The countdown is on. Just one week to candy time! So, how does a Peaceful Parent manage the pounds of sugar coated sugar that will be making it home in little plastic pumpkins and ghostly bags?
Ok, y’all. You’ll love this trick! Here’s what you do: let them eat the candy. Yes! Let them eat as much candy as they want. Trust that your kids are learning their own limits. You see, children naturally know how to regulate their food intake… until an adult gets in the way. The less you interfere, the more able your child will be to have a positive relationship with food. I’ll be talking quite a lot about kids and food in the future, so stick around for more.
You’ll see me reference Ellyn Satter often, because I am a genuine groupie of her methods. Satter is a Registered Dietitian and Family Therapist who is the foremost expert in childhood nutrition (ok, that’s my own opinion but she’s seriously wonderful).
Here’s What You Do
Satter recommends letting your child eat their fill of the candy the night they get it and then again the following night. Then, whatever they have leftover gets divvied up over meal and snack times. Before meals, have your child choose a couple pieces of candy to place by their plate and enjoy with or after their meal, their choice. During snack times, give your child the whole caboodle to enjoy as long as snack time lasts. Taking this tack eliminates feelings of restriction and yearning for “forbidden foods” both of which can lead to a lifetime of disordered eating.
If your child is diabetic or has to restrict sugar for other medical reasons, please follow the advice of your doctor. But, if your concern is hyperactive kids, don’t worry, they’ll only be as hyper as you believe they are. And, if your concern is health, allow me to acquaint you with the concept of habituation, which refers to the way foods become less interesting the more available and frequently consumed they are. Candy will hold less sway over kids if they’re able to get the desire for it out of their systems when it is available.
But, it doesn’t need to be a completely hands-off free-for-all. Checking in with your child to help them learn to gauge their hunger level is valuable too. A visual like this hunger scale might be helpful:
Less Pukey, More Spooky
Rather than asking “haven’t you had enough yet?” try a quick briefing before it’s go time on the candy. Explain to your child that you want them to enjoy as much candy as they want to eat, but that you don’t want them to feel icky. Make sure they know that they’re going to get every last piece of candy they want whether that’s at once or over a few days, so there’s no need to stuff themselves sick.
You might show them the hunger scale and ask them to identify where they are before they start eating. Then, ask which number they want to hit before they stop eating. If the child says 10, you might remind them that throwing up doesn’t feel good at all and encourage them to downgrade that number to something less uncomfortable. After a little while, check back in. Have them pause from eating and check on how their tummy is feeling. Where are they on the scale now? How close are they to the number they picked to stop at when they first started enjoying their candy? If it’s time to stop, remind them that you’ll be pulling all the candy out again tomorrow, so they have something awesome to look forward to.
There you have it! You can stop policing that candy and take the opportunity to relish in your child enjoying one of the wonderful experiences of childhood knowing that you’re building fantastic eating skills for life.
As an aside, I’m figuring I don’t have to urge you not to play upsetting pranks on your children, like telling them you’ve eaten their Halloween candy, but I wanted to make sure that was said. It hurts my heart every year to see little kids crying on YouTube videos, because their parents have told them a lie to garner laughs and likes. Instead, you can let it be a fun experience and an educational one too.