This past Saturday, I took my 8-year-old to dance class. When the music stopped, and the children shuffled out, she had an ear-to-ear grin … and a chocolate bar in each hand. The instructor had given them out to the class in honor of the pending arrival of Halloween.
The next day, she brought home a birthday party loot bag where, of course, the “loot” was more candy. A week earlier, one of her school instructors surprised the class with ice cream for being well behaved. And let’s not speak about her school’s pizza days, ice-cream fundraising, and inclusion of chocolate milk in its milk program.
Each and every day, it seems the world thrusts junk food into my three tiny girls’ ever-welcoming, outstretched hands. So when people ask me what I think about Halloween, I tell them that Halloween’s not the problem. A single day of treats is not worrisome. It’s the 364 other treat-filled days of the year.
As a society, we have normalized the consumption of junk food. Worse, we have normalized its provision to our children. No one seems to bat an eyelash when it’s handed out in schools and our friends’ homes, in extracurricular activities and city-run summer camps. At my kids’ after-school sporting activities—and I’d wager that this happens at your children’s events, too—junk food is given out from almost the moment my children start to move a single muscle.
While there is no doubt that junk food can be fun to eat, our society has gone wrong by equating, and reducing, fun to the consumption of candy. No need to actually plan a fun party—just make sure there is lots of junk. Want to keep children coming back to the sports field? Forget about working hard on developing team spirit; all you need is ice cream at the end of each game. Want children to behave in school? Instead of skillfully working on their behavior problems, promise them candy for acting nicely. Want your children to drink their milk? Don’t fight for the white stuff; simply stuff it full of sugar, and put a cartoon character on the box.
How we got to this place—that’s a discussion for another day. But if you are reading this, perhaps you can do your part in trying to de-normalize the use of junk food to parent and please children. Try taking these three easy steps:
• For your children’s birthday parties, give out enlightened loot bags. Your local dollar store will have plenty of crafts you can hand out in place of candy, and the children will be just as pleased.
• When it’s your turn to provide a snack for the sports field or the classroom, make fruit your friend. Jazz up the offerings by putting pieces on skewers, and aim for lots of color.
• Don’t teach your children to associate junk food with love. Reward them with praise, warmth, and special time with you.
I’ll also give you some easy guidance for tonight. In my home, our children are granted to eat any three items of their choosing. Half of their haul goes to the local food bank, and the rest is doled out, one piece per day, until it’s gone (and unbeknownst to them, after they are snuggly in bed, mother and father help make the stash disappear faster).
Make Halloween a one-day affair!
Submited at Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 at 11:15 pm on Uncategorized by hilman
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