October 16, 2018


We asked five experts: should we use food as a reward for kids?

File 20180924 85782 1miod29.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Rewarding a child with ice cream for eating vegetables teaches a child certain things about vegetables, ice cream, and behaviour. from www.shutterstock.com

Alexandra Hansen, The Conversation

Finding means of cajoling the kids into behaving in certain ways or doing things they don’t want to do can be challenging. And most parents at some point would have offered up sweets as a reward for finishing veggies or cleaning up a mess.

But this raises some questions about the relationship we could be encouraging between our children and food. Do we want kids to see food as fuel for the body rather than a treat to be sought after? And as junk foods are more often than not the rewards on offer, are we encouraging a taste for the wrong types of foods?

It also raises questions about parenting more generally. Should we be trying to teach our kids to do the right thing for the sake of it, and not in the hope of being rewarded?

We asked five experts from various fields if we should use food to reward kids.

Five out of five experts said no


Here are their detailed responses:

If you have a “yes or no” health question you’d like posed to Five Experts, email your suggestion to: alexandra.hansen@theconversation.edu.au

Disclosures: David receives funding from the NHMRC and Movember. Jade Sheen receives funding from Commonwealth agencies including the Office of Learning and Teaching and the Department of Health.The Conversation

Alexandra Hansen, Chief of Staff, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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  • Food is fuel and food should also be a joy to prepare, share and eat.


  • I just serve meals that are full of goodness and that is my job done. If people don’t eat it then they will be hungry. If they want to pick certain parts to eat then that is fine. We don’t do dessert or feed our kids junk regardless of what they eat at meals.


  • I always thought it want appropriate to offer food rewards, but I gave to admit I have used chocolate before as a bribe :\


  • I must admit I used to bribe my kids but I didn’t use food. I’d offer to help them once I’d finished my chores since I’d finish before them. They always beat me and it was a source of pride for them.


  • All good and sensible advice!


  • I agree with the experts, food and reward should not be in the same sentence. I never even used the word ‘treat’, good healthy wholefood is necessary for healthy bodies and brains is all I every mentioned to my son, he is a huge salad, fruit eating teenager now.


  • Good to know, I never did that


  • I agree. Bribery in any situation to me means that all other avenues have not been explored (and often that a shortcut is wanted). I won’t bribe my kids, I will reward them with praise, high fives or free time but food is too important to health to be used so flippantly in bribery.


  • I don’t believe in food bribes or food as a reward indeed.


  • Withdrawal or reduction of meals shouldn’t be used a punishment either. (I’m not talking about junk food at all).


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