Wholesome Child : Wholesome Child full
273 272 step 8: avoid nasties never use food as a reward Romy Kunitz, a Sydney-based child psychologist, endorses my belief that we should try as much as possible to not use food as a reward or punishment, however tempting this may be. I am often disappointed by the amount of lollies used to reward or incentivise children at school and even at some doctor’s offices. Using food as a reward teaches children to value sweet treats over other foods, to eat when they are not hungry and to develop lifelong habits of rewarding or comforting themselves with unhealthy foods. We are reinforcing from such a young age, that certain foods are more valuable than others, and as a result children learn to prefer unhealthy foods. Nutrition principles, taught in a classroom or at home, are undermined if they are contradicted by sweet rewards. We are saying to children ’you need to eat healthy foods to feel good and perform your best, however when you do well we will reward you with unhealthy food’. On the other hand, withholding food as a punishment may lead children to worry that they will not get enough food. For example, sending them to bed without any dinner may cause them to worry they will go hungry. As a result, they may feel deprived and eat whenever they get the chance. Note: This is different to not offering your child a second choice when they refuse the food you’ve offered them at a meal. good non-food rewards • A play date or sleepover with a special friend. • A favourite outing – zoo, movie or aquarium. • Child gets to choose a movie to watch. • Child gets to stay up later than usual. • Child gets to choose a weekend activity. How to set goals and rewards 1. Agree on the goal together. You cannot enforce a goal. Your child needs to feel comfortable and be motivated to reach it. 2. Manage your disappointment. If your child fails to achieve their goal, it may mean the goal was too difficult or that they are not ready for it. Don’t give up. Eventually they will succeed and their confidence will be raised. 3. Choose a reward system. Sticker and reward charts are usually effective for children from the age of three onwards. The reward system that I use with my own children and with clients (starting from 41⁄2 years) is what I call The Bead System, inspired by my son’s preschool teacher. One day when I went to pick up my son, I found him counting what looked like golden rocks. The educator explained she was rewarding the children with ’golden nuggets’ for things like listening, sharing and taking turns. At the end of each week she had what she called a ’market day’. The children could exchange their nuggets for rewards such as stickers, pencils and rubbers. I decided to use a version of this system in my home. I was struggling to get my son to sit in his chair during mealtimes, so we agreed that for every meal where he sat in his seat to eat, he would receive a bead, which we placed in a glass jar. At the end of the week we counted his beads and I put out a few items for ’market day’and he exchanged his beads for a set of stickers. Over time this system has changed and often we exchange beads for an adventure or movie. Now my daughter also participates and they love counting their beads. DO... DON’T... ensure the goal set is agreed upon with your child. use food as a reward or punishment. reward small goals with small rewards and larger goals with larger rewards. If you start out with big rewards for small goals, you can run into trouble. punish your child for not achieving their goal – even the anger in your voice could be experienced as punishment. ensure that rewards are not given in the distant future. Children want instant gratification. make your child feel like a failure for not achieving their goal. Encourage them to try again. make sure that the goal set is achievable. set them up for failure with unachievable goals. Reward Do's and Don'ts How to use the bead system ➊ Use one clear glass or plastic container for each child and colourful beads or buttons. For younger children use small puzzle pieces or felt objects to prevent choking. ➋ Agree on a SMART goal. ➌ Place a bead in the container every time a goal is achieved. Once they get an agreed amount of beads, the child receives a non-food reward. 273 Did you know? The most effective rewards are daily praise, affection, and giving children time and attention. For these to have the most effect give them as close to the positive behaviour as possible. For example, if your child tries a new food, praise them for trying, even if they stop at a lick.