A couple years ago, I let my kids eat their halloween candy for dinner. At the time, I was at the tail end of another 31-day series called Grace in Failure and decided allowing my kids to eat candy for dinner was a fail.
It does feel like a poor parenting choice, but I’m making it again this year.
Over the summer, we went to a birthday party at the park. One of my children came up to me with a half-eaten bowl of cake, saying, “Mom, what do I do with this? It’s too much sugar and I feel weird.”
Let me just insert right now that this kind of awareness is everything I have ever wanted for myself. Over the last several years, I’ve gotten better and more intuitive about eating things that make my body feel good, but sugar is a constant stumbling block. I can avoid it, knowing I’ll feel gross later, but if I start, I’m almost never able to moderate, even when I feel icky from those Oreos I’m eating. I hear their siren call, but after I’ve had one, it’s more like a taunt than a beckoning which makes me angry and I won’t stop until they’re vanquished. DIE, OREOS! I AM MORE POWERFUL THAN YOUR CHOCOLATEY CRISPNESS. I’LL SHOW YOU! I EAT YOUR KIND FOR LITERAL BREAKFAST! AHA! NOT SO POWERFUL NOW THAT YOU’RE GONE!
So when my kids moderate their own sugar intake, I’m in awe.
I didn’t connect the two initially, but then I saw this NYT article about it and read this:
“We have really good empirical research dating back to the 1980s demonstrating that kids who are restricted around treat foods often just want to eat them more,” said Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Rutgers University and author of the forthcoming “Body Image Book for Girls,” referring to the research of Leann Birch, a developmental psychologist who showed through many studies that pressuring children to eat healthier fare in order to “earn” their treats caused kids to like vegetables less and have a stronger craving for candy.
Oh. Duh. I knew that, both scientifically and from my own experience. Not that there’s never a call for my help regulating their impulses—that’s probably 80% of my job—but giving them chances to self-regulate (and fail, and experience consequences) is an important part of teaching them to be successful humans.
I’m not handing myself any parenting trophies—I don’t think 2017’s whine-avoidance halloween tactic is solely responsible for their ability to self-moderate sugar. But it worked (the goal was to mitigate the constant “can I have some of my halloween candy” begging that happens for weeks if it’s in the house), and it didn’t set me back any in my goal to teach them intuitive eating.
This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.