Do you reward your kids with food?


Let’s face it, either you’re doing it now or you’ve done it before… we‘ve all been there – promising the toddler a cookie to be quiet, treating the tween to ice cream for a good report card.  No judgment mama – it happens, even here at Casa Neuner… I get it.  And to prove it – I added a photo of a food bribe I gave to my little Nori a few years back  – an ice cream reward for being “good at the beach.”


That said, part of teaching our kids about healthy eating is really teaching them about a healthy lifestyle.  And, lifestyle is about how we spend our time and where we place our values.


My husband runs 6 days a week and has for over 20 years.  My kids know that and want to be like him.  They see that he values time for himself (self-care, as many call it) and exercise, and they see that it makes him happy.  By his simple act of lacing on his sneakers they are learning in the most basic way to care for yourself first and foremost. Which, in my opinion, cannot get any better.


When my kids grow up, I hope that they know that after a stressful day, it feels better to lace up your sneakers and go for a run, than to treat yourself to a pint of ice cream.


Rewarding kids with food is practically an all-american pastime, however, in reality it’s what’s keeping our kids (and ourselves) sad and sick.


I know you don’t want to hear it, but please, no food rewards, girlfriend.


For yourself, or for your little people.


I know it’s fun and easy, and we were raised that way, but many of us also have food issues that we don’t want to pass onto our kids.  


Let’s break the cycle and come up with some healthier ways to reward our kids.


Now, hear me out, I’m not saying don’t give your kids treats. I am saying don’t use them as rewards. Make it “let’s bake cookies today because it’s a snow day and it will be fun,” rather than “great job on your math test, let’s get ice cream.” Two veeeery different statements…


When we use food as rewards, we are training our kids to link the two together.  


Placing value on a chocolate chip cookie creates so many underlying issues.  When you think about it, wouldn’t you rather they know that they “deserve” time alone with you, instead of a cookie?  This way, when they are adults and they lose a job or experience a breakup or a loss, they might go for a walk or a run, or do something that nourishes their soul, instead of drowning themselves in a pint of ice cream.


But what other rewards are there you ask…?   Well, decide where your family places value and start there.  


Teach your kids that you are proud of them and that what they deserve as a reward is not something that will ultimately make them sick, but something that truly lights them up and creates memories longer than a 15 minute sugar rush.


If you need some inspiration to get your creative juices flowing, try these…


  1. Quality one on one time with mom or dad, or a special person
  2. Date night with a parent
  3. A board game of their choosing
  4. They can choose what’s for dinner
  5. A new book or a trip to the library
  6. Paint their nails
  7. Play catch
  8. Build legos together
  9. Color together
  10. A trip to their favorite park or playground
  11. Whatever they love and motivates them!


Remember mama, it’s the little things you do today that shape who they are tomorrow.  Showing them to find what lights them up and using that as a reward is a life skill that we all need.


No one is perfect and even if you make one choice today to switch the reward from a cookie to an extra bedtime story – that’s a HUGE win.!  

Nothing is too small, nothing it irrelevant, make one small step today and tomorrow it will turn into two.


You got this mama!



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