One of my self imposed rules is never to reward or 'bribe' my children with food. Of course this is not something I dreamt up; it is advice that had been given to me courtesy of 'Supernanny' and various parenting forums and magazines. However it is something that struck a chord with me.
Do I find it an easy self imposed rule to follow? No! For example, a few weeks ago Tilly had asked me for her most favourite tea - Crispy Duck. I blame Grandma for this one! When I was growing up, our birthday meal each year was a trip to the local Chinese where we would, without fail every year order 1/4 of Crispy Duck with Pancakes and Cucumber. I didn't appreciate the side order of spring onions until much later. Anyway, last year whilst Tilly and Florence were staying with my folks, they were eating this very meal and Tilly asked to try it. Of course, just like myself circa 27 years ago, she loved it and cleared them out of pancakes, hoisin and duck! Ever since that day it has been Tilly’s favourite meal.
Move forward a few months. As this isn't the healthiest of meals given the fat, salt (& in some cases sugar) content nor the cheapest, we only ever have this meal on special occasions. One such special occasion recently was our wedding anniversary late last year. As we were going out for the evening, we had a lovely family lunch together with my parents. The 'special meal'? Crispy Duck and Pancakes. This lovely occasion was preceded with the odd bout of bad behaviour from Tilly as she did not want us to go out that evening and she absolutely did not want a babysitter. There was no tantrum just a general defiance to do most of what I asked that morning. As a result I felt like her special lunch was kind of rewarding bad behaviour so I wrangled with my conscience, counted to a million and dutifully put the delicious duck in the oven! I most certainly didn't ignore the behaviour and instead she was not allowed to watch her favourite TV programme that afternoon. Every day as a parent I question my decisions and reactions and this day was no different but I stuck to my own rule of not using food as a reward.
I am not denying that I haven't in the past said to both children 'if you carry on acting like this you will not get the chocolate eggs Aunty Jo bought for you' because I don't always react as I would like to in the heat of the moment, but I try not to and 90% of the time I succeed in sticking to my rule. On occasion there have also been times when if they are eating some chocolate or a fruity snack, if they misbehave 'mid snack' then I have taken the rest away. This straddles the 'bribing with food' rule and I'm not sure where I sit on this one but fortunately this seems to happen very rarely as most of the time they are too busy chewing to misbehave!
Do I however say 'if you don't eat your main course, you can't have pudding', yes I do. I don't believe this is bribery but if they have a meal in front of them that I know they have eaten many times before and they are misbehaving on purpose then I will not let them have pudding. My reasoning? If they haven't got room for the lovely main meal that has been cooked for them then they do not have room for pudding. This is a whole different matter to rewarding with 'treats' which is still something I just do not believe in.