No Dessert Until You Eat Your Junk Food!

For any household to run properly, there must be rules. There must be order, or else we slip into the void of chaos so gleefully brought upon by our children. We set up systems that are designed to keep our kids healthy and safe, and then we demand, to the point of idiocy, that these systems remain in place at all times. Basically we are like mini-governments, and what we say goes. But, like all governments, sometimes we need to take a step back and realize that we are fools.

It was a familiar battle, and one that you may have had at your house many times. We certainly like to have it around here. The classic “eat your dinner or there is no dessert” gambit. Dessert is a treat, a reward for good behavior, a delicious medal earned for proper consumption of food. It is not a right, nor is it guaranteed. We have been down this road so often that it is reflex at this point. “Daddy, can I have dessert?” There is only one response to this, and it is another question. “Did you finish your dinner?” No? You didn’t? Well then, no dessert. There can be exceptions made, but you surely have to at least try everything; there are no exceptions to that. And listen, if you are too full for the rest of your dinner, then you are too full for dessert, right?

So there we were, having the “discussion,” when I looked down and saw what it was that I had provided for the children’s dinner. The absurdity of it all almost broke me. Pizza? Chicken nuggets? Cheesy breadsticks with butter sauce? This was the model of health that I was holding up to my child? And I was going to force them to eat it all up before giving them a cookie? Honestly, they probably would have been healthier skipping the dinner and just eating the cookie!

Why would I do that? Why would I demand that my child eat junk food before getting any dessert?! And it has happened before. Not finished all of those french fries? NO DESSERT! Still have some corn dog nuggets left on your plate? NO DESSERT! More potato chips left to eat? NO DESSERT! Wow. I am a terrible parent.

I say this to you to acknowledge my ridiculous error, and to remind all of us that rules are made to be examined and excepted. Rules may work in one situation and not another. Rules that seem like a great idea one day, may actually do more harm than good the next. As citizens it is our job to ensure that our laws are updated and amended to fit the needs of our current society. As parents, it’s our job to pay attention to what we are doing and saying so that we don’t fall into the rut of rigidity, never noticing that what we are so adamant about actually makes no sense. So remember, forcing your kids to eat dinner before dessert only counts as a healthy choice when the dinner is a healthy food. And sometimes it’s okay to just eat cookies for dinner.

Posted in Bad Parenting, Food, Parenting.

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