5. Reconsider Your Use of Food to Comfort or Praise
Even the youngest baby will start to equate comfort with consuming if the bottle is always offered to quiet crying. So will the toddler who is habitually given apple juice after a fall or a cookie for good behavior, says Dr. Karp, who adds that what a child seeks -- and what is important to give -- is your attention, pure and simple.
"Even very young children are wired for social relations," Dr. Karp explains. For them, parental attention is about more than just "getting enough" -- it means everything in the world to them. Your attaching a treat to the deal alters that perception. "You're demonstrating that an object or sweet has more merit and value than does a simple hug and a smile," says Dr. Karp, allowing that the occasional bending of this rule is to be forgiven. "Sure, pull out the big guns when you really need them. Your child has a tantrum in the grocery store? By all means, offer her a cookie. And it will really work then, because you haven't overused it."