It seems like candy is everywhere all the time anymore – it doesn’t seem to matter the time of year!
Our culture is completely saturated with candy and sweets. You simply cannot get away from it. Every checkout line has a big candy assortment to choose from – even office supply and healthfood stores which is a strong indication that impulse buying of sweet snacks is very popular with most people.
Most children eat candy every single day, and sadly, it is even used as a reward in many classrooms or by parents themselves for good behavior or academic performance even if a child is clearly struggling with weight issues.
I feel that one of the most difficult things to teach children is moderation when it comes to their sweet consumption. An occasional piece of candy is fine – eating it as a habit is most definitely not.
My policy in our house is simply not to buy candy. We don’t have any candy laying around in our house as a general rule, although I do let my children have a small organic lollipop on the ride home from school some days.
Sometimes, I get so exasperated with how much candy is everywhere that I want to just keep my children home and never let them go out. What particularly irks me is when another adult gives my children candy without asking me.
How rude is that?
Some days, don’t you just want to throw up your hands and lock your kids away or move to a closed community and live with only likeminded folks to get away from the sugar madness?
But, that doesn’t work either. That is a surefire recipe for rebellion and a child who has no control over their sugar impulses. The hard road is to continue to model moderation for them and let them have a bit of candy now and again and talk to them about how overindulging will lead to weight problems and worse in the years ahead.
I think of my own parents growing up. They had an unlocked cabinet of various alcoholic beverages for special occasions or for when company might come to dinner. Not one of their seven children ever broke their trust and as much as touched let alone drank some of that alcohol. We were also always allowed to have a sip or two of whatever Mom or Dad was drinking on New Year’s Eve or whatever special occasion brought out the bubbly.
Not one of us today has an alcohol problem which I think is pretty incredible. My parents successfully modeled moderation and for that, I am very grateful.
I think using alcohol as an example is important because sugar turns to alcohol in the body. So, a child that grows up eating too much sugar can end up with an the same sorts of health issues as an alcoholic even if he/she never drinks a drop!
As a Mom who has been struggling to teach my kids the dangers of candy without being an ogre about it for many years, I wanted to pass along the story of how each of my children reacted to their school Easter Egg Hunt last week.
Of course, any Easter Egg Hunt is going to be loaded with candy and it is a good opportunity to teach children moderation and how to enjoy an activity without going overboard.
My oldest son who is a teenager, ate absolutely no candy at all. He had no interest in having any and the pieces he got, he either gave away or tossed in the trash.
My middle child, who is three years younger, ate two pieces of candy and then dumped the rest in the trash.
My youngest child, three years younger than the middle child, ate a bunch of the candy at school and brought the rest of the candy home where she promptly dumped it in the trash after asking if she could keep 2 special pieces (which I said “yes” too).
It is important to note that my oldest child would have eaten a ton of candy when he was the age of my youngest child. But, over the years, he has learned moderation more and more and now doesn’t want any at all (most of the time – not always).
My middle child had a really hard time saying no to candy if it was offered at school or a party just a couple of years ago. Now, he is exercising great restraint and is demonstrating excellent moderation skills. I know my youngest will be the same. In another few years, she will be able to moderate herself just as well as her older siblings.
I guess the bottom line of this story is that it takes kids years to learn moderation in their candy habits especially when it is everywhere and most of their friends are pretty much eating it constantly so there is continuous temptation. Teaching kids moderation with candy is clearly harder today than it used to be!
Learning to say no to candy is a process and just because a younger child has trouble with moderation today doesn’t mean this will be the case during the teenage years.
Stay on it, Moms and Dads! Don’t give up as I’ve seen others do and just let your kids go wild with the sweets because it’s just too hard to stay on the moderation path 24/7. Your efforts will bear fruit at a later time even if you are not necessarily seeing it today.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
where are the tips?
My kids have such bad nut and peanut allergies that candy is completely out for us. This is both a blessing and a curse. They never get any candy and they don’t care, but I have huge worries all the time about strangers trying to give them candy. It’s maddening! We actually had to sort of candy-proof our first son when he was 2. We played a game with him, pretending to be a stranger offering candy, cookies, other things he knew he couldn’t have, and he got to answer, “No, thanks!” It worked. He has never accepted food from a stranger and he’s 10 now. He knows how bad his allergies are and which people are his safe food-givers. 🙂
My baby wouldn’t eat any solids until she was about 14 months. I just nursed her often and tried not to worry about it. I think she instinctively knew when she was ready. She is now almost 2 and still nurses but is also a good eater. She is healthy, robust and beautiful plus she rarely gets sick!
Also, I have a 7th old who is in public school for the first time and, WOW he is around so much sugar! He’s very sensitive to sugar and artificial coloring so hasn’t been exposed to much of it until now. He’s REALLY GREAT about saying no or only having a little bit. We’ve had many discussions about the health consequences and the way it makes him feel and act. Now he is asking why all the other parents let their kids have so much when it is so bad for us. Any suggestions?
