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Post No.: 0870toddlers


Furrywisepuppy says:


It’s critical to get the extended family onboard and aligned in not giving your toddlers too many high-sugar food or drink treats. Something that was ‘in moderation’ can get out of paw when relatives get involved, who (unimaginatively) give the toddlers confectionery treats whenever they visit in order to (cheaply) make them smile; possibly in an attempt to become regarded as ‘the favourite’ relative! Some parents themselves (usually the dad) want to be ‘the favourite parent’ by indulging their child’s desires for processed foods; when ‘the villain parent’ who’s persevering with the healthful foods will actually be the one who’s doing the child good for the long term.


So the whole family must be consistent with the healthy messages and habits. Mixed messages are unfair on children in general because how can they learn what’s right? It’s not ‘love’ to either under or over-feed someone. Too many toys can spoil a child too, and instil a belief that only money can buy happiness. The best treats include fun activities and quality time spent together. It’s lovely to be kind, but we can be kind in kinder ways.


And it can feel like a great relief when guests come over to play with a child because it gives the parents time to do their own things or to rest. But the rules must be laid out to the guests and they must adhere to them when it comes to food and drink treats. It’s not saying that toddlers should never have sweets, biscuits, crisps or soft drinks – just at the right amounts, times and places, and don’t use them as rewards or for bribery. If treats are to be given as rewards – it’s far better to give them as a surprise afterwards, not as for prior motivation.


Post No.: 0852 expanded on children’s diets as they age.


Babies before they have teeth or can walk are easier to feed in many ways because people don’t give them all sorts of treats since they cannot chew on them anyway. Around toddler time is probably the worst because toddlers have learnt to verbally demand things, open cupboards, throw big tantrums, and guests are eager to give them sweets. (A child that young may also say they understand and won’t touch a plug switch again but you cannot trust them to not just 5 minutes later(!))


You’ll need to lead by example too – like how can you justify eating lots of biscuits yourself but your child cannot, or can only have one?!


The thing is, toddlers (or anyone for that matter) don’t know what they don’t know, and so they won’t miss or crave for something they’ve never seen or had before. Toddlers 10,000 years ago didn’t pester their parents for chocolate chip cookies(!) This may be unfeasible when they’re being exposed to so much marketing or outside-of-home influences like what their nursery friends show them or talk about, but if you don’t ever show or give your toddlers crisps or sweets then they won’t demand them or prefer them in place of their proper nutritious meals.


Also, if food treats are constantly used to appease a child who whines or throws tantrums then, due to reinforcement theory, they’ll learn to keep whining or throwing tantrums because they’re getting rewarded for it! Learning ‘cause and effect’ is such a basic behavioural instinct that you can even teach pigeons to guide missiles towards enemy targets if you reward them for the desired behaviour and be highly consistent about it. So yes, raising good children is like raising good pets in many key ways! Woof!


The longer a habit has formed, the harder it’ll be to break out of. So better to not instil unhealthy habits in children than to need to try to later undo them.


It’s also not like with fruits or vegetables, which can sometimes be sour and/or bitter without the high sweetness, because it’s highly unlikely that toddlers who don’t experience refined-sugar candy or fizzy drinks will reject these if they only first try them when older. This is because sweetness is innately desirable to humans. So although it’s recommended to encourage toddlers to try as many tastes and textures as possible – I don’t feel it’s necessary for them to try highly sweet, fatty and/or salty snacks in really any quantity until they’re older. So introducing flavours to your toddler mainly means various fruits and vegetables, and some sour, bitter or bland tasting things, plus unusual textures. They might only learn to tolerate strong spices when older though. It doesn’t mean getting them to try all of the different flavours of crisps, confectionery and the like(!) This’ll be like promoting sitting on a couch as an activity – laziness doesn’t need to be deliberately taught(!)


And don’t give them items in a snacking way i.e. a bite here or there, whenever, wherever, throughout the day – probably whenever you’re snacking yourself! – give food to them during set meal times and at the dinner table. Don’t habitually snack yourself anyway, particularly when they can see you – pre-plan and prepare meals ready for when you get home from work. The concept or habit of snacking doesn’t need to be deliberately taught to children. Snacking can leave a child not wanting to later eat their proper meals. And why would they if they learn that you’ll give them tastier snacks whenever they skip their proper meals?! They won’t starve – they’ll always have their properly balanced meals to eat.


Don’t turn dessert into the main reason for them eating their dinner either. If dessert is the prize for eating dinner, children will naturally place more value on ice cream than carrots or peas. Try to stay neutral about foods.


