Leveraging Dessert to Get Kids to Eat Dinner Every Night

Aug 6, 2010 by

If you gotta eat dinner to have dessert, you'll eat your dinner. Nothing wrong with that, is there? Free Stock Photos

“We have no problem with my kids eating their dinner,” my friend Ashley told me. “Every night I make dessert. I don’t mind doing it. We all enjoy having it. The kids know that if they don’t eat their dinner they won’t get any dessert, so every night they eat their dinner and they get dessert. We have no fights about it.”

Several other moms told me they have dessert all the time, too, for that very reason: it’s one of the key tools in their toolbox to make their kids eat meals.

Recently, a mom asked me this question: “Our problem is that we like to have ice cream (our junk food of choice) in the summertime after dinner and if our kids don’t eat their supper they can’t have ice cream. Well, it makes them eat their dinner sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t, and of course when they don’t get ice cream they have tantrums. I get what you are saying and want to play that way, but I want my ice cream too. Arg!”

Sugar, Sugar Everywhere

Now, I’m not a dietician or a nutritionist or a doctor.  What do I know?  My expertise is in how to get kids wanting to eat whatever it is you want them to eat, not because they want to get something else, or for any other reason than that they want to eat it. I have no qualifications in nutrition, so maybe I’m wrong. Listen if it makes sense. But from what I’ve read, sugar is terrible for you. We eat far too much of it.

If life for your kids is anything like it has been for mine, sugar is unavoidable. My kids were bombarded with sugar everywhere they turned: school, church, friends’ houses, restaurants, parties. I felt like I could never give them any at all myself because they already got such an overdose everywhere else.

So that’s one problem. Sugary dessert every day seems like a lot to me. If your dessert is just all natural fruit, I’m all for eating it every day. Otherwise, it’s uncalled for. There are better ways to get kids to eat. Harmless and healthy ways.

Sugary desserts every day are bad enough, but having a sugary dessert every night because your kids won’t eat dinner otherwise is far worse. Giving them something harmful in order to get them to ingest something beneficial hardly seems ideal. It’s abnormal and unnecessary. It’s an example of sacrificing the permanent on the altar of the immediate. Something’s gone wrong with the system if that’s what it takes.

Coming up:

Why Dessert as a Bribe is Bad Bargain

How to Insure Kids Eat Dinner Whether There’s Dessert or Not

How to Have Dessert without Making it a Bribe

How to Deal with Food Tantrums

Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Dessert


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