Every parent is happy when their children discover something new or hit another milestone. And these little achievements, such as finishing supper should be rewarded. Most often, parents use chocolate, ice-cream and other foods as a reward. However, scientists say this way to celebrate milestones isn’t good for a child.
Many adults try to eat healthy nowadays, but I’m sure you can recognize yourself in this:
- Big achievement at work? Beer for everyone!
- Are you stressed and tired? Chocolate and ice-cream!
- Had an argument with a significant other? Wine would be perfect!
There is a reason why many of us celebrate little ups and downs like that. Good and bad emotions are often linked to food. According to the national spokesman for Dietitians of Canada, Lalitha Taylor, we learn these habits when we are very young. Our parents teach us these eating habits.
According to Lalitha Taylor, parents can help children develop healthy relationships with food and develop good eating habits. Of course, children need food for healthy development but when parents use foods as a reward, it teaches them certain food behaviors. So when your child does something good like finishing the plate of veggies or having good grades at school, he knows that he will be rewarded with food.
Moreover, when a child feels stressed, parents give ice-cream, chocolate or something like that. As a result, children feel that food can make them happy and it is a reward for being good. Therefore, when they don’t get treats, they feel sad.
Lalitha Taylor also says that children stop eating when they are hungry and start eating when they feel emotional. It is unnatural for humans and it moves us away from intuitive eating. The same idea is supported by the psychology researchers from the Aston University. In the study, they analyzed different feeding patterns in children aged three to five and what influence food has when given as a reward. They followed up two years later.
They found that children were eating emotionally more often if their parents said that they used food as a reward and they were extremely controlling with foods when children were younger. The researchers recommend replacing treats with something else, such as stickers, Monopoly money, a trip to the zoo, a toy, etc.
Would you give it a try? Do you reward your children with food? Share your stories in the comments below!