In Praise of “Food As Reward”

JuliaCoatMy daughter Julia, who’s 4 and in PreK, has asked me every morning this week, “How many more days until Friday?” (That’s her at right.) She’s out of her mind excited for today because her teacher is throwing the class a “Zip-Up Party.” It’s official: All 20 students can zip their coats by themselves. (This is reason for my daughter’s teacher and the aides to party—the coat, hat, and mitten process can take them close to 20 minutes to complete.) The kids’ long-promised prize? A big dose of pride… and a box of Munchkins. I’m not kidding myself; Julia’s most psyched for a little donut. But that zipper is a pain—it’s the kind that has two pull tabs—and she feels really good about herself for having mastered it. I know there’s a lot of debate among parents and experts over the concept of rewarding accomplishments with food, but I’m here to say that in this case, it worked. Do you believe in giving your child a treat as a prize (or incentive) for a job well done? Curious to hear your thoughts.

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  1. by Lianne Nichols

    On January 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I do believe that hard work should be rewarded, but with what? My husband and I try to reward our children with fun activities or no chore days. Sometimes though, they are so proud of themselves that you want them to have something to remember that moment.

  2. by Janet

    On January 15, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Had my 2nd grade teacher not given out peanut butter salt water taffy as a prize for the quickest math answer on the chalk board, I never would have become any good in math (I’m an engineer). What is funny, though, is I hated that candy. I simply wanted to win something, anything, and so I got very (very) good at math. Today, I am pleased to say I love that candy. It took me probably 20 years to develop a love for it, though. LOL

  3. by Lara Ivey

    On January 16, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Having been an elementary school teacher for almost 20 years, I believe that there is a time and place for EVERYTHING. Food for every reward, no. Food for some rewards, absolutely if it works–do it. However, we must give children the opportunity to practice NOT receiving the “food” and appreciating the beauty of meeting a goal. That is a life skill. Find your child’s “money” and spend it wisely. :-) My daughter’s happens to be candy and my son’s is his DS.

  4. by Barbie (yes, really)

    On January 17, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Honestly, I don’t see the harm in it, as long as it’s not all the time. Any type or reward, if constant, can become too much. If a kid thinks that any time they do something good, they will get candy, money, or a toy, you’ll be hard pressed to not have them freak when you don’t hand them something. A lot of times, praise is all you need, but on more challenging tasks, putting a carrot in front of a horse will get it to work that much harder.

  5. by Cristin

    On July 20, 2011 at 8:31 am

    In this instance, I wouldn’t really be upset. But, in a home setting, I don’t reward my children w/candy… ever. My kids are allowed to have candy at any time, but 9 out of 10 times, they CHOOSE the healthier food. My husband has a sweet tooth (me, not so much), and he had filled a giant bowl full of candy and left it on the kitchen table. That candy bowl was always there and my daughter (2-3 yrs old) RARELY grabbed any candy from it. She knew it was there, and knew she could have some, but she would rather have fruit than that candy because it was never held hostage from her. I think when we grow up w/that psyche that we get rewarded w/candy and junk food, we grow up with the idea that we NEED to do that as adults. I’ve heard far too many friends of mine say, “I had a really rough day, so I treated myself to a pound of cake and ate it in hiding.” ??? I have friends whose kids would come over and see that bowl of candy and want EVERY PIECE because they were only allowed candy on special occasions. The parents would say, “OMG! How could you leave that on the table and her not want it ALL the time?” Well, it was available. I think if I held it back, my daughter would want it that much more because it would be “forbidden fruit”.

  6. by Click here for more info

    On November 15, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!