Friday, July 1, 2011

The Candy Dish

Like many six year olds, my daughter has an affinity for candy.  Unfortunately, she inherited my sweet tooth. Each candy-producing holiday, we add her newly acquired stash to the large candy bowl that sits atop the refrigerator.  She then spends the next two weeks (or longer) begging almost non-stop for candy.  It's frustrating, to say the least.    As a family that prides ourselves on healthy eating, it was quite disturbing when my daughter began to display her candy fixation.  After all, we had avoided giving her sugar and artificial ingredients well beyond her second year of life, hoping that she wouldn't develop a taste for sweets.  I know, I know, all you parents are smirking at your computer screens about now.  As we "experienced" parents well know, keeping the sugar away in the formative years does not guarantee that kids will develop a love for broccoli over chocolate (although I will argue that they can discover a balanced love of all foods).

As my daughter progressed through the preschool and early elementary years, her love of sugary snacks grew.  So did my fear that she would become a candy-obsessed, vegetable-hating sugar junkie...well, not really, but you get the picture.  My husband and I spent countless hours discussing how to teach her moderation and self-control around sweets.  We didn't want to spend the next ten years as the sugar police, nor did we want her to eat unlimited amounts of candy.  This is where the candy dish came into play...

One of our family friends was telling me about her ten year old daughter and her intense love of sweets one day (we were actually in the midst of running our first half marathon).  As part of the conversation, she explained the strategy that she and her partner use with their daughter to teach her moderation and self-control.  At the beginning of each week, the daughter is allowed to fill a candy dish with seven pieces of candy, which she can eat at any time without having to ask.  When the candy is gone, it's gone.  There are no refills.  She has to wait until the following week to get more candy.  I thought it was a brilliant idea and returned home full of optimism about the new experiment.

Since my daughter is only six (almost 7), we decided that five pieces of candy would be enough for the week.  We established some rules for the dish and then sat down with our daughter to explain the concept to her.  She was so excited to have her own candy dish. 

In the beginning, she would sheepishly look at us as she went to her candy dish numerous times in a row to eat a piece of candy.  We didn't say anything since it was her right to eat as much as she wanted.  The first couple of weeks, she ate all of the candy in the first two days and was left with nothing sweet for the rest of the week.  After a few weeks, the novelty wore off, and she now eats the candy sporadically throughout the week.  In fact, there are some weeks that she ends the week with candy still in her dish.  By giving her control, we have eliminated the novelty of sweets.  Plus, she's learning to moderate.

Candy Dish Rules:
  • She cannot eat the candy first thing in the morning before eating breakfast.  All candy consumption must occur after the first healthy meal of the day has been eaten.
  • If she doesn't eat her dinner and other main meals, the candy dish goes away for the week.  She has to regularly eat healthy foods to be able to indulge in sweets.
  • She must brush her teeth well both morning and night.  If she doesn't brush thoroughly, the candy dish goes away for the week.
  • If she has a day of heavy sweets (i.e. a birthday party or other gathering where there are lots of sweets eaten), she must refrain from eating out of the candy dish for the remainder of the day.

I definitely think the candy dish concept would work for a lot of different children.  It helps them learn to control the amount of sweets they eat and also how to understand what a healthy amount of sugar is.  We will definitely be continuing the candy dish at our house.  Hmmm...I wonder if it would work with my weekly allotment of chocolate...


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