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Food is Fuel, Not a Reward

Too often food is used as a reward.  “If you go put your shoes on right now, I’ll give you a cookie.”  Since we know our kiddos love a sweet treat (and who can blame them?!), we as parents often use it to our advantage, because let’s face it, it works.

So, what’s the problem?

What ends up happening is the treat becomes a reward and gets put on a pedestal.  When in reality it should be treated as food, not a trophy.  The goal here is not to avoid treats, but give our children the foundation for a healthy relationship with food, all food, even brownies.

Below is a chart of common ways food is used as a reward and maybe what to do instead. 


Instead make it about the experience not about the food.  Creating traditions around food is great because it naturally becomes more about the experience than the food itself.  Birthdays are a great example.  Just think about your child’s last birthday party likely there was food and cake.  After all, it’s unheard of to have a birthday party without a cake, but the party is so much more than the cake.  

Create your own fun food experiences:   

  • Have the same meal for dinner every year before the first day of school.  Make it a meal that you don’t have very often.  This can provide a sense of comfort before a jittery morning and a great memory. 
  • When you have a busy day of errands, include a stop for ice cream, cookies, etc. in there. Not as a reward, just as part of your day & part of the event of being out. 
  • Kid begging for ice cream? Tell them how much you want ice cream too, but since we just had __ treat, this weekend we'll all go ice cream together for fun. 
  • Anytime you’re baking cookies or cupcakes for school, a neighbor, a church group, etc. involve your child in the baking process.  Make it a learning and fun experience of baking and getting messy in the kitchen you with. Bonus for them: sweet treat at the end. Just don't keep too many extra at your house.

My point is that is not about deprivation or taking away something, but instead about enjoying food and making the focus less about food and more about the experience and the memories!

Share your suggestions below for how NOT to use food as a reward!



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