Just Desserts

My grandma was a lifesaver for me last week when I was sick with the stomach virus. She came over almost every day to help with the kids. One day, she brought Isabella a cookie from a bakery. Isabella had already finished lunch and was about to take a nap, so I told grandma that Isabella could have her cookie after dinner that night.

The next day when grandma returned, she saw the cookie still sitting in its bag on my kitchen counter. She inquired as to why Isabella hadn't eaten her cookie for dessert the previous night. I told her that Isabella hadn't wanted to eat much dinner, and on the nights when this happens, she doesn't get dessert. Grandma, keeping up her trend that I am ogre mother for not dressing Isabella in four layers of clothing each day (criminal!), taking Isabella to a weekly gym class (germs!), and enrolling her in preschool (lazy!), told me that I am making food too much an issue in my daughter's life. She thought it was horrible that I wouldn't give her the cookie anyway, and she said Isabella looks "too thin" to her.

Here's our "treat" policy. After dinner each evening, Isabella usually has a small treat once she's finished a decent portion of her meal. We aren't members of the clean plate club. She needn't eat every last green bean or ziti on her dish. But she must make a noticeable dent. When she does, she can enjoy a cookie, a sugar-free popsicle, or a small slice of cake or pie, if there happens to be any left over from Sunday dinner at my aunt's house. The hubs and I generally don't partake, so on the nights when she doesn't eat dinner, it's not as if sit there chewing cookies in front of her.

And when she doesn't feel like eating, it's not treated as a big deal either. We do a bit of cajoling to encourage her to eat sometimes, but when she's done, she's done. She doesn't whine or cry for her dessert. We don't force her to sit there and stare at her plate for hours. We just let her down from her booster seat at the table, and she's off to play. She understands that not eating means no dessert. She's fine with that, and so are we.

But according to grandma, dessert should be a part of her meal, just the chicken and veggies are. If she didn't want the main course, grandma thinks she should still have dessert. I then asked her, "What's the motivation to even try the meal, if she knows at the end she's going to have dessert no matter what?" Grandma responded that I'm too rigid, and Isabella should be able to have her treat regardless.

I think our "sweets" philosophy is a pretty decent one. Toddlers have strange appetites as it is, and one day Isabella is starving, and the next, she hardly eats a thing. But I don't agree with letting a two-year-old fill up on cookies or popsicles when she hasn't eaten anything nutritious beforehand.

So, what's the treat policy in your house?

13 Responses to “Just Desserts”

  1. # Anonymous Ness @ Drovers Run

    I don't know what it is with gramma's. My mom has recently crossed over this invisible line in a woman's age, where every parenting decision her daughter makes (me) should be questioned and debated with her. She comes over (for the first time in weeks) and says stuff like, "Skippy never eats vegetables, he's really unhealthy" etc. I'm like "Oh, where did you install the cctv cameras?" He actually eats really well for a 3.5 year old, and provided the veggies are called things like 'Superman eyes' (carrots) or 'superman muscles' (anything green) then he's fine to eat them. So I wonder where she think she gets off telling me what he's eating, when really she has no clue.

    She always used to joke with me, that when she got old and annoying I should just take her out back and shoot her (like an old mad cow)...because she'd hate to be to me, like her mother was to her...um...mom...are you sure? Ha ha ha!  

  2. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    Well, you know that food is a BIG issue in our house, especially with Jacob's sensitivities to textures/tastes/appearances. Jacob would never get a treat if we based it on him eating a decent portion of his dinner. For that matter, neither would Bridget.

    When we were seeing the family therapist for ideas on how to handle our VERY stressful mealtimes, she suggested (as did your grandma) to make the dessert part of this meal. This was to eliminate the dinner = bad, cookie = good mentality.

    But instead of giving kids an entire cookie with dinner, you give them just a portion. Also, she suggested giving kids (even kids as old as Hannah) really small portion sizes. Once they've tried a bite of everything, they can have seconds. This might not work for everyone, but it worked for us and made a lot of sense. In the end, though, you have to do what works for your family and let grandma's "advice" go in one ear and out the other.

    PS - I don't think Isabella is too thin. Didn't you say she's 30 pounds? Bridget is 3.5 and weighs 29 pounds.  

  3. # Blogger Mom24

    Isabella looks perfect. I don't think the issue is what anyone else does, (and I think you know that too, it sounded to me like you were just curious), what matters is what works for you. What you're doing sounds sensible, you all know the rules, play by them and understand them. You're fine.

