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Jan 12 2012

Bribing My Way Through Potty Training

By at 3:05 pm
jelly beans

Is it bad that potty training has turned into bribing with candy?

My nearly 3-year-old daughter, D, finally made the declaration shortly before Hanukkah: she was done with diapers, ready for her Rapunzel undies, and no one–NO ONE–was going to prevent her from putting them on.

Naturally, I was overjoyed. Two kids under 3-years-old had long meant two kids in diapers, and with every purchase of a new box of size 5s, I hoped and wished that this box would be our last.

I wasn’t really sure where to start. Friends had successfully managed their toddlers through “potty boot camp” and the hard-core approaches to making the transition. We navigated the onslaught of near-misses and misses, accidents and successes, in our own way, and found that the reward system that worked best for our kid was not in the more preferable forms of stickers and stamps, but in gummy bears and jelly beans.

That’s right, Tiger Moms. I have been feeding my kid a straight, steady stream of sugar for two weeks now. It is all at once horrifying–because yes, like you, I once insisted that the only treats that would pass my kid’s lips would be for special reasons or on special occasions:  Shabbat dessert, birthdays, special holidays, etc. And dammit all if those treats weren’t either in portions controlled by yours truly, or at least had some kind of kosher, organic symbols on them to make me feel somewhat comforted.

Here is a frame of reference for exactly how hard it is for me to give D those two gummies for each pee success: I once totally freaked out because I found that D was given bananas to dip in frosting during her snack time at daycare. It seemed ludicrous to me that the place where we’d trusted our kids’ total heath, mind, body, and spirit, had dumped a heaping tablespoon of white frosting on a paper plate and called it “snack.” I also totally freaked when I discovered that on her days with her aunt, she was having about a cup of ice cream for dessert after lunch once a week. Others don’t see the harm in these indulgences. But I see a family history of diabetes, a genetic inheritance toward sugar addiction, and visions of tooth decay.

Our pediatrician once said: limit the sugar, and make every bite count. The aims of kashrut, too, are conscientious eating for corpus sana. It’s these philosophies that come to mind each time the opportunity presents itself to offer grapes or the cookie at dessert, carrots or crackers at snack time. And here I am, the mom who once prided herself on making and storing her own locally-grown, organic baby food and who is now doling out candy like methamphetamines.

So my hypocrisy surprises the hell out of me–and more surprisingly, my hypocrisy isn’t bothering me all that much. Especially since anyone who knows me knows not to give my kid an entire “cow cookie” (a local, sugary favorite at Shabbat desserts)–but a fourth of it at a time (that means on separate days). Also, how could I willingly give my kid pure sugar against my own conscience, our pediatrician’s dictum, and our dentist’s begging?

Maybe I’m allowing myself this inconsistency because I know my kid won’t be asking for her gummies forever, and that I try to make clear why she’s getting the reward in the first place. D just started saying her brachot (blessings) for each snack she has at home, a practice we attribute to daycare and which we try to support as often as possible. It’s comforting to know that even at 3-years-old, we can try to instill in our kids the practice of mindful eating, and even if the messages get a little garbled, that we try to make what they eat count.

I’d love to know how you treat the subject of treats with your kids… any ideas for me?

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