On Trusting Our Kids (and Their Candy)

Halloween Booty

This is the candy Zeb got from two trunk-or-treat events and one night of trick-or-treating.

Or I should say it’s all the candy he has left.

From Friday through Tuesday he probably ate another grocery bag full. Because of all the sugar in his system he ate little else during that time.

Was I worried? No.

Okay, for a minute there on Tuesday I began to wonder. And we certainly had a discussion or two and offered him plenty of other foods.

But mostly I just waited.

Was it hard? Yes. Even though I trust Zeb to find his own limits and listen to his own body, that little Bad Parent voice tends to chirp up and ask “What will other people think?” I’m pretty proud of how well I told that voice to shut it’s trap.

Because no matter what common parental rules dictate, I know a happy, healthy child will not choose candy forever.

I know my child rarely chooses to eat that much candy. I know all humans will experiment with their own limits. And I know Zeb needed to experiment with his own.

And sure enough Tuesday evening he put his pillowcase of candy away and hasn’t touched it since.

He has instead requested and had all the food his body thrives on:

  • salmon
  • cod
  • nearly a gallon of grass-fed raw milk
  • tomatoes with sea salt
  • lots of water
  • oatmeal
  • green smoothies
  • grass-fed beef
  • (Oh, he also bought himself a hot dog at the park, but said it didn’t really hit the spot.)

Halloween is fun. Candy is fun. Sugar is fun.

And our kids should have fun.

They should also be allowed to decide and learn for themselves their own limits. And we should be okay with those choices, even when they don’t match our own choices.

Our kids don’t have to have our own value system or beliefs. It doesn’t always need to make sense to us. We don’t even need to be comfortable with all their choices.

We just need to trust that they will do what makes sense to them.

Because they always will.

What’s been your experience with Halloween candy?

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59 Comments. Leave new

Our Halloween was low on candy this year. The kids did a trick or treating event in the business section of town and then just did our street. they each ate several pieces of candy that night and requested that I take their buckets somewhere else. LOL

More on that during the week…

We didn’t get any candy, okay well we didn’t get enough candy. I still want more. I think it’s great you let him decide. What was your experience with a younger aged child?

November 6, 2010 10:28 am

Lynne, he actually ate less as a younger child. His first time trick-or-treating was at 3 years old. He ate a lot that night and then not again. It was about the same every year until the last couple years. (And the same goes for things like cake at birthday parties and ice cream, etc.)

You can read more about it in the blog post I linked up there.

As his body changes and his view of the world takes shape he tests his limits more or in different ways. Sorta like the cliche of “finding yourself”…I don’t know that he’s so much finding himself but he’s certainly trying out new things, and experimenting.

My son took a small basket trick or treating. The loot is on the dining table, and I’ve asked that he check in with me before eating any candy. So far he asks about once a day. Sometimes I suggest that he eat a few of the smaller candies like m&ms and save the rest of the snack size bag for later in the day. Mostly I let him manage his candy. I trust him, and he trusts me to stay out of his candy. He seems fine with this arrangement. He does have experience with getting a tummy ache from too much candy, so he is not inclined to overindulge.

When we were little I remember our parents letting us go to town on our candy. We would eat completely rediculous amounts for the first day or two, then forget that it existed and end up throwing the rest away next Halloween when we were going out to get more and didn’t want to hang on to the year old stuff.
I hadn’t thought about it before but when Verona is old enough I’m sure we will handle it the same way you did.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do this, this year. I mean, I didn’t choose to respond the way you did. My kids go off the wire with only 2 pieces of candy, much less if I let them have the whole bag. They are 4 and 3 and I admit I haven’t given them the chance in this sort of scenario to find their limit. Why? Because I don’t want to have to deal with the freaking out, bouncing off the walls. I have to have my own limits too and I get sensory overload pretty easy. That includes my children screaming, running around and into things, and just general freaking out which absolutely happens with a lot of sugar. Part of me wishes I could have found that place to let them find their limit with their candy. But I just couldn’t get there this time around at this age. The only other thing I know to do, would be to not go TOTing and have them get any candy. But that sounds like even less fun.
I think I’ll choose to find other limitations to let them explore at this age as a way to have happy boundaries for all of us in the fam.

November 6, 2010 10:38 am

It’s a process Jamie. It takes a lot of practice on our part to get to the point of really understanding we can trust them.