    All that being said, I do treat dinner separately from treats. As long as I feel like they've tried something unfamiliar, eaten what they want to eat, I'm fine with a reasonable treat later. They don't eat dessert right after dinner though, maybe a half hour to an hour later. Also, my kids are older, and I have the luxury of knowing they're pretty good eaters. Julianna's been begging for roasted asparagus, broccoli and cucumbers lately. It alleviates a lot of concerns when you know your child loves the basics.

    You guys are doing just fine. Sorry grandma's a bit of a pain in the patootie. Just keep trying to tell yourself she means well, but really! I can't imagine being so invasive in Matthew or Lily's lives.  

  4. # Blogger Sasha

    We do not even have dessert. Like ever. I guess in your grandmother's eyes, we are the worst parents in history:) I am not really of the opinion that sweets need to cap off every dinner. Besides, Sam is extremely finicky and would not even eat a cookie if we gave it to her anyway. Occassionally we will give her a chocolate chip or two and she seems to like that. But our pediatrician said that it we should not foster a sweet tooth in a child that does not have one. I'd say, generally speaking, the idea that dessert is necessary is a bit outdated, as are a few of your grandmother's notions. I feel for you in this situation because she sounds very sweet and well-meaning, but just extremely old-fashioned in her thinking. Just remember that you are raising Isabella, not her and times and attitudes have changed. And in my opinion, they have greatly improved!  

  5. # Blogger Marie

    We do what you do. And no child will suffer because they missed their empty calorie treat after dinner! (we're on a pudding cup kick here -- K is incredibly motivated to cooperate at dinner, knowing that that little thing awaits)

    I'm sure your Grandma means well... but you know what's best for your daughter!  

  6. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Hmmnn well why even have dessert? I agree it's not necessary.. and having it in the house makes it harder to avoid so maybe just have sweets around once in a while or special occassions. As an adult I eat a small dessert after every dinner but I don't remember having it as a child except maybe once a week. Or how about offering her fruit for dessert instead? Good luck dealing with that well-meaning but old-school grandma! :-)  

  7. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    I think your food policy sounds like a good one. I am impressed that you and your husband don't eat treats if they are in the house! We are not that way.
    I think it's just ingrained in grandma's to spoil kids, especially with food. We don't live close to my grandmothers, but still, Little Elvis knows exactly where they keep the treats (saltines!) and goes right to those cabinets whenever we visit. My parents also like to ply him with sweets.  

  8. # Blogger kenju

    You are completely right on this one, Kristi, and your grandma is wrong. I was that way with my kids and my grandkids, too. Don't lump me in with the other grandmas on this one. LOL  

  9. # Anonymous Lisanne

    Our treats policy is the exact same as yours. Lucas used to eat a variety of foods, but now he's going through an "I don't like that" phase. :( If the kids don't make a noticeable dent in their dinner, they don't get dessert. My husband always had dessert after each meal, and now he still feels like he has to eat something sweet. We didn't always have dessert growing up, but if we did, it was usually around 7:30 or 8 p.m. (much later).  

  10. # Blogger Thalia

    I've been told to follow the Lis school that a cookie or cake etc isn't special, it's just food. So you don't either offer it as a reward, or withold it. It's just food, it's part of the meal. I think it's supposed to make it less interesting, frankly, so children don't get fixated on good food and bad food and want it more. But Pob is really too young for this reasoning so haven't tried it yet!  

  11. # Blogger Damselfly

    Seems reasonable to me. We don't make Fly sit and eat when he doesn't want to, either. I have been known to use chocolate to occupy him on shopping trips, however. :)  

  12. # Blogger Shannon

    with us it depends... Lore drops weight so easily that when we need to fatten her up we are happy if she even eats a small scoop of ice cream... on normal days it is pretty much the same as yours... but we have learned right now she is a grazer... so we wait a few hours before she gets a treat to see how much she ate lol...  

  13. # Blogger Jesser

    We have the same rule. Tabby is on the small side, but I don't feel like I can just let her get away with "Screw the carrots! I know ice cream comes later!" And I don't make alternative dinners if she's not interested either. If she's hungry, she'll eat. Maybe it would be another story if she had medical issues or something, but otherwise, I am not a short-order chef. And most of the time, she eats very well.  

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