Well it's that time of year again: Halloween, the fulfillment of a child's dream, and the realization of a parent's nightmare. Well, maybe that's exaggerating a bit, but knowing that your little one has three pounds of candy sitting on the dresser in his or her bedroom along with dozens of wrappers scattered throughout the house can be a little disheartening. Not to mention the inevitable stomachaches, sugar highs, and then the sugar crashes.
How can parents prevent such unpleasant aftereffects of trick or treating? You don't want to be the Grinch, and make them throw all of their hard work away, but you also can't let them consume it from morning till night either. There has to be a better option.
Some parents opt for a rationing strategy. This way they control how many sweets kids consume every day. In reality, we're just postponing the inevitable by dragging out the adverse results over several months instead of a few weeks.
The Candy Exchange
It's possible to become creative and look for a win-win scenario. I call it the Candy Exchange. The Candy Exchange involves exchanging pieces of candy for tickets. The tickets can then be redeemed for a variety of things, including going to the movies, buying their favorite toy or video game, a visit to an amusement park, or any other number of activities or items that kids want. All it takes is a little creativity on your part.
1. Start by going to local crafts store and buying a roll of tickets. Explain the concept to your child, and bring him or her along to buy the tickets. Getting kids involved in the process is always better than simply presenting new rules.
2. Determine with your child the value of the candy. Kids love this part, because it allows them to negotiate. For example, a candy bar might be assigned a value of 5 tickets, while a single wrapped piece of hard candy might only be worth 1 ticket.
3. Have your child make a wish list of reasonable "wants." Have your child come up with three items he or she wants--e.g., a new toy or game; a new accessory such as a handbag or cap; or tickets to the skating rink.
4. Figure out the point values for each wish list item. Discuss with your children the number of tickets that seems right to acquire any particular item or event they want.
5. Give them the opportunity to earn additional tickets. You can also take this opportunity to make it a learning experience for your child. For example, there may be an item they want that exceeds the value of tickets they possess. Give them the option of earning additional tickets through doing chores around the house or even demonstrating improvement in a particular subject at school.
The benefits of The Candy Exchange are many. You're taking something that started out as unhealthy consumption and turning it into positive reinforcement with goal-oriented behaviors. You're teaching your child the value of waiting, budgeting, and planning. And doing this simple activity with your child may even result in some more quality time together.
- by Jay Scott Fitter LMFT
Jay Scott Fitter MFT has two decades' experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is a popular parenting workshop leader, speaker, and the author of a new book, Respect Your Children: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting (familyanswerman.com).