Halloween candy is one of many polarizing issues in parenting. Although not quite on a level with homeschooling vs. public schooling, circumcision or vaccines, … it is still a subject of varied opinions and much debate.
(NOTE: This is an update of my original post from November, 2016, on Today in Mrs. Bean’s Kitchen, entitled Why I’m Letting My 3-Year Old Eat All the Halloween Candy He Wants.)
Some parents love and use the Switch Witch model. Others reason with children and help them to ration out their Halloween candy haul. And then there are parents like us, who let our kid eat whatever he wants (and maybe even steal some of his hard-earned booty after he goes to bed).
I am not making light of an issue that is difficult for some, due to allergies and food sensitivities. Unfortunately, some families have challenges. But we are <knock on wood> 100% free of food allergies in this home (that we know of at this point). And so in spite of the fact that I am a firm believer in the power of real, whole food nutrition (especially for kids from hard places), …
This is Not the Hill I Want to Die On
Last year, I read the book Love Me, Feed Me. (affiliate link) Picking up this book actually had nothing to do with Halloween candy. At the time, I was really just looking for some hope, help, and insight into feeding challenges and anxiety around mealtimes in our home.
Love Me, Feed Me espouses the Trust Model of feeding. The Trust Model, in a nutshell, states that parents and children have unique responsibilities in the feeding process, called DOR, or Division of Responsibility. According the the Trust Model approach, it is the parents’ responsibility to decide the what, when and where of feeding, and kids’ responsibility to decide how much.
Here’s an example. Within the Trust Model, if a child wants to eat all of the meat and none of the vegetables that are offered for dinner, the parent will not bribe, cajole, threaten or do anything else that would otherwise coerce a child into eating vegetables. Because it is not his or her job to do that … its the child’s.
Also, in the Trust Model, parents do not change their offerings if children refuse them. No “kid meals” are made if the child refuses the food offered. Parents simply continue to offer a wide variety of foods, sometimes many times, and trust that over time, their child’s tastes and diet balances out. No power struggles. And most importantly, …
There is No Guilt or Shame Connected with Eating
When I first wrote this post last year, we were new to the Trust Model, but already seeing good things happen with our Little Bean. And I’m happy to report that nearly a year later, our big boy is eating better than ever. I credit the Trust Model with the majority of that progress, but also, he now has a little sister who is a Very. Enthusiastic. Eater. So I believe that watching her has also helped him continue to develop peace in this area.
While I believe that the Trust Model is beneficial for all children, it is especially good for children from hard places. Here is why. Food is one of our most basic necessities for life. Kids from hard places often come from backgrounds of hunger or inconsistent providing. So, this is a huge opportunity to develop attachment by demonstrating that we can be trusted to meet our kids’ basic needs for survival! So for us in the end, it isn’t even about the caloric or nutrient intake. Its about making sure Little Bean knows that Mom and Dad have got his back.
I Realize Halloween Candy Isn’t Nourishing!!
Believe me, I do! Some of it is quite toxic, even. (And to clarify, I will actually will be scanning for the candy with red dye #40, since I’m not convinced that my little man doesn’t have a bit of a sensitivity to that. I’ve told him some colored foods mess with our brains and he seems to understand this and not push back.)
Last year, when our big boy returned home with his stash, he was anxious to begin sampling. So he did. The first item he opened was quickly set to the side, though, because he realized he didn’t love it. He actually spit it out. And then tried another piece. Different candy, but same reaction. And then another and another. All told, I think he tried at least 6 or 8 different pieces before ultimately giving up.
November 1st, same thing.
And eventually, the stash dwindled … and he kind of forgot about it. Then, quietly one day during nap time, I pitched the rest. I never heard any more about it.
It Just Wasn’t a Big Deal for Us
Maybe our experience was not typical. And maybe this year will be really different. He is getting older, after all. But I’m left wondering if our refusal to engage in the drama about Halloween candy may have led to a healthy perspective (and limited consumption). Since it wasn’t a big taboo, maybe he didn’t feel the need to push the boundaries?
I suppose time will tell.
But we will give this approach another shot, and I will keep my feelings about the candy mostly quiet in the meantime.
How do you deal with Halloween candy in your home? What has worked (or not?!) for you? Feel free to chime in! I love hearing from you!