I have the same sensory overload issues and Zeb used to have the same reaction to a lot of sweets. And some kids are even worse; all the more reason for them to understand their bodies. It make take a little trial and error but all kids will begin to make choices that FEEL GOOD. Feeling wired and sick doesn’t feel good for long.

I think a lot of getting part is has to do with going into it fully aware of what to expect. For instance, going into Halloween knowing that you might have a day or three of madness and planning your lives around that. When you can sorta of “sike yourself up” for it, you can go into it prepared and the overwhelm doesn’t occur (or doesn’t occur as badly). Then you can give them that experience in a more mindful or prepared way.

And they do need that experience. They need to know what there limits are, what it feels like when their body says “stop”, what it feels like when they keep going. That kind of body awareness is crucial.

But they also need you fully there with them, discussing it, offering foods to counteract it, etc. So, if Halloween overwhelms you to the point of not being fully present with them, then maybe try starting somewhere else.

Thank you!!!
I meant to put my response in the form of a question such as, do you have suggestions for me. Glad you offered it without me asking. I appreciate the input and I do agree 100%.

By the way, I found a quote this weekend from a book I’m reading about Connection parenting. It doesn’t necessarily relate to this post, but I’m dying to share it:

“We must become the people we want our children to be”

I guess we could relate this to the convo by saying that we as parents should always be aware of demonstrating good limits ourselves, thus enabling our children to learn positively through our experiences as well.

It’s been tough – I’ll be honest. Halloween came right when we were making the transition in our parenting allowing Jonah to make these sorts of choices and it was HARD. But yesterday, when I OFFERED him candy when I was having a snack myself, he said “No thanks, I think oatmeal would be better for me now.” And he has not had any candy since.

It’s been harder with Maeryn. Harder for me to allow my 2 year old these same sorts of choices, and I admit, I haven’t always. When she ASKS me for candy I let her have a piece, but not always as many pieces as she wants and I keep her candy in the kitchen where she can’t get at it any time she wants it. I never say no when she asks me for some, but I just offer to let her choose (hold the bucket down to her level so she can see them and she takes one out, I open it for her, and put the bucket away). If she asks for another I give her one. She tends to get a bit angry when she has a lot of candy, and that’s tough for me because she doesn’t understand when I try to explain why candy could make her feel that way. I AM giving her more than I ever would have dreamed of before, giving it to her when she asks. I don’t want the candy where she can get into it whenever she wants because of Jonah’s allergies, and she isn’t exactly the cleanest eater in the house. :-)

We let our big boys ages 8 and 6 regulate it themselves too. The 6 yr old only got about a pumpkin full of candy and the 8 yr old 1/2 of one so not a ton. But my oldest ate his up right away and my 6 year olds still is sitting in his room only about 1/2 gone. My 2 year old ate all his up right away and hasn’t asked for more much either. It’s nice to let them make the choices since after all, it is their bodies! LoL

Michelle Hogan
November 6, 2010 11:32 am

Love this post! My 14 year old, 5 year old, 3 year old and 1 year old went trick or treating this year. My 12 and 18 year olds stayed home and passed out candy and my 17 year old went to a party. The trick or treaters opted to put all of their candy in a big bowl together with what we had left and shared with all. Everyone got to eat their fill as much whenever until it was gone! It lasted til about mid-week when some friends came over and helped them polish it off. They had a BLAST eating as much as they wanted. But no one was sad when it was gone. I used to make my kids eat one or two pieces at a time. No Fun!

Jack (5) did say to me one afternoon, though, after I suggested some water and a piece of fruit instead of more candy…”Ummm…maybe I shouldn’t have eaten quite so much candy.”

“Live and learn,” I said. NOT “I told you so,” which was often done to me. :-)

Ours go nuts, and bounce off walls, and I just stay away! Then it’s gone and life calms down. :) This year they didn’t get a whole lot, so I even bought more! I love sugar too. :)

One of the joys of living in a country that does not celebrate Halloween :) We did set up little stations in the rooms of the house so the kids could do some trick or treating. They have fun with it and actually try to see who can make their candy last the longest. They like to have enough to last all week. It also helps that the candy here is very different, no corn syrup = different candy.
Though the two year old did cram all his worms in his mouth at once!

