22 answers

Food as a Reward/punishment System?

My daughter's teacher gives out M&Ms for good behavior. Anyone not following the rules does not "earn" an M&M. My daughter is 3. I personally don't believe food should ever be related to anything other than sustenance at school. Am I crazy? Should children be taught food is a reward/punishment? What do you all think? I think it also doesn't do much for the theory of "natural consequences" which IMHO is the best teacher of all. For example, if my daughter is not being gentle with her pet, the pet is put back in its cage. That is a natural consequence. What do M&Ms have to do with running in the room?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Hi Chelsea
Hmm... where to start?
Texas law (yes I looked it up) says not to use food items as any sort of punishment at school. No I did not have candy at school when I was a kid. We got stickers (if anything). We behaved because we were scared our teachers would tell our parents. No, I don't tiptoe around anything. And no, my daughter does not have behavior problems. I just think it's inappropriate to feed toddlers a bunch of junk when a stamp or sticker would please them just as much. I'm sure I'll get flak for this, but corporal punishment is not my thing. I realize that there are kids out there who probably need it. But for the most part I think it's used when the parents are out of control. My parents used a lot of it but they were way too young to be having kids and didn't have any better clue. I am positive TLC and TIME spent on their parts would have accomplished a lot more in my case.

Hi Alison
No, she is hating school. Not thriving.
Hi Amanda
The teacher is overweight.

Featured Answers

I absolutely agree that food should be for nutrition only. There are many other rewards, stars, extra time at a favorite toy or video, special dress up rooms etc. Punishment might mean having to sit for 3-5 minutes while the other kids are already out playing. Or not getting to play on a certain toy. The punishment needs to be directly related to the action requiring it. So if a child hits another child, they may need to say "sorry" and give the toy to the offended child. If they are acting out perhaps a few minutes in time out (1 minute per year of age maximum) will help them to calm down, especially if everyone else is doing something really fun.
Food is for nutrition, since when does m&m's belong in a 3 year olds food groups?

K. @ The Nestingplace

4 moms found this helpful

There are very tight federal guidelines regarding food/treats in the classroom due to the present obesity issue. She/he is in violations of these guidelines.
Maybe you could suggest stickers? Pencils? A stamp on a behavior sheet, so many stamps earn something at the end of the day.
I agree. Food should not be a reward, especially candy.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers

I absolutely agree that food should be for nutrition only. There are many other rewards, stars, extra time at a favorite toy or video, special dress up rooms etc. Punishment might mean having to sit for 3-5 minutes while the other kids are already out playing. Or not getting to play on a certain toy. The punishment needs to be directly related to the action requiring it. So if a child hits another child, they may need to say "sorry" and give the toy to the offended child. If they are acting out perhaps a few minutes in time out (1 minute per year of age maximum) will help them to calm down, especially if everyone else is doing something really fun.
Food is for nutrition, since when does m&m's belong in a 3 year olds food groups?

K. @ The Nestingplace

4 moms found this helpful

I think you should discuss this with your teacher, if no results, then the director of your child's school. I get so angry when I hear about my child's teacher giving candy rewards. I am not only concerned about the sugar, but even more the harmful chemicals that so many candies have to make their colors brighter and more appealing, including M&Ms. See www.feingold.org for more info and more links to support your argument. It never hurts for teachers to be educated, too. If you really like this school and want to keep your child in it, maybe consider getting parents to go in with you to donate stickers or "treasure box" (old Happy Meal toys, party favors,etc) for rewards. On behalf of other moms who care, we appreciate it when moms like you bring this kind of thing to our attention.

3 moms found this helpful

I agree with you I think that food should not be used as a reward or punishment system. But I know by experience with my two year old daughter that a reward system does work. Maybe you should talk with that teacher and see if she could change her reward maybe give out a sticker instead. In elementary school they usually use a green, yellow and red light. If your child was not following the rules that day they will get a red mark on their folder. If they were very well behaved they get a green and if something minor happened they get a yellow. There are several variations of this program, but your daughter's school teacher will probably use one. So it is good that she learns this now. I was a teacher for 4 years before I became a SAHM so trust me when I say teachers need some sort of system to help the children learn the rules.

2 moms found this helpful

I agree that candy should not be used a reward at school (I think it's fine at home, since that's under Mom's control).

I'm surprised at the moms who don't think it's a bad thing. It bothers me on several levels - it's not good to relate "doing the right thing" with getting sweets; it's in a school-like setting, so rewards such as stickers or smiley faces by child's name are more appropriate; it's more like bribery than true reward; it's an adult in an authority position giving children something their moms may not approve of (I think it's different if it's a friend's mom)....it hits me as wrong on many levels.

More than anything, I think some young children are already able to recognize it as manipulation and bribery, and it may have the opposite effect with them.

I would meet with her and encourage her to find other ways to reward! Offer to buy the first several packages of stickers. :)

2 moms found this helpful

You are not crazy. Personally, that would just drive me nuts. Yeah it may be a few M&Ms, but over time....

I agree regarding natural consequences; however, maybe the teacher isn't patient or clever enough to use any other form of discipline.

To me, the whole food thing reminds me of training a dog. Yes, I have used it myself a few times but only as a last act of desperation.

2 moms found this helpful

There are very tight federal guidelines regarding food/treats in the classroom due to the present obesity issue. She/he is in violations of these guidelines.
Maybe you could suggest stickers? Pencils? A stamp on a behavior sheet, so many stamps earn something at the end of the day.
I agree. Food should not be a reward, especially candy.

2 moms found this helpful

You are so right mom P.! Food should not be used as reward/punishment .. and especially sugar/chocolate ... and with a 3 year old.

2 moms found this helpful

P.,

The state constitutes that food can not be used as a form of punishment or reward. Do you want her teacher paying for your daughter's cavities also? I work in childcare and this is not acceptable. A teacher has many options for rewards with children. Stamps, stickers, big helper, song chooser etc. But if it is an everyday activity that they all should be doing a reward is not required at all times. They would just learn to do it to get a reward.

2 moms found this helpful

I agree also well I like praise or stickers should be giving for good behavior or name posted on a reward board for children this age.With my 3yr old it is more praise given then punishment. If he does something good praise is giving by clapping my hand saying ''you did it ''and when he does something bad I will let him know you have to sit down for a little while you did such and such and have him to take a break from what every we are doing. I don't think any teacher should make food a reward plus the sugar and carbs are unbelievable in M&Ms So I definitely agree food should not be use period for children this age period.

2 moms found this helpful

Big deal! One M&M! I reward my children w/ one gummy worm for good manners, showing kindness, pooping in the potty, etc. It works as a reward and not a bribe. I never bribe. It has proven over and over again children will work for that one M&M or piece of candy all the way up through college. Before I decided to stay at home I taught high school, and I rewarded daily w/ candy (memorization of vocabulary