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Family Members Who Love to Use Food as a Reward

“If you finish your dinner, then you can have dessert”


Is a phrase that I grew up hearing and still hear from my parents with their grandkids.


Sound familiar?





In many families, food is used as a reward. Food can be used as a reward at any time like in a bribe: “Give grandma a kiss and I will give you a chocolate.”


Or, it can be used at mealtimes as was noted above.


It also does not correspond to the Division of Responsibility (sDOR) principles. To learn more about the concerns about why using food as a reward is not helpful, please see these past blog articles here and here.


For those who are trying to maintain positive family relationships while family members are using such tactics, here are a few ideas to help:

- Have a discussion with your family member – okay, I am starting to sound like a broken record…maintaining open communication with your family member is important. In this communication, let them know:

o You are feeding your child with a model where you do not use food as a reward as it is just food and you are trying to normalise all foods.

o If you are having a meal together, you put all foods out on the table at the same time, including sweet foods for your child to eat in whatever order they want.

** There may be occasions this may not be possible, like at a birthday party when the cake is served after dinner. If you are consistently using sDOR, one meal is not going to make a big deal, your child is adaptable. You can let them know ahead of time that the cake will be cut and served after dinner and expect they may not eat well at dinner as they are waiting for the cake.

o If you are concerned with the types of foods your family member is giving your child and your child is with this family member regularly, have a discussion to see if you can come to an agreement or a planned menu of when and what foods are acceptable to give to your child. It is more important that your family member follows sDOR principles and sticks with their responsibility than it is what food they provide. Eating competent children will be able to manage their needs, independent of what foods are provided.


-Visit these family members at snack or mealtimes so you can offer your child whatever the “reward” is with their meal/snack.


Let me know how you feel if this is a concern you have with your family members. I would love to hear your concerns and comments.

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