Mine are just 2 and 5, so we don’t get that much. I was actually touched by how willing they were to share with me. They were excited about sharing it with me. So what…we had twizzlers for dinner on Monday…we’ll live. My kids are adventurous in what they’ll try and love to help me cook. I’m not worried. Halloween is a magical time…I remember when I was a kid…wandering from house to house in the dark, getting candy, being a little afraid (of course with my dad only 10 feet away at any given time it wasn’t THAT scary) But it felt like a little bit of freedom. Getting something of your own…trading items you didn’t like for ones you did…and eating it without anyone telling you how or where or when.

We are gluten and dye sensitive… So I had a huge bag of organic glutenfree dye free sugary sweets waiting to switch out.

I told them the candy had stuff in it and that they were free to keep or trade it.

They traded, an ate nothing but gummy worms and lollipops and rice crispy type treats for two days. Then they just stopped.

Haven’t eaten any in two days and it’s just sutton there.

They are 5 and 2.5 they got hyper, crashed and spent an afternoon in the bathroom.

It is HARD to watch them knowing they might get sick,

But they eat so well by choice all the time- two days isn’t going to wreck them!

We have always limited Zane’s sugar intake very heavily, because he’s uber sensitive to it and when he crashes…the whole world around him feels it. BUT, we also get tired of the 2 pieces a day crap that goes on forever until it’s all old and stale. So, this year we gave him a regulated choice. Eat all the candy you want after trick or treating then we’ll be done with it or have a few pieces a day for as long as you want it. He chose to eat all the candy he could on Halloween night.

He ate quite a bit as we were out trick or treating then we got home and he ate several more pieces and one or two bites of several more pieces. Then he said, “I’m done.” I was f-ing astonished! That’s not my kid… But, sure enough, it was. When I let him make the choice for himself he did. I’m toying with the idea of telling him how proud I am of him for making a responsible choice that night and giving him all his leftovers, but I’m nervous. So, I haven’t yet. :-P

November 6, 2010 3:53 pm

Yeah I wouldn’t even bring it up with him. I think when we start “praising” or commenting on what is really normal, natural behavior it either makes kids dependent on that external motivation or it makes them feel a little miffed or condescended to. KWIM?

ahhh, I hear ya. Great point, thanks!

Our experience was that we let Chris have all the candy that he wanted on the night (we didn’t go t or t – it was pouring here, and as they are too young to go out without us, and neither of us wanted to get soaked, we all stayed home), but they were allowed as much as they wanted from the stash that we had to hand out, and they enjoyed getting dressed up to answer the door to their friends.

He had some candy after his lunch the next day (from a party he’d been to earlier in the day), and hasn’t had any since, despite knowing that there is still a fair amount in the cupboard that didn’t get handed out – it was a very quiet night here compared to normal.

Seems it’s always the way, let them find their own limit, and provided that they know you are genuinely supporting their choices and there really is an absence of judgement or scarcity, then they make sensible decisions for themselves. It’s the trusting them, and trusting ourselves bit that’s hard – well done to you for shutting the nasty little judgement voice up – I definitely need to try harder with that – I am always fearing judgment (although quite who from, I’m not entirely sure)

November 6, 2010 3:54 pm

“and provided that they know you are genuinely supporting their choices and there really is an absence of judgement or scarcity”


rachel whetzel
November 6, 2010 1:57 pm

I do Halloween a bit differently than a lot of parents. We went to a few houses (10 actually) of friends and family we knew. I had bought a bag of candy at the store, and we rented a “scary” movie. This year was The Wolf Man from 1941. :) We came home, popped popcorn, ate pizza and had candy. Skipped school the next day, and just chilled out. Ate candy most the day, but not all at once. The kids are all really good at eating a bit here and there. Plus, we have always just put all the candy into “the pot” and everyone eats what they like. We still have some left. We aren’t eating as much as we were the first day or so. I don’t notice that the kids are more hyper. Works really well for us, and the candy isn’t the focus of our night. Fun costumes, showing them to friends and family, and a fun in house movie night is what they really look forward to.

So glad to hear other parents are letting their kids make this choice. I often feel like I’m a little “out there” since I don’t regulate their candy intake at Halloween. I can’t control my own candy intake on Halloween, so how can I possibly control theirs? We did say at one point on Halloween: “Ok, pick out two more pieces and let’s put the candy away for the night.” BUT, it was almost midnight and we were all getting tired.

