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Confessions of a meanie

Confessions of a meanie

One of the great things about being a parent is that you get lots of practice in hearing feedback – and the feedback varies depending on the day, the hour or maybe even the minute! safefood's Charmaine McGowan has some thoughts on being the one who says "No".

The feedback ranges from positive and endearing to that which is clearly negative – one classic example that I hear often is ‘you are so mean’! And you will recognise that this feedback is associated with being the one who ‘always says no’, the one who constantly asks if the homework is done, the one who suggests ditching the rest of that video on YouTube in favour of fresh air and not to forget being the one who says no sweeties before dinner.

So, it is a welcome relief to hear the mums and dads that kindly gave their time to talk about their own experiences of the challenges of parenting during covid. It sounded like something of an echo chamber. The struggle to put down screens and forgo the entertainment to take a family walk instead, the challenge for us all (mums and dads included) not to reach for another treat and the absolute difficulty of taking care of everybody’s needs in these strange times.

When I read about the START campaign and see the ad on TV I take a breath and am reassured that every mum and dad is doing their best to take care of and nourish our children. Even that small little act gives me permission to trust myself that I’m doing my best and think about what small changes that we can all make to get healthy habits back on track – which will not only serve us well now but give our children healthy habits that last a lifetime.

About half the mums and dads that we spoke to reflected on the increase in treat foods during Covid, so this seems like a good place to start. First let me ask you to think back to what it’s like to be eight – sure why not have sweeties after breakfast, doesn’t everyone love sweeties? Your child is completely normal in thinking this way.

First let me ask you to think back to what it’s like to be eight – sure why not have sweeties after breakfast, doesn’t everyone love sweeties? Your child is completely normal in thinking this way.

Now that we understand that here are some of my tips for giving treats a break:

  • Decide together – as a family decide on a goal of reducing treats that is realistic for you. For some families that might mean only having treats on a certain day, for others that could be aiming for a treat-free day.
  • Plan ahead – be prepared for the inevitable hunger pangs and treat requests by having some healthy snack options up your sleeve.
  • Give real treats, not treat foods – we all want to give our children treats and make them feel special but think about non-food rewards. Often kids just want a bit more of our time and attention! Alternative treats could be a trip to the playground or the library.
  • Show them how it’s done – children will do as you do, not as you say. Let kids see you eating and enjoying a variety of healthy foods.

For more tips on how to make treat foods treats and not the norm visit our START campaign hub where you will find practical tips and guidance from parenting experts.

And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back and keep yourself nourished – perhaps with hugs if you can negotiate one when you you’re not being such a meanie!


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