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NAN: Food as a Punishment or a Reward

Food should be used to satisfy hunger, not to reward good behavior or as a bribe. Food should also not be withheld from children as a punishment. Both rewarding food with good behavior and withholding it for bad behavior can undermine the healthy eating habits parents and nannies are trying to teach. 

Rewarding children with sweets and treats can send the message that these foods are better than healthier food choices. This may lead to children developing a preference for them over more nutritional options. 

Rewarding children with sweets can also create an association between eating sweet foods and feeling good and can foster the development of the habit of rewarding oneself for an accomplishment with an unhealthy food choice. 

When food is withheld as a punishment, children may become anxious and worry that they will go hungry. As a result they may overeat when they have the opportunity, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain. When food is used as a punishment, some children may even refuse to eat to get attention. 

Mealtimes should be a stress free time. The more of a struggle that is made over mealtime, the more likely a child is to develop unpleasant and even unhealthy associations with food.

Instead of using food as a punishment or reward, nannies can offer to do something special with a child, like go on a special outing or to do a special art project together. 

Michelle LaRoweNAN: Food as a Punishment or a Reward