I heard this year of parents “trading” in their candy to charities or for toys or the like. I kinda of feel like this is sending the message that “candy is bad” and must be gotten rid of immediately or that they can’t be trusted around this “bad” food. I see food issues on the horizon for so many of these kids…

My son and daughter each had buckets overflowing with candy and I’m not even sure I know where their buckets are right now. I, too, trust that when they get “overloaded” they’ll stop. My son, 11, is a chocoholic like I am. He said to me yesterday that he’s almost out of chocolate. This wasn’t really alarming to me (I know it’s only 5 days after halloween, how could I let him eat so much?! other parents would say) but I know that if I had a bucket of chocolate it might not last even a day! And then I would be sick and have a horrible sugar headache. Lesson learned. And, after all, isn’t real life experience better than being TOLD you’ll get sick eating too much candy. That really is something you have to learn for yourself!

rachel whetzel
November 6, 2010 4:18 pm

I always feel like, trading for other stuff sends a mixed message too. First and foremost, that candy is ok for OTHER people, but not us. I do have a friend who lets her kids choose whether they want to trade candy for money or eat it. I like that idea, because they don’t HAVE to trade it, but they can choose to.

Nice to know we’re not the only ones….lol

Our kids have free access to their stash and like most of these other stories, they went hard core for a couple of days and now it’s mostly just sitting there. Savannah is old enough to know how too much sugar/candy makes her feel and we talk a lot about why that is etc.

A few years ago, at my niece’s birthday party there was a pinata…..when the candy all came pouring out it was like some crazed feeding frenzy — all these kids were fighting and scrapping to grab the candy, one little girl was stuffing bits of candy in her pockets — I assume trying to hide it from her mother — while my two stood back in dazed bewilderment. THAT, I think, is the sort of behaviour severe restrictions will produce….;)

lol, you are right mel. cause that’s what i do and that’s how my kids respond. :) i really enjoyed this post and it caused me to do ALOT of introspection.

We don’t regulate our boys’ (ages 10 and 5) intake of the candy either. They went to a trunk-or-treat and then to a neighborhood door-to-door. They were happy with all they got (about 3 bags all together) and ate candy all night. My mom was the one who wanted to limit the candy. So while we were at her house, they only ate a few pieces. When my hubby picked us up, they started eating more. We put in a Halloween-type movie (I think it was Monster House) and they ate their candy and watched the movie until they fell asleep. They even said to me that they needed to brush their teeth, because they had alot of sugar! BTW, I agree with Julie’s comment on choices and scarcity, too.

So, I thought about you this Halloween. In fact, I think about this all the time. Our son is only two, and so sensitive to sugar as well as some dairy. I try to be good about allowing him sweets when he wants, but we did have to set the restriction of not having any too close to sleep time. He seems to accept this. And it really isn’t something we keep much of around the house.

But Halloween. I figured I should let him have his fun. I think of that newer Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie with Johnny Depp as Willie Wonka, and how his father was a dentist and never let him have ANY candy and even burned his Halloween stash. So in reaction he ends up running a candy factory. It may be fiction, but I think there’s a ring of truth to it.

So, after his nap, a couple days after Halloween, I let him have his candy fill. It was kind of funny, actually. He dug out the pieces he knew he liked (chocolate), and ate a couple. Then he wanted a jolly rancher, we I think he just had a lick, and gave it to me. Then he kept giving me random pieces of candy. He’d take a bite of a tootsie roll, and give the rest to me. Then a bite of a Hershey bar and leave the rest for me. It was like he just wanted to sample everything. Eventually, he was done.

But then….he got sick. He came down with a cold, and I’m pretty sure it was all the sugar. It does make me a little concerned with flu season and other illnesses he can get (especially since he’s not really vaccinated). So, I think the candy is going away (he forgets about it pretty easily). He can have all the holiday goodies, but candy is just way too concentrated in sugar, if you ask me. I’ll definitely be more lenient when he’s older and not so sensitive.

November 7, 2010 9:57 am

It’s interesting you mentioned getting sick. Justin felt a little “off” late in the week and I got hit by a really nasty bug this weekend. Zeb – the one who actually ate all that sugar – has felt totally fine.

I do agree that sugar can affect your immune system. But obviously it’s not the only contributing factor. lol

It’s definitely not the only factor. I felt a hint of the bug, but had been drinking lots of herbal tea to ward it off. I also remembered that the same day he had all that candy was the same day he got his feet wet at a park and ran around with cold, wet feet for a while.

