Celebrate Kids’ Achievements With Nonfood Rewards
If you’re handing out cookies in exchange for good grades, you may be sending your kids the wrong message. Why not try some nonfood rewards instead?
Have you ever “bribed” your toddler by promising a piece of candy in exchange for some potty-training progress? Or celebrated your child’s good report card with a trip to the local ice cream shop? If you’re using special treats to reward good behavior, you may be sending your children the wrong message – one that could impact their health for a lifetime.
Food rewards vs. healthy eating
An occasional ice cream cone or cookie won’t do your kids any harm, but using those things as rewards tells children they have more value than other foods. Make sure your children get their share of calcium, protein, whole grains, fruits, and veggies each day. Sugars should be eaten sparingly, and never seen as having more worth than healthier choices.
Consider the following:
- Having healthy eating habits helps kids avoid cavities, eating disorders, digestive problems, and anemia.
- Research shows that overweight children are at increased risk to have severe weight problems as adults. This means they are more likely than other kids to face heart disease, osteoarthritis, diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer in adulthood.
Although rewarding your kids with healthy foods is better than offering them high-sugar, high-fat “goodies,” even that might make them see food as an earned wage for an achievement. It may also encourage them to eat when they’re not hungry
To celebrate a good thing your child does, find an option that doesn’t involve food. The one that may carry the most weight is the one you might underestimate the most – good old-fashioned praise. The benefits of hugging your child and expressing pride over a job well done will last far longer than a candy bar or cupcake.
If your child gets an “A” in a tough class or cleans the garage when you haven’t even asked, think twice before baking a batch of brownies. Your child might be as happy – or even happier – with one of these alternatives:
- Inviting some friends for a sleep over
- Reading his or her favorite bedtime story – twice
- Playing a game of his or her choosing with you
- Pulling out a box of toys or art supplies that are just for special occasions
Rewards don’t have to be expensive, so work within your budget. Try giving your kids coupons every time you catch them doing something good. Once they’ve accumulated a certain amount, they can redeem them for such things as:
- A trip to the movies, aquarium, zoo, or museum
- A new book or small toy
- A bowling or skating outing
Remember that your time is often the most priceless gift you can give your child. Walking to the park and pushing him or her in a swing may be all the reward your child needs to feel special and appreciated.
A word of caution
Try to strike a balance between verbal praise and other types of rewards. Being constantly rewarded may make your children expect something in return for things they should be doing anyway. And it can also encourage materialism. In most cases, recognizing an achievement with a simple “thank you” or “good job!” is enough.