And be patient and calmly persistent – it can take a couple of dozen tries in a happy and loving (not angry and forceful) setting before a child accepts a particular foodstuff. I generally don’t agree with using deceptions like hiding vegetables amongst other ingredients without letting them know – when they discover the truth, most people don’t like being taken as fools thus this strategy could backfire in the long run.


Refined sugar is unexpectedly added to so many processed products. Natural sugar sources like fruit are still high in free sugars when pureed or processed too. So if you really want to go natural with fruit – go buy whole fruits rather than smoothie drinks. It’s cheaper, you’ll know what’s inside and it’s still reasonably portable and convenient (and it usually comes with less packaging that’ll end up as waste too).


Parents are one of the most vulnerable groups to marketing though. They obviously want to give their children the best and – via tired minds looking for a shortcut, as well as trying to signal to others that they’re giving their kids the best and they’re therefore good parents – they may assume that ‘a higher price product always equals better quality and nutrition’ and so will buy the most expensive products for their kids that they can. Marketers exploit these assumptions via branding and pricing. Tired minds are less likely to actually read and compare what’s on the labels on the backs of packaging. And as children grow older themselves, it’s harder to control what they might eat outside of the home or get influenced by due to marketing.


Food products marketed for children are often over-packaged, over-priced and not really healthy for a child if eaten regularly or if they eat a series of such products daily. Comestibles marketed generically often contain less sugar and are almost always better value. Food and toy marketers understand pester power, maximising visual appeal for children, and the assumption by parents that food that’s marketed for children is designed for the best nutrition for children or are the only things that children can or should eat. They also understand that toddlers have very little self-control, let alone knowledge of what’s best for them, so they use ‘addictive’ sugar to get them hooked on their products and brands. Parents therefore need to get clued-up!


Continually caving in to their snacking or any other undesirable demands may give you a quick and easy temporary moment of peace each time as a parent, but it leads to building up unhealthy habits for your child. Many things that produce short-term gains result in long-term pains, for both the parent and child. They may be ‘just a child’ but they grow really fast! And if one parent stands fast but the other capitulates, then the first parent will be fighting a losing battle.


Keep all snacks hidden. Wait 5 minutes to see if their demand naturally subsides. Distract them with another activity. Or one way to test if a toddler’s cries are genuine is to see if you can get them to laugh (e.g. by expressing that you can see right through their fake cries, in a good-humoured tone). If they can suddenly stop crying, and stay stopped, then they were just trying to deliberately manipulate you because they had learnt that this worked to get them what they wanted in the past. (Observers can often witness how a child has gotten their parents under their thumb!) If the cries were put on then give them a chance to earn what they want, via work, good behaviour or simple patience – these are the far better principles to teach and reward.


Whenever you make a demand yourself, you’ve got to think from the child’s perspective of ‘otherwise what consequence?’ or ‘what’s in it for me?’ Clarify these in advance. Use an authoritative tone (no need to raise your voice). Then follow through with the reward or punishment. If you’ve promised them a reward only after they’ve done what you’ve requested – don’t repeatedly give them that reward before they’ve done it! ‘Yes’ should mean ‘yes’ and ‘no’ should mean ‘no’. You’ll lack credibility otherwise – true respect for one’s elders isn’t automatic but earned! Assess and blame your own behaviours first before blaming your child for how they behave.


A baby’s cries are different. A baby is different to a toddler. A baby’s demands are simpler (food, playing, warmth, cleaning or sleep) and their cries are always genuine. They haven’t yet learnt how to manipulate or be too fussy.


Some parents will spoil a child who suffered from a difficult birth, or developed something terrible when very young, even if they’ve since recovered, because the parents feel guilty about that. Some parents who felt they were deprived when growing up are driven to ensure their own kids aren’t, but in the process will spoil them. Some parents use material goods and treats as a substitute for having little time to spend with their children. Or other similar compensations.


But a spoiled child will start to take things for granted with maybe even a sense of entitlement. They’ll lose the sense of value of what things, or even people, are worth; yet may end up needy and dependent on those things. Their attention span on a particular activity may shorten if they come to expect new toys frequently. Don’t hand things on a plate for them – let them do what they should be able to do themselves otherwise they’ll grow up being lazy, unskilled or easily frustrated and quit when things don’t go their way. This’ll better prepare them for the outside world. Whingeing or crying to their dad/mum might get their dad/mum to do something for them, but it’ll seldom get anyone outside of their home to do something for them. Things in the outside world don’t come as easy as ‘daddy bake cake’ or ‘mummy buy this’ then it’s done.


The happier child is one who’s content whether they get sweets or not, compared to a child who’ll only be content if they do. So don’t raise them to expect them. And this is without mentioning the potential long-term physical health consequences.




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