I’m almost done.;) For Easter, we fill plastic eggs with little toys, crispy nuts and dried fruit. They do get 3 pieces of really good dark chocolate and a few organic lollipops and we have a huge egg hunt, play some fun games and get together with family.
I don’t buy candy. We never had it growing up – well, very very rarely. My parents bought chocolate: plain, with raisins, nuts, etc. We were allowed a square or two after dinner, that’s it. Now that I’m a mom I pretty much stick to the same rule: only chocolate, few cookies and such. No candy. My older son (2nd grade) is around so much of it at school!! He usually brings all of it home and I allow him to keep some of it – mostly chocolate – and we chuck the rest. A few days ago he tried some chewing gum he got at school and the smell was so sickening I couldn’t stand it in the car!!! Sooo nasty…. He knows artificial colors and flavors are bad so he’s okay with not eating them.
Thanks Magda! I really like that rule! Only chocolate. . . I think I will try to convince my in-laws to only give my kids chocolate since they insist on loading them up with candy all the time.
Thanks for this post Sarah, I agree, we need to teach our kids moderation with candy/sweets.
I have the hardest time keeping candy out of our home and away from the kids. My husband buys and eats a lot of it and his parents love to spoil my children with it–especially grandpa…he loads my 9 year old step-daughter up with it every time he sees her, and she has ADD really bad and candy seems to make it a lot worse! My baby is only 7 months old and grandpa already can’t wait to load him up on candy. I want to keep him away from sweets as long as possible but I’m afraid it will be quite difficult with grandma and grandpa around (they live just down the street). I also hate it when people give my kids candy without my consent. My father-in-law even tells the kids that candy is good for them and he has even told my 9 yr old in front of me, “It’s ok, you can have some, don’t listen to your mom.” Boy, was I ever upset about that! (Sorry, had to vent for a second!)
I grew up never having white sugar until I was probably about 8 years old or so. I would go to birthday parties and ask if the ice cream had sugar in it. After incredulous looks, the parents would tell me that yes, it did. Then I would tell them I wouldn’t like any. In my teens, I often indulged in junk food & sugar (although we didn’t have it often at home).
My dad was a perfect example of self control, and moderation with sweets. Every so often, he’d have a health food chocolate bar in a cupboard and every week or so, he’d cut off a little silver of it to eat. (Wow! Such self control) Although I strayed from eating whole foods, I slowly returned to it after I married and had children. After my seventh baby was born, I set a New Year’s Resolution to stay off refined sugar for a year, and I’ve never gone back to eating it (7 years now!)
My point of sharing this is that your children will usually return to the way they were raised. Just keep up the good work! My parents had gotten a little lax when they raised my youngest sister, and I’d say that she eats more junk food than the rest of us (although her roommates at college were always amazed at how healthy she ate.)
It is hard for me to see how much sugar my children get everywhere they go. I wish I had been able to teach them to always make good food choices. However, my oldest daughter just set a goal on her own to go off sugar for at least a month though, so I know she understands.
My daughter comes home from dance class almost every week with candy! They also encourage bringing treats to share the week of Halloween, Christmas, Valentines, etc. It drives me crazy! My son also gets candy every week when he deposits money into his savings account at school. I stopped sending money.
I wish my parents had taught me moderation growing up! Nope, as a now 20-something year old I have to teach myself how to avoid sugar. Its been a challenge but I’ve learned a lot along the way.
This is a great post. Teaching moderation with sweets not only improves health, it also lays groundwork for moderation in other areas. Our family eats some sweets, carefully chosen. And we teach about the need for healthy eating habits, pointing out the consequences of indulgence. Even now, my 4yo saves late-evening candy prizes for the next day, and the older children show some degrees of moderation regularly. We’re getting there! 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!
Yes! Excellent point Kim. Moderation is key. You can overeat on good food and still get fat of course. Although, as my Mom is fond of saying, “all things in moderation, including moderation” which means splurging and indulging once in awhile is ok too 🙂
I like your mom’s [email protected]
That was supposed to be an exclamation point. My son was asking me a question when I hit enter without looking : ).
Sadlly, this is not a new problem. I was born in the mid 1950’s and I remember going to the grocery store with my Mom and seeing candy at the checkout counter. In fact, back then they didn’t have it in the aisles at all, just behind the checkout counter and the lady had to hand it to you. It was almost like buying cigarettes – too bad it still isn’t that way. Do you suppose it was kept there because they knew it was something people would be more likely to steal? Or maybe because the price of sugar was high back then, too? One thing I can say for 1950’s candy is that at least it was made with real sugar, not this manufactured fake sugar junk used today that is highly toxic.
I also remember my Mom occasionally letting me have one (ONE) piece of candy and boy was it hard to choose. My favorite back then was a round, aqua colored bubble gum with sugar all over the outside and it was called a Sputnik. It was hollow inside so there was little actual gum involved. Still, the lesson for me was that I had to choose only one piece. Kids today have a no limits frame of mind. They don’t understand discipline in any form because no one is actually allowed to discipline them, without fear of going to jail or worse. Doncha love progress?