We all know that we should not bribe our kids with treats to buy their good behavior, but who hasn’t done it? In fact, food is such a powerful elixir, I bet there aren’t any parents who don’t (at least occasionally) coax cooperation with a cookie.

But rewarding behavior with food teaches kids to eat for all the wrong reasons, at all the wrong times, and often, in all the wrong amounts.

Here are some other ways to bribe your kids into behaving. Reward them with…

  •  an extra story at bedtime.
  • a sticker they can put towards a bigger reward such as a book or toy.
  • a little extra TV time.
  • a few extra minutes before bedtime. (Even an extra 10-15 minutes can seem exciting to young kids.)
  • the opportunity to select a favorite meal for dinner the following night. (Even though this is a food reward, it’s not candy, and your child is not earning the meal.)
  • game time with you.
  • a backwards dinner – serve dessert first, main course second. (You won’t need to worry about your child being full if you make the dessert small.)
  • a ticket they can exchange for
    • a one-time exemption from performing a chore or
    • help with task – such as putting on shoes – that you normally insist they do themselves .
  • a ticket to be “the boss” for an hour.
  • the privilege of determining one of YOUR meals the next day.

Go wild with the bribes, if it helps.  But do you really want your child rewarding or consoling himself with sweets when he’s older?

Remember: everytime you feed your child you are teaching him something about what, when, why and how much to eat.  The only question that remains is this: what are you going to teach him?

Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.