Bribery, as we know it, is quite tempting when it comes to getting our work done efficiently. It is also used as a medium to establish a rapport with someone or get someone in your favor. While bribery may be an act of dishonesty, it might not always be the case, for instance, bribing our friends with chocolates for doing us a favor. Food is a popular choice when it comes to bribing in personal relationships, especially with kids, But is bribing your kids with food a good idea?
Studies have shown that using food as a reward or a bribe is just as bad as denying a child food as punishment. Bribing kids with food is quite a common practice amongst parents. It’s convenient, helps tackle kids with much more ease, and is believed to cultivate healthier eating habits. The latter is the primary driving force behind this practice. While it might not have any immediate implications, this practice might have some detrimental long-term impacts on your children’s health and eating habits.
What is meant by using food as a ‘bribe’?
In technical terms, bribing or rewarding kids with food is referred to as Instrumental Feeding. It is a method of developing better food habits in kids by using a reward system. The rewards generally consist of the food itself but are also non-food rewards in some cases.
Like it or not, this feeding practice is done by most parents. Developing healthier eating habits for their kids is the plan that drives them. Alas, this feeding practice is very shortsighted and has long-term implications.
But why do parents succumb to this habit? The most straightforward answer to it is that it’s convenient and practical. Kids quickly give in to things they like, especially if they’re earning it as rewards or bribes. They’ll listen to you more and eat more of those foods that they find ‘yucky’ because the incentives that they’re earning are enticing.
Why is bribing kids with food not a great idea?
Bribing kids with food can have detrimental effects in the long run. Its products are short-lived, can cause emotional eating disorders, can increase their preference for unhealthy alternatives, and even develop an aversion to trying out new foods. Let’s get a little bit into the details.
- Shortsighted approach
While bribing your kids with food might seem to work out in their initial growing years, it’s not a sustainable approach. As your kids grow older, this method will stop working on them. As they become independent, they start making their own food choices, which might not be the healthiest ones.
- It makes kids grow into emotional eaters.
Receiving rewards is directly related to feelings of happiness. As kids grow older, they might resort to eating for comfort in distress situations. They might treat their emotional eating patterns as a reward to feel better. This can later even develop into an eating disorder.
- Can alter their eating habits
Constantly bribing kids with reward foods will only increase their preference for them. In the longer run, when they’ll be functioning as independent adults, these preferences will reflect in their food choices. Hence, the original plan to develop healthier eating habits for your kids fails miserably.
- Creates an aversion to trying out new foods
Once a person develops a taste for a particular food, a hierarchy of some sort forms in their mind. All the foods they prefer eating will assume priority. This, in turn, creates an aversion to trying out new foods (even the tastier ones).
When is it okay to use food as a reward?
The answer to that is ‘never’. Using food as a reward or a bribe is never a good idea, especially now that we know its long-term implications. Tips can be swapped with other fun activities or objects rather than food. These could include a little trip to the amusement park, stickers, buying them books, etc. However, if you want to use food, you can switch to healthy food rewards for the kids. For example, you can swap those flavoured yoghurts with unflavored ones and top them with fruits, making homemade sorbets, ice creams, and slushies. This can help you eliminate those extra calories while developing healthier eating habits for your kids.
Kids can be a challenging territory to tread, and disciplining them could be a challenging task to tackle. However, bribing your way into it is not the way to go about it. It might seem an arduous task initially, but trust us, you’re doing them a favor for their future.