“If you study all day today - I will take you out for pizza”
“If you finish dinner - you can have dessert”
“If you play tennis well today - we will stop for ice creams on the way back”
Do you find yourself making such statements all the time?
And do you then complain that your child is a Picky Eater - who picks junk food in place of healthy food?
Can you see why he does that?
When you repeatedly offer junk food as a bribe or reward - you give it the status of the ultimate attainment - you make it that one thing worth striving for.
Junk foods by nature are intensely sweet, salty or fatty. And such foods have the ability to trigger off the Reward Pathway in the brain. The Reward Pathway is what causes people to get addicted to substances like Cocaine.
Cocaine is addicting because - once an addict is attuned to the reward cocaine offers his brain - he is unable to resist the urge to take it in larger and larger doses - which is what makes him an addict.
Junk food works the same way.
Cocaine abuse however is illegal, socially stigmatised and known to be fatal. So even in your wildest dreams you would not dream of offering your child cocaine as a reward.
But you offer your child junk food - the chemical properties of which stimulate the reward pathways of the brain. And by doing this - cause your child to get addicted to something which may not be fatal immediately – but is definitely potentially damaging to the physical and mental health of your child.
In addition with your words - you give it the status of the ultimate attainment or reward.
Unsurprisingly then - your Picky Eater picks junk food over everything else.
Stop offering junk food as a reward. In fact do not offer food as a reward at all.
Rather offer an extra large doses of your affection and time as rewards
Say - “You get two kisses instead of one - every time you play the new piano piece right”
“We play two games of Uno - instead of one if you finish dinner quickly”
“We go for a walk in evening - if you finish studying during the day”
Keep your child from getting addicted even as you compel yourself to eke out those extra minutes of quality time.
Your love in its pure unadulterated form is what your child wants and needs. Do not feel compelled to give support it with the crutch of junk food.
Stay healthy - stay happy
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Life is short. There is too much to do and too little time. If we didn’t plan and schedule everything – where would we be?
And so we have schedules and routines.
Routines are fantastic. They are essential in fact when you are a parent and need to successfully ‘run’ – more than one life.
Routines and schedules for children are always created by parents with the best of intentions. We want our children to grow up healthy and enriched with myriad experiences. And with the limited time that we have available – we know that tight schedules are the only ways to make that happen.
And we are right. Routines do work. And because they work so well, sometimes, without us realizing it, they take over our lives. They comfort us with their predictability and efficiency and very soon, are able to convince us that anything different from what they specify, anything that we are not used to or uncomfortable with – is unacceptable.
Being blessed with the task of parenting a child is the amazing opportunity to live life creatively. To do things differently. And to celebrate every moment and have FUN.
Allowing routines and schedules to hijack our lives – robs us of this opportunity – one day at a time.
The pace of our routines can stifle conversation and END COMMUNICATION. It can also make family life BORING and MONOTONOUS.
If you find you are saying one or more of the following things too often to your child – it may be time to review your child’s routine
1. Are you saying “Come on – come on – quick – quick” all the time?
When you are compelled to rush your child all the time – recognize that you have in your enthusiasm – over scheduled your child. The routine of driving your child from class to class and activity to activity - that you made, has now become the routine that makes you. It is time to slow down.
Shamelessly cancel that fun plan that is no longer looking like fun. Go when it’s actually going to be fun.
Without an iota of guilt pull your child out of that hobby class at a distant location. It may be the best – but it’s not right for your child – right now
Every child is different. Just because all the other kids are doing something - your child doesn't necessarily have to do it right then too. The experiences will be right there when he/she is ready.
2. Are you saying “No no no……….we can’t do that now.” All the time?
Parenting a child is an opportunity to live creatively. As parents we often forgo that opportunity because we are in the clutches of our routines.
Routines however should never stand in the way of spontaneity and exciting experiences
Even if it is dinner time – indulge your child and watch the little dance your child has been practising all evening or allow the magic trick your child wants to try on you. It will only take a few minutes to watch and applaud after all.
Indulging your child could mean changing your plan a little – but, give it a thought - if the plan is important only by virtue of being your plan – can there be any harm in changing it a little?
Flexibility is one of the most important parental qualities
3. Are you always correcting your child and saying “No – not like that – do it this way”
As parents we are responsible for teaching our children how to do things the right way – but when we correct children all the time – we could be turning into helicopter parents who are falling into the trap of Hyper parenting.
Also - as adults who already have so much on our plates – we can’t possibly have things being done any which way all the time. We need to factor in the messes that will need to be cleared when things are done just any way.
But sometimes – just sometimes – children should be given the opportunity to do things a certain way “just because” they want to do it that way.
It is important to do things the right way and to stick to routines but when routines begin to stand frequently in the way of spontaneity and fun – it is time to rethink them.
4. Are you always asking “No – why do you want to do that?
It is important that childhood should be filled with a variety of experiences – and as conscientious parents that is what we strive to ensure for our children.
Can it be wrong then, for some of these experiences to be created by your child’s imagination?
A child’s creativity needs room for expansion. And it should not be necessary for a child to give you ten good reasons why he wants to do something whimsical
Instead of asking “Why” can we sometimes not ask “Why not?”.
It is important to encourage creativity. Children learn by being creative and imaginative.
If there is no good reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to do it – why not allow children go ahead and have fun? A new idea – tried tested and proved successful can be a tremendous boost to your child’s self-esteem in addition to being a hands on learning experience.
If it is your child’s jam packed schedule that is keeping you from saying “yes” to new ideas – definitely rethink the schedule.
In your child’s company – sometimes give yourself the permission to be whimsical, laid back and relaxed.
Don’t rush children into tomorrow. Let them live in the moment. Permit them to keep you there too.