I read something the other day in The Telegraph about a parent who has never let her children eat sweets and at first glance, my immediate thought was HOW?! How has she managed to get away with avoiding them altogether I mean they are EVERYWHERE? But then on further reading, I saw that her children were in fact something like three years old and six months. So more babies than children then? So not that hard to win the ‘sugar war’ (as she put it) when they are still very much at an age where as a parent, you pretty much have complete control over what goes into their little mouths?
When I think back to my children at that age, I could probably have said the same. I was always quite strict about how much sugar mine ate. Or actually more junk than sugar because they all ate fruit until it came out of their ears at those ages. They never ever drank anything but milk or water though that was one thing that I would never compromise on. People used to think that I was mean not letting my son drink juice when he was a baby (and would openly tell me so) but I’m glad I stuck to my guns on that one when he was so little. To this day, all four of them mainly drink water and still like a glass of milk before bed!
With my eldest two though, I remember them getting to the age of probably about 2 and 3 and realising that I wouldn’t always have a say in what they ate. They got to that age where birthday parties and the like started creeping in and I started to see how outside influences could start to take over. How I wouldn’t always be there to say no to things. And how an outright ban on all things sugary would make them all the more tempting when I wasn’t there to stop them from eating them. I had visions of them overdosing on jam sandwiches and guzzling on Fruit Shoots the minute my back was turned! Forbidden fruit and all that! And besides, stopping them from eating junk was never meant to be a punishment it was just about setting them off on the right path in life.
I was just trying to do what I thought was best. Isn’t that what we all do as parents? I’m the first to admit that I am making it up as I go along. And of course they were allowed the odd little treat already but I realised that not only would an outright sweetie ban be down right impossible the older they got, it wouldn’t actually be doing them any favours in the long run. I had to teach them that treats are fine but in moderation. And I think by and large we have managed to find a healthy balance with the four of them.
The hardest bit I have found with the whole sugar thing is actually much much further down the line when they start high school. They have a pocket full of lunch money for the first time ever that they can spend on whatever they want. With my son, for a wee while there the temptation to spend it all in the shop on the way to school on sweets and energy drinks was too hard to resist. Can you imagine the horror of your perfect little boy who used to eat nothing but breast milk and organic pureed vegetables now being off his rocker on Red Bull? At the time I absolutely despaired but he soon got it out of his system. He did it because he could, that was all. And he soon realised that a jacket potato makes for a much better lunch.
I know the sugar thing is a bit of a hot topic at the moment but actually, it’s nothing new. In the (almost) eighteen years I have been parenting, I have seen attitudes change. I used to be the ‘mean’ parent who wouldn’t let her baby have Ribena all those years ago, now I should think you’d probably get arrested for such a ‘crime’ against childhood obesity or at the very least die of shame. As with all things in life though, I can’t help but think that moderation is the key when it comes to kids and sugar? An outright ban of anything only ever makes it more appealing but turning a blind eye by letting them ‘be kids’ and eat whatever they want is not the answer either.
I do think there is a middle ground to be found and it is important that we teach our kids this. Well, that is what has mostly worked for us anyway. Truth be told, I don’t think that sugar is the great evil that it is always made out to be these days. And given how much I love chocolate myself, I’d be a hypocrite to say otherwise. The odd treat is fine – of course it is! As is getting them running around every day and learning how to brush their teeth properly. That goes for little people and big people too to be fair, don’t you think?