Health in a Minute: Healthy Rewards & Merry Meltdowns

Ready, Set, Reward!

It’s easy to reach for a snack or dessert as a reward for your child’s good behavior or accomplishment, but doing so may contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food. Food-based rewards send the message that they can rely on food to deal with their emotions, rather than view it as simply fuel for their body. Kids also learn that some foods are more valuable than others, so they prefer those treats over healthier options.

sticker rewards for kids

Try some of these alternatives to food-based rewards, or brainstorm with your kids to come up with rewards that are exciting for them!

  • Stickers or temporary tattoos
  • Craft supplies like washi tape, markers, or paints
  • Trips to the zoo, skating rink, bowling alley, or the movies
  • Sleepovers with friends or grandparents
  • Time off from chores
  • A special seat at dinner or a special plate or cup
  • Their choice of movie or game for a night in with the family

Merry Meltdowns

Holiday excitement and gatherings at unfamiliar places are outside of your child’s normal routine, which can make them feel unsettled and overwhelmed. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prepare for and avoid tantrums. 

Kid having meltdown
  • Explain in detail where you’re going and what’s going to happen at each event to help your child feel more prepared. Show them photos of family members so that they look more familiar.
  • Build breaks into family time for your child that don’t seem like punishments or time-outs, like going for a walk or asking for their “help” with something. 
  • Make space for your child’s emotions. Remind them that all feelings are okay, but some behaviors are not. 
  • Make a plan for how you will respond to sticky situations like manners, desserts, and bedtimes before they come up, so you won’t have to make difficult decisions in the moment and in front of relatives. 
  • Lead by example – take care of your own mental and emotional health. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, try breathing and grounding techniques to calm down, or take a break yourself.

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