Bribing is one of the oldest tricks used by parents to make their babies do things their way. Though food is a source of nutrition necessary for good health and life, many a times parents end up using food as an object of bribery to control their babies.
Factors Inducing Bribing: To make babies finish their meals many parents resort to bribing them with certain foods. Bribing may also used to coerce a misbehaving baby to behave well or when both the parents are working and they want to compensate the time they spend away from their babies by way of treats. Parents also try to control their babies when they are giving them a hard time at the grocery store or during shopping, by a promise of ice creams or pizzas if they behave well.
Why you should not bribe?
Babies respond to rewards just as adults do. Bribing toddlers with food not only has ill effects on their health but also affects their attitude.
Discourage Giving Food As Work Incentive: Parents offering food as a work incentive convey a message to the baby that this work is not worth doing if she does not get her favorite food to eat. This makes her relate the work to her favorite food and when you stop bribing her, she stops doing that particular work. When babies connect food rewards to work completion there is a good chance to carry on the same connection to employment in later years.
Food Bribes Hinder Discipline: Bribing can, although, prompt temporary compliance but it doesn’t foster decision making skills, competency or autonomy. Moreover it hinders the development of self-discipline in babies.
Food Bribes Lead to Destructive Eating Habits and Poor Nutrition: By manipulating a baby with treats or any type of food, it is quite possible to form destructive eating habits that can lead to dietary problems, particularly obesity at a very early stage in life. Food rewards lead to poor nutrition and babies who develop an emotional bond with food are likely to become overweight adults.
Discourage Food Rewards for Behavior Control: Using food as a reward or to control behavior only leads to excess calories and the risk of emotional over eating. Overeating leads to obesity, which in turn puts children at a risk for degenerative and hormonal diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other medical problems later in life.
It makes no difference whether the food is a brownie, a pizza, or even an apple. Such bribes not only make the baby manipulative and is also getting a reward for behaving badly, but she is also consuming extra calories in the process. This increases the risk of health problems for the baby.
Occasional Treats Are Fine: Though occasional treats and rewards for accomplishments are necessary to encourage your baby, but treats and rewards at every accomplishment are really not necessary.
Ways to Prevent Food Bribing.
Bribing your baby with food can have many ill effects on her health and temperament. This can be prevented by putting in practice the following tips:
- Do not use her favorite foods to make her do things your way
- Don’t force feed your baby as too much forcing only makes her view food as a task that needs to be done
- Do not make a fuss when she doesn’t finish her plate
- Never coax her to finish her meal by bribing her with ice cream, jelly or chocolate as this creates a bad picture of nutritious food as something unworthy without the fad food
- Try to set up a daily routine for her meals and stick to it as much as possible
- Discourage her from between-the-meals binges
- Keep a low supply of fad foods at home and abundant supply of fresh fruits, nuts and home-made snacks
- Model good behavior and good eating habits so as to encourage your baby for the same
Alternatives for Food Bribes.
Appreciate Your Baby’s Achievements By Love: Appreciation in the form of fast food treats is not appropriate. Reward for your baby’s achievements should be in the form of generous verbal praises and lots of loving hugs, cuddles and kisses. This not only boosts her confidence level but also strengthens the bond that you share with her. Such appreciation does not have any health implications and in fact enriches her mentally and emotionally.
Here are a few ways to encourage good behavior and good eating habits in babies, which can be used as alternatives for bribing:
- Do not impose your views on your baby
- Listen to her without offering reassurance or solutions, until asked for
- Convey to your baby what upsets you without pointing the upsetting behavior exhibited by her
- Communicate your feelings in a self-revealing manner, without blaming or judging
- Do not be mean to the baby and always keep the communication gentle and soft, but firm if required
- Provide regular and specific encouragement
- Try to make more positive remarks than negative ones for a few days and notice any changes in behavior; you might just be surprised
- Try to a be role model yourself
Cultivate Discipline and Healthy Food Habits.
If babies are given the freedom to learn things as they come up naturally in life, there’s no need to bribe them with the promise of a reward to force them to learn something. The same applies to good behavior as well. Educate your baby about good and bad eating habits as she grows older and cultivate discipline right from the beginning.