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Non-Food Rewards for Your Child

By Sara Butler

Parents are always looking for ways to reward their children for good grades and good behavior -- it’s how you get good results, after all -- and encourage the things you want your child to achieve. Unfortunately, too many parents use food as a reward for behavior, and that can set up your child to develop bad eating habits as they grow into adults. Here are some ways you can reward your child that don’t have anything to do with food.

Why Food Rewards Are a Problem

When you give food as a reward, children are not made to understand that food is simply fuel for their bodies. Instead, they learn to expect food when they’ve done something good -- and most of the time that food is not of the healthy variety. It creates an emotional connection to food.

It’s important to help your kids make a connection between the quality of their food and how it makes them feel. If you want to help your child establish a healthy relationship with food then you need to make sure to start early and use strategies that separate behavior and good performance from food.

Your Kids Will Love These Rewards

The number one reward you can give a child is your praise -- and that doesn’t cost a dime. Children thrive on being praised by the important people in their lives. If you want to add something a little extra special to the mix, then consider one of these popular non-food rewards:

  • Play date with a special friend
  • Slumber party
  • Stickers
  • Special outing with grandparents or parents
  • Trip to a museum, park or zoo
  • Sitting at the head of the table for dinner
  • No chores for a day
  • More time with the television, tablet or game system
  • Car privileges

At School

Your child’s non-food reward system needs to continue when they’re at school, too. Make sure you discuss with your child’s teacher your desire to move your child away from food rewards. You may want to supply your child’s teacher with rewards you find appropriate, such as temporary tattoos.

You can’t help your child to avoid all food rewards in their life. There will invariably be people who offer your child a tasty treat when they’ve done something good. When this happens you just have to reinforce in your child that this type of reward isn’t really valued as much as the other rewards you are providing them. When you empathize healthy rewards then that will be what your child works for!

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