I guess I’m just going to try to balance health concerns and allowing him to choose for himself until he’s a bit older. I’ll feel a lot better about it when he can understand what food does for (or to) his body, and when his immune system is stronger.

I love reading your posts about this topic, though, and all the comments here. It really helps me keep things in perspective.

November 7, 2010 3:39 pm

I hear you. It can certainly be difficult to calm our motherly worries and keep things in perspective. We can too easily become overwhelmed with “good advice” instead of following our kids good instincts…and our own.

I think although kids can’t understand the science behind what they do, they can understand how it makes them feel. Things that aren’t good for us (in excess) don’t make us feel good. Even an infant can understand that. And when young kids don’t have all the data and social pressure we have as adults, I’ve found they make much healthier decisions than we do. I often feel like I’m inundated with too much information and it inhibits my intuition. So I can easily project that same thing on Zeb, even if it’s *my* issue, not his.

And of course an immune system can only get stronger when it’s exposed to bacteria or things that can make us ill. Having candy in excess a few times a year won’t do long term damage to their immune system. Eating processed foods, dousing them with antibacterial gel and all that jazz on a regular basis certainly can.

Your son is healthy because you raise him in a healthy, aware home. Unfortunately even the best choices don’t make us invincible (as my aching body is now telling me).

What a great post. I love these thoughts.
All thoughts I’ve had rummaging around inside, but have felt timid in giving myself freedom to voice them much less live them. Strength just came my way via your post. Thanks!

My boys are 8 and 10, and a great deal of candy was eaten around here. They had pillow cases full! I made sure to have lots of fruit available this week. I had a plate of raspberries, cut apples, strawberries and a smoothie nearby. I spent a lot of time making sure there were choices available that were just as appetizing as the quick candy fix. The boys haven’t touched the candy in 2 days now, most of the candy will get thrown, and only the neighbors got sick on candy. Oh, and we made hula hoops to channel some of that energy (but we always have energy, I don’t blame the candy)!

November 7, 2010 9:58 am

Such a great example of really embracing and working with the experience!

I have three sons, two are grown (18 and 21) and share an apartment together in a neighboring town and one (age 11) is still at home. Halloween has always been a big, family event—-it’s my husband’s favorite yearly celebration. And, we have always enjoyed the CANDY! Not just the candy itself, but, really, the whole act of getting the candy—choosing costumes, dressing up, meeting folks on the street as we took the boys door-to-door in our neighborhood. It’s just plain, good ol’ fashion, FUN!!

We are normally a family who makes healthy food choices, so the few celebrations each year that focus on eating “bad stuff” are completely okay with me. I have raised my children to be discerning in their food choices, but to also be able to go “overboard” every now and again without feeling guilty about it. This doesn’t just apply to candy at Halloween, but to the wonderful homemade Christmas “treats” that are so delicious (always made with love by family and friends) and to the Easter yummies that fill the baskets.

This year, however, with my two older sons grown and my 11 year old sick on Halloween night, we didn’t get to experience trick-or-treating and, I have to say, I was sad. I tried to tell myself it was only because I missed the tradition of it all, but I will (sheepishly) admit that it might have had something to do with not getting to sneak into Alex’s bright orange plastic pumpkin and rummage around for a few choice pieces of chocolate!!!!

6512 and growing
November 7, 2010 9:18 am

I let my kids eat as much as they wanted on Halloween night. It was awesome to see my daughter (who loves sugar like I do), reach her limit and know it. Then we let them choose eight pieces to keep and have after dinner each night. After two nights they forgot.
It’s funny now to remember how much I strategized and worried before Halloween about my kids desire for sugar. And it really was not a big deal at all.
Sounds like your brave experiment worked beautifully.

November 7, 2010 10:01 am

Oh no, this wasn’t an experiment on our part. (Perhaps a little on Zeb’s part as he tests his limits.)

But this is the way we always live. We trust him to know what he needs and we don’t set limits based on our own prejudices – whether it’s food, candy, bedtime, gaming, whatever. We always allow him to be in control of his own body and his own choices and only step in when he’s crossing another person’s boundaries…which is pretty rare and almost always unknowingly.

since my daughter only just turned two, we just dressed up and handed out treats at home, but i let her have as many lollypops as she wanted in the spirit of things.
she had three at once and then one more that she only licked once and left on the counter.

