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Tricky Treats

Oh my this past week was a tough one!

Little A woke up with a 104F fever for 5 days straight. Turns out she had strep throat. Poor thing was miserable and I had to cancel/re-arrange clients, which is always tricky. I'm paying for it this week with a jam-packed schedule. Today I even got double-booked between the fertility clinic and the general therapy clinic where I'm working.

Nevertheless, we managed to have a lovely weekend. The only blip being Little A waking up before 6am on Sunday morning. She now has a hacking cough that woke her almost 2 hours before she normally gets up. Adam and I were worried she'd wake Big A, so I brought her into our bed and told her it was still time to sleep. My poor little dumpling was good as gold - she didn't say a word and didn't squirm, but she was coughing so much that none of us got any sleep. As a result, we were all exhausted yesterday. Fortunately, she seems better today, just in time for Halloween!

I am pleased to report that Big A and I have been getting along great. Although it is sometimes tough to remember to use the techniques my new favorite parenting book (How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk) suggests, particularly when I'm stressed/tired/rushed, when I do, they really work FOR US.

One suggestion they have regarding praise, is not to unconditionally dole out praise and tell your child everything they do is perfect/excellent/wonderful, etc. Why? Because they say that kids can sense when you are being insincere, and thus they will learn to distrust your feedback. Then they may be less likely to believe you even when you DO mean what you say.

In the past, anytime Big A has shown me her art work from school or daycare, I pay very little attention (because I'm usually trying to get her and Little A packed up to go home) and say, "Wow, isn't that amazing!" Now Big A has lots of talents, but art is not one of them. The book suggests describing, rather than praising in these situations. So now, I say something like, "You used a lot of purple and blue in that one. I like those colours. What made you choose to use them?" This is more sincere feedback AND it makes both HER and I take time to carefully consider the item.

I have also been trying to figure out a new way to organize feeding the kids in our house. The "3 weekly treats" system for Big A was successful in decreasing conflict around junk, but it has not lessened Big A's obsession with it. Thus, the tons of additional treats she's going to get tonight was distressing me. I couldn't decide what to do about it.

On one dietician's blog, she says she allows her kids to access their Halloween candy anytime they want, with no rules. I really don't want that crap in the house all the time but I was worried anything else would make her obsession WORSE. At first I told Adam I wanted to try this to see what would happen. He was sceptical, and I admit, it didn't really sit well with me either.

Then my friend Jess mentioned that she'd heard a strategy whereby parents allow their kids full access to the treats for a few days after Halloween and THEN get rid of it all. Both Adam and I liked this idea instantly. The problem with keeping it around the house is, unlike Little A, Big A WILL NOT forget about the candy. Little A typically will eat a few bites of candy or cake and then choose fruit. Her taste gravitates toward savoury, rather than sweet or salty, like Big A. Big A will usually NOT make healthy choices at meal times when she has ANY choice, which means she is not making up for the junk she eats at snack times. Regardless of what we have in the house, she gets access to lots of treats at school, daycare, other kids' homes and parties and at her grandparents and great-grandparents. So she is really NOT deprived.

A few weeks ago I told Big A about the plan and explained that after we purged the house of the treats, if she wanted a treat, we would have to bake it healthier from scratch. Instead of a huge protest, which I was expecting, she excitedly asked, "Can we make rice krispie treats?"

I am very pleased. Even if we bake stuff with sugar, chocolate, etc., at least it will all be whole-grain, mostly organic, and contain no artificial colours or flavours.

I also realized something else that I need to change: snacking rules. Before I had kids, I read that babies self-regulate their food intake based on physiological need, so it is best to let them set their own feeding schedule.

While this is true for infants, it is not true for children. Children are vulnerable to the same social and emotional cues to eat that adults are. By age 2, Adam and I noticed that Big A would eat when nervous. Now she tends to snack when bored.

I have never had any rules about snacking and generally dole out snacks whenever the kids ask - unless it is RIGHT before a meal. Then I recently read this article: http://www.raisehealthyeaters.com/2009/09/5-reasons-moms-should-rethink-food-handouts/

I have realized that the girls may be more willing to try new/less favoured foods at meal times if they are hungrier. Most of you parents out there probably already know this. I suppose I always knew it too, but once you get into a habit of doing something one way, it is difficult to change it. But I think it's time we gave it a try.

So tonight is not just Halloween for this household, it is the start of new beginnings, and hopefully a better way to teach my girls about good nutrition.

By the way, if you are wondering what I am going to do with all that left-over Halloween candy, I am letting Adam take some to work to eat share with his colleagues, and the rest, I am giving to a local charity that takes Halloween candy donations http://overloadedstress.com/ccfc.html

Also: Just a reminder that if you have time, I would be most grateful if you'd click the Circle of Moms icon and vote for my blog. You can do so once a day until November 17th!!

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