Winning the Candy Wars

"You can choose one piece of candy now or two pieces of candy for after supper. You decide."

Remind your children that responsibility equals opportunity. Tell them they have an opportunity to have some candy. If they demonstrate they are responsible by honoring the parameters you have set, then the opportunity continues. If they choose not to be responsible with candy, they choose to lose the opportunity to have it available. In that instance, access to candy is removed.

This could mean you may have to remove all the candy from the house and make it unavailable to anyone. That would include you.

  • 4. Make the eating of candy something special. Educate your children so they understand that candy is not food. It has no nutritional value for their bodies. Candy is a special treat, and its consumption is reserved for special moments. Keep candy-eating rare and enjoyable. Once candy becomes an everyday occurrence, its specialness wears off and its presence becomes expected.

    Have different candy around at different times to bring attention to the special event the candy celebrates. Focus on the event and how different types of candy are significant at different times of the year. Talk about the cultural or family significance of what a particular type of candy may represent. Change the focus from mass consumption to the significance of that type of candy to you and your family.

  • 5. Don't use candy as a reward. When you use candy to motivate your children to perform a particular task or behave in a certain way, you make it a tool of manipulation. Using candy to get children to behave is a form of bribery and produces children who perform for a substance. You end up with a "candy junky," someone who chases after the next "fix."

    Candy should never be used as a reward by parents, teachers, or any professional working with children. Using candy this way distorts the role it should have in a young person's life and teaches children that the reward is more important than the task performed.

  • 6. Help your children create an inner authority. You will not always be present when your children have access to candy. You will not always be there to enforce a limit for them or give them choices. Your job is to help them internalize the ability to curb candy consumption. This control from within will develop in children if you begin consistently employing the above suggestions early in their lives.

    Another way to help your children build inner controls is to debrief or talk through their choices with them after they return from a place where you know candy is easily available. Help them think about and talk through their decisions. Ask them to articulate what they would want to keep the same and what they would like to be different next time. Help them create a plan to build on their successes.

    Your children's inner authority is the only authority they will take with them wherever they go. Help them learn to trust their ability to decide and make healthy, responsible choices.

  • By following these six suggestions, you and your children can enjoy the wonderful taste of chocolate and other candies. The holidays can be filled with moments made special by candy consumption that is not an everyday occurrence. The candy wars will no longer be a part of your family life. Eating candy will change from being a weight and tooth decay issue to being a wonderful time when one can simply enjoy a sweet taste upon the palate.

    Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for parents. To sign up for it or obtain more information about how they can help you or your family, visit their website today.