“I think when we start “praising” or commenting on what is really normal, natural behavior it either makes kids dependent on that external motivation or it makes them feel a little miffed or condescended to. ”

I think I want to hold onto this quote by you and share it with some family members. The praising is always done with such good intentions and I haven’t said anything yet because she’s not even one yet, but it does bug me when people tell her “good girl” when she pees on the potty (we’ve EC’d from birth). I’m like, “Do *you* need people to tell you that you’re good when *you* successfully pee in the toilet?” I mean, really.

Halloween was the same as always around here. Trick or Treat, I get the Almond Joys, Scott gets the Rolo’s, Evie trades with friends–then I guess she eats it. Or doesn’t–it is her business.

I smiled when I read your post because it reminded me so much of the book “Bread and Jam for Francis.” Francis’s mother was one sensible Badger mama!

Nice to check in on your world!

My oldest son, now 23, used to take his left over candy out of the closer sometime in early spring and sell it to his friends for 10 cents a piece. He made a few dollars this way every year.
My youngest, now 9, eats all she wants for a few days but then she leaves it outside for the fairies who give her something in return. Some years it’s a rock. Some years it’s a littlest petshop. Whatevs, she gets tired of it and we make it fun.
Obviously, those of us too old to ToT eat her candy, too. She is very generous so long as we ask.

Oh my I think this is another reason why I can’t be a parent. I don’t know if I could just sit and watch that. I’d be so compelled to express my views on sugar to my child but I think you are awesome for letting him finger it out for himself!

November 8, 2010 7:22 pm

If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that my ideas before and after having Zeb and at different stages in his and my life together I have thought things that are completely different than each other. Such is life. :)

I so wish I could do this with my son. He is rather sugar sensitive and diabetes runs in our family. I’m hypoglycemic and he has had sugar shock twice. It is so scary for both of us. I should probably allow it to happen once so that he can “find his limit” but it still freaks me out!

November 8, 2010 10:02 pm


if you helps you at all, we are coming from the same place. type 1 diabetes runs in males in my family and so far zeb has all the markers for it. i lost my dad to it just a few years ago so it’s definitely an issue on my radar. also we are both hypoglycemic. thankfully he’s only had one episode with low blood sugar.

here’s what i have learned: nothing we do can prevent our kids from developing type 1 diabetes. the best thing we can do is to make health an open topic in our home so that they can make informed decisions. we can keep things stress-free and issue-free so they always feel good about being open and honest without fear of “i told you so” or discipline or any other issues.

as for type 2 diabetes, candy alone cannot cause it. it can affect hypoglycemia. again, keeping things open and discussing these things is important. our kids are smart – geniuses really ;) – they can understand this stuff with nothing more than information and the ability to experience. and then helping them by keeping other things readily available to balance that sugar too (protein and real, organic fats for us).

i’m not an advocate of sharing our *fears* with our kids (i.e. freaking them out), but i am an advocate of discussing our concerns (labeling them as OURS, toning them done, being honest and objective). have you talked about blood sugar, what happens when we eat too much sugar (or not enough protein), etc? have you asked him for his thoughts? it’s best to have these convos when the timing is right – obviously not when they’re really wanting candy.

i’m not a doctor, obviously. but i do know kids want to feel good too. :)

My son has been eating a piece or two when he gets home from school and then another piece or so for “dessert” after dinner. I’ve never limited his candy intake and I’ve noticed that it just doesn’t seem to hold the same amount of interest to him that it does to other kids his age. No one I know can believe that my 9 year olds candy is just sitting on the table where he can reach it any time he wants it… apparently other folks have to “hide” candy from their children! My son wouldn’t even dream of eating all of that candy himself and certainly wouldn’t even take a piece without asking first! My kid also thinks its sort of strange that he’s the only one at school who eats (and enjoys!) their vegetables!!

the candy swap: part two | Recycle Your Day
November 9, 2010 7:49 am

[…] pondering my discussion with the other LLL mom’s and had the trust revelation, after reading this post, last week. I also really LOVE this one, too! If, I (we) want a trusting relationship with mad […]

hmmm. i really need to explore this food issue more. i have done ALOT of exploring, and i definitely agree problems with food are more emotional than physical. i became very overweight for several years and just came out of it last year, and i see how it was all emotional.

