for teaching your kids the habits they need for a lifetime of healthy snacking. By the way, this solution works when you’re around Grandparents too!
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~