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Taking Candy from a Toddler

Nothing's cuter than cake all over a kid's face.

Though it seems impossible during the holiday season, I’ve heard of parents who don’t allow their kids to have any sugar. I’m not talking about kids who are diabetic or have an allergy or something like that. I’m talking about when a parent forbids it. Which sounds pretty respectable in theory, but I can’t figure out how it plays out in real life. When their kid is at a birthday or holiday party, do the parents sneak the kid out the back just before the cake or cookies are served?

Pretty much every time I take Laszlo to a birthday party, someone asks me if it’s okay if they serve him a piece of cake. Um, yeah. Why do you think we’re here? We brought you a present. So really, the least you can do is give us a piece of cake. Few things are sadder than a kid at a party who can’t have dessert. Though it sounds like a good way to get back at your kid for something. “Hey, Laszlo’s being a jerk today. How about we take him to a birthday party and make him watch other kids eat cake?” Or, denying your child sugar while the other kids chow down is also a pretty good way to get your kid to hate you, if that’s what you’re going for.

Maybe the fear is that as soon as a kid tastes the sweet sweetness of sweets, they’ll start snorting the floor, scrounging for fallen bits of of sugar like a crack head who’s stash ran out. But creating a forbidden mystery around sugar sounds almost as dangerous as serving your kids a daily chunk of rock candy: Everybody knows that the one of the best ways to get a kid to do something, is to tell them not to do it.

With a smattering of alcoholics in my extended family, I was served so many dire warnings about the dangers of alcohol my whole life, that by the time I went to my first party with beer, I drank it until I puked. This was the stuff my parents had warned me was so awesome that I should never touch it, so of course I was going to drink as much of it as I possibly could, once I finally got my hands on the stuff.

As a parent of a child with a food allergy, I can’t imagine choosing to restrict his diet much more than is already necessary. If my son comes across some (nut-free) cookies or cakes at a party or a play date now and then, I don’t see what the big deal is.

Assuming the sugar doesn’t create some kind of illness in the child, what’s the harm once in a while? We seem to be living in an era of extreme parenting rules: Babies who only wear cloth diapers. Kids who only eat organic foods. Kids who never watch TV. Part of it seems like an identity issue. People like to be seen as a certain type of person, whether it’s “environmentally conscious,” “healthy” or “smart.”

Maybe it’s crazy, but I guess I’m into moderation. If you’re into using cloth diapers, I’m sure Mother Earth will give you a pass if you take disposables on a trip. Your kid won’t get cancer or develop breasts early if you sometimes serve them conventionally grown food. And studies have shown that TV isn’t as bad for kids as we thought (unless it’s “Sponge Bob,” I think? Okay, my facts on this one aren’t that clear.) I’m sure you’re a good mom even if you break your own rules once in a while, assuming you’re a mom who tries to have some well-intentioned rules in the first place. Nobody wants their kid to be a sugar junkie, but totally forbidding it is probably just going to make that possibility higher.

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