Have we Gone too far Rewarding with Food?

toddler_eating_smoresLet’s face it, sweets and treats motivate kids! From the time they begin potty training we start reinforcing their behavior with whatever works best. Rewards come in smiles, high fives, a cheerful “good job,” and quite often, a piece of candy or a trip to their favorite restaurant. Much of our cultural celebrations involve food and these are wonderful traditions. There’s nothing wrong with having cake & ice cream for birthdays or going out to eat to celebrate your ‘Student of the Month.’ But what happens when food becomes a prize for just about everything? Think about your family, what food rewards are your doling out on a regular basis?

Too many food rewards have a downside: we learn to eat for emotional reasons, sugar becomes a habit or an addiction, and we pack on the pounds. We’re a product of our time, everyone gets a trophy. If we reward every little accomplishment, we diminish its uniqueness while the overused prize loses its value. We can end up treating ourselves (and our kids) for everyday occurrences, just because we ‘deserve’ it.  There has to be a balance.

Try to find other ways to reward your kids and celebrate accomplishments. This is where knowing their ‘love language’ really helps. The 5 Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell teach us to communicate love to our children based on the form of love that is the most meaningful to them (quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch).

My daughter felt loved by thoughtful gifts. So, I gave her a Barbie when she learned to stop biting her nails. My son was motivated by extra privileges, so I rewarded him with more time outside to play, staying up an extra half hour past bedtime, and getting a free pass from doing his chores.

When I do reward with food, I make it special. I don’t just buy a candy bar or hand over a box of cookies as a prize. We make the celebration a special event. I prepare their favorite dinner or dessert. We use the Special Person plate and give them the seat of honor. We decorate and spoil them in many ways that are the most meaningful to them. Give it some thought, how can you bring balance to this area for your family?

Now, with this article finished, it’s time for a Caramel Macchiato…just kidding!

Keeping balanced too,



olivia and stephanie
Stephanie Allen is Co-founder and President of Dream Dinners and a New York Times best-selling co-author of The Hour that Matters Most. Naturally a visionary and optimist, Stephanie hopes to inspire America through her nurturing voice of encouragement, assuring families…    

“You’re doing a great job!”