In an ideal world we’d all be perfectly individuals with optimal diets — but this isn’t a perfect world.
With Halloween wrapped up your kids are likely now in the process of unwrapping their various calorie-rich hauls, which leads me to my main point.
There are two kinds of parents, ones who restrict how much Halloween candy their kids can have and ones who (for a number of different reasons) don’t. I’m in the latter’s camp for a number of reasons.
The first is that restricting candy is effectively just tantamount to fetishizing it and making children see it as something forbidden-yet-delicious. How do you think that’s going to turn out for an 11-year-old?
Let me tell you a story. When I was a kid, we had what my parents would call “weekend cereal”. If you can’t guess based on context, that was cereal that (if I’m remembering correctly) had over 10 grams of sugar per serving. We were only allowed it on the weekends.
My parents also restricted things like Halloween candy: usually one piece of candy per meal.
By the time I was 12/13 and old enough to be buying my own lunches at school when we’d go to the strip plaza nearby that had a hole-in-the-wall pizza place and a 7-Eleven, what do you think I bought?
Ceasar salads and apples?
No way, I was going for all of sugary, fatty, stuff that had been “prohibited” in my household.
This brings me to my second point: you have to let kids make their own decisions, whether a success or failure.
When you try to mold a kid a certain way you eventually hit that rebellious teenage phase where (unless you’re one of the extreme minority) you’re going to face a lot of pushback on just about every trait you try to instill on your child.
This advice is universal, but in the realm of candy the reality is eventually your kid is going to be on their own, buying their own food and preparing their own meals.
Another funny story. One Easter when I was about nine or 10 my parents were busy in the other room while I ate about 80 per cent of my candy.
You can guess the result. I threw it up.
I remember my parents saying something to the effect of “well I guess he won’t want chocolate for a while now.”
I definitely didn’t.
I don’t know why they didn’t learn from that experience and try to inevitably let me recreate it two or three times before realizing, perhaps, eating 3 or 4 bite-sized Snickers is a better choice than a full pack at once.
Instead, I went through a phase where I ate a lot of junk food.
I mean a lot.
And while I’m still pretty impressionable (working somewhere there always seems to be sweets abound doesn’t help) I can say it was only by going through that five or so year phase where I just gorged out on junk food which made me a much more health-conscious individual.
We’re realizing more and more we have to let our kids be themselves. In terms of expression, desires and beliefs, the going wisdom in the psychological community seems to be respecting your child’s beliefs and letting them come to their own conclusions about life as opposed to trying to project your own views onto them.
I wish my parents had been more laissez-faire with me in this aspect of my life as a child. I think it would have helped me realize the importance of a structured routine at a much younger age.
In the slightly-altered words of a former queen who also didn’t understand the need of giving one’s dependants a certain amount of autonomy: let them eat candy corn.