Appropriate use of food

Is bribing with food the best answer?

It is easy to get a child to stop crying or whining at the store by promising a cookie when you get home. But is this the best for your child? Even if you promised an orange, is using food for bribery appropriate?

Food is important for energy and good health. It should also be enjoyed. The Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at Utah State University states that food should not be used as a means of punishment or reward for anyone. When food is used as an incentive or a punishment, children assume that this is the function of food. Be sure to avoid disciplining children by withholding meals or even threatening to do so. Remarkably, this strategy could lead to the child becoming overweight because they may react by overeating at other meals for dear of not being able to eat later.

Bribery is not a good idea either. While the promise of a treat can encourage good behavior, there are problems that may show up later. If a parent does not give the treat as promised, the child can learn to distrust them. Positive relationships are difficult maintain when a breakdown of trust occurs. Giving treats for good behavior can be problematic too. The child may misbehave just to get a treat later for being good. It may be hard to get the child to behave without a treat.

Some different ideas for rewards are:

  • an extra story before bed
  • a book of stickers
  • dancing together                              
  • a hug
  • a pencil or crayons
  • playing a board game
  • a trip to the park
  • watching a favorite video together

 If you would like further information about foods and children, please contact your local Michigan State University Extension office and ask about nutrition education programs.


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