but i always attributed my obsession with sugar to ALL the sweets my dad had readily available in the house so i figured if i limited my kids intake they wouldn’t have the problem i do. but i realize, they don’t want sugar any less because i limit it. sugar is addicting because of its composition, regardless.

so i guess for that reason, i’m not sure i follow letting a two or three year old eat so much until they’re sick. i don’t know that it’s fair to them because they do not have the cognitive reasoning to say no because they don’t know what it will do to them. (on holidays i only stop now because i do know). i have let my two oldest do this when they were younger, but they each vomited in their bed in the middle of the night. i explained to them it was the sugar (the younger didn’t understand, the older said she wouldn’t ever eat that much again but she was four, she doesn’t remember it, and she would) but i never let there be an “again” because vomit and i don’t mix.

but hmmm. i suppose it might be worth it to teach them to trust their body, which is something i wasn’t taught. damn it, it’s hard! but i think you may be on to something here.

The following quote from your post is something I really need to learn. It’s scary. It flies in the face of everything my parents did. But you know what? The way my parents did it has also made me so fearful and indecisive when it comes to decision-making because their choices overrode my own, and I never learned to trust myself. I don’t want to do that to my children. Who knew giving or not giving a kid Halloween candy could spark such introspection?! Thanks.

“They should also be allowed to decide and learn for themselves their own limits. And we should be okay with those choices, even when they don’t match our own choices.

Our kids don’t have to have our own value system or beliefs. It doesn’t always need to make sense to us. We don’t even need to be comfortable with all their choices.”

thinking ALOT…other thoughts…

have you always let him make choices in regard to bedtime and such? do you know parents of larger families who parent like this? i am sincerely asking (not trying to be a challenging ass ;) because i just don’t see how this would work in our family. my kids are 6, 4, 3, and 7 mos, and i can only imagine it would be complete chaos if all my children were able to make their own choices, and they would often infringe on others. i say this because i have given them choices in ALOT of things (just not food ;), and i am finding now they expect to ALWAYS make their own choices but in a large family, making all of your own choices OFTEN interferes with the choices of others, and if they all made their own choices with everything i don’t see how we would get anything done.

am i missing something?

also, how do you develop the child’s will if you let your children do only what they feel like doing? how do they learn to move past their feelings or desires if they never have to? again, i’m sincerely wondering how this all plays out in life, not trying to be difficult.

November 13, 2010 11:00 am

yes he does make his own choices in terms of bedtimes and other things. and we know many large families who do the same. off the top of my head, check out heather’s blog: http://swissarmywife.net

it is a balance. just like any group dynamic is. and it takes time and practice to find a groove that works for everyone. boundaries are important. no one – including the adults – should have the right to infringe on others. helping children understand those boundaries takes time.

giving our children choices doesn’t mean asking them what they want with each and every little thing we do. for the most part kids will eat when a dinner is prepared (granted it’s a food they like) and will sleep when the house winds down for bed. if they decide to do otherwise, we can support that by finding ways to make it happen. when zeb was younger and wanted to stay up late for example, we would help him to understand his dad’s need to get up early and we would help him find a way to stay up late that didn’t disturb us and that was safe for him. now he can stay up late without issue.

yes, our choices will sometimes interfere with others’ choices, even in a house with three (well, now 5 that we’re temporarily parked with family). we work through those things, validating everyone’s needs and working to find a win-win.

no one is more important than anyone else. every human being deserves their own autonomy. no one should be made to take orders based on their age or size.

i think what may seem like it’s missing is the amount of trial and error and hours of discussion and patience. relationships are a process; dictatorships seem easier, which is why as parents we tend toward it. :) but it’s not easier. it creates more strife and less trust and those things hurt us in the long run.

i’m not sure what you mean by a child’s will, but life often calls on us to do things we don’t want to do. we don’t need to create more of those circumstances. :) it would be like feeling that kids need to know how to handle jerks, so we treat them like jerks all the time to prepare them for the inevitable. ;) if we are exposing kids to life, not overprotecting them from it, they will inevitably find themselves in situations in which they need to learn to compromise, or handle difficulties, or maybe even do something they don’t want to do.

ultimately i want zeb to learn something different though. i want to empower him to do things that he WANTS to do, to not settle for things he feels he HAS to do, to create a life he enjoys rather than settle for the hand he’s dealt. that may call on him to compromise at times, but hopefully he will never compromise *himself* or his beliefs.

