Okay, first things first, lest I receive a bunch of emails... incentavize is not a word. Not at all. But it has a much nicer ring than "bribe", does it not? And so I'm going to use it. You can choose to think I'm weird or think I'm clever or a little of both...
For the past couple of weeks, I've been talking about Raising Good Eaters. The first week, all I asked you to do was get used to the idea that your child won't starve. I think that's one of the things that irks me most of all... parents who just throw in the towel because they think their little angels will waste away to nothingness if they're not given precisely what they WANT to eat. Kids aren't stupid. And they're human, just like us... we are hard-wired to eat to survive. If it takes getting really hungry to make your child eat a variety of wholesome foods then, I say, go for it.
Last week, I shared a little bit about my personal goals for my own good eaters. I have very definite ideas of what I hope to see from my children and I outlined the steps that I must take to help achieve them.
This week, I want to talk about
Incentavizing can range from the extremely simple and obvious ("You may not have dessert until you finish your meal.") to the more sophisticated and complex ("You need to eat your vegetables to get the vitamins you need for energy. If you don't get that energy, you won't be able to practice baseball with Daddy.")
Truth? I use both in my house. Shamelessly. I prefer the second method because I think it helps to really illustrate the benefits of healthy foods for our bodies. I also like the idea of not using a sweet, "unhealthy" treat to get your child to force his way through the healthy stuff. I find that the reward of being able to do something fun with Mommy or Daddy is a really good incentive.
The dessert reward works well with young children too. Kids need to have a certain level of reasoning to be able to make that whole "veggies=energy=able to play sports" equation. It works great with my five-year old. With the four-year old? Not so much. She's still at the, "Do you want a cookie? Yes? Then eat your green beans" phase. And I'm okay with that.
I've heard all the arguments about why it's not a good idea to encourage "clean plates"... why you shouldn't "reward" eating with sweet treats... why you should allow your child to take a small bite and spit it out if she doesn't like it... I am not saying that these studies have no merit. I'm sure a lot of money went into figuring out that the way we've been raising kids for hundreds of years is no good. And that's dandy.
But, for my family, I will continue encouraging good eating and offering incentives. To me, it's no different than allowing myself fifteen minutes to relax with a book after cleaning the first floor of my house... it does not take away from the accomplishment, but it helps motivate me along the way.
I do not have to make these "deals" at every meal or even every day. My kids are pretty well-trained now, if you will, and they know what is expected of them. But it helps to have these tricks up my sleeve... and to be willing to use them.
What tricks do you have to incentavize good eating habits in your children? Are you comfortable using "bribery" or do you think it's a bad move?
This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.