Yeah, I definitely don’t think a dictatorship is the way to go, but I think we would disagree about some things simply because our philosophies are different. It seems you believe we are inherently independent beings who need to learn how to live interdependently, whereas I believe we are inherently dependent beings who need to learn how to live interdependently. And it’s that independent/dependent disagreement that would lead our families to operate differently, BUT I love learning about different parenting styles and choices because regardless of the differences, they always help me in my own. So thank you for sharing.

“ultimately i want zeb to learn something different though. i want to empower him to do things that he WANTS to do, to not settle for things he feels he HAS to do, to create a life he enjoys rather than settle for the hand he’s dealt. that may call on him to compromise at times, but hopefully he will never compromise *himself* or his beliefs.”

and yes, my thoughts exactly!

November 17, 2010 9:52 am

No I don’t believe we are inherently independent. We are very dependent on one another and need each other to thrive. Without that dependence/interdependence we’re a mess. It’s easy to find examples of such in children who were left to their own devices – yes, their independent but they are often shut off, guarded, lonely.

So we definitely agree there. :)

But I do believe we also need autonomy, which if you boil it down is just the need to know we are okay the way we are, accepted for that person and respected for our ideas, regardless of the stage at which those ideas currently are.

The yellow and white diet
November 21, 2010 10:46 pm

[…] I learned to see her diet as eccentric (to say the least) and to respect it. She fills her body with whatever she decides (given the fact that I´ll do my best to give her healthy alternatives) and I trust her choices. […]

This is my first visit to your blog (linked by hippiejennie!) and it is wonderful. I struggled with what to do about candy and next year we are going to let them set their own limits. This year we allowed them pretty liberal access to it (several pieces a day, after lunch, after dinner, we thought it was reasonable!) and they still snuck a bunch out and ate it all. It was hard to discipline them because it was so available and isn’t usually at our house…I found it hard to stay out of it myself, so how can I expect a 5 and 7 year old to do that? So next year we will let them set their own limits. It’s once a year and they are healthy, happy kids.

Meagan @ The Happiest Mom
November 27, 2010 5:37 pm

I found this post a little late, but I’m SO glad I did. Honestly every year I get a little tired of all the hand-wringing over Halloween candy–it’s just a brief blip in any child’s life; and a kid who’s been eating mostly healthy, wholesome, real foods all along isn’t going to decide he hates broccoli because he’d rather have a candy bar.

My approach is similar to yours. I let the kids go hog-wild for the first day or two or three, until I can see that their interest is waning. Usually by this point all that’s left is the candy that nobody really wants but will continue to eat if they’re bored and I’m starting to get tired of the wrappers everywhere (not to mention half-eaten rejected candy corns and Mary Janes.) I combine all the rejected candy into one bowl and we pick at it for a day or so, then it goes in the trash.

My kids are 13, 11, 7, almost 5, and a toddler, and this is pretty much how we’ve always done it.

I have a question that is sort of about this! This is not to challenge the ideas presented here, but I really want to know how to parent the best I can. I WANT to respond this way to candy and the sorts, but growing up my mom let my sister eat whatever she wanted all of the time. It might be thought that she would start to desire healthful foods but she didn’t. My mom always cooked a separate dinner for her. Until she was 18 she lived off of mac and cheese, pizza, and hotdogs. The same goes for my husband’s sister–she still only eats fried chicken nuggets and pizza. They both have severe health problems from eating so unhealthfully for so long. I want to give my daughter the freedom to find her own limits, but I don’t want her to be unhealthy. How does one balance this?

Nicole - Living Absolute
October 28, 2011 9:07 am

I have two boys. My oldest son has always been conservative when it comes to candy consumption. His Halloween candy would last more than a year. My second son can live off of candy. He has thrown up a few times from overeating candy. Each child is unique!

October 28, 2011 9:25 am

Oh absolutely they are! When our kids have a difficult time listening to their own body, our role is to help them in other ways.

To answer this question and the one above (which I must’ve missed), sometimes we get to look deeper and help our kids look deeper. Is there a fear of not getting enough or it being taken away, is food being used to comfort versus nourish, are there self-love struggles, do they have blood sugar issues that need addressing (if so a really great way to help them is to make sure they eat a high protein meal before trick or treating!) and so on.

Really, doing so with compassion, creativity and in a way that they feel we’re on their side, is what is key to helping them really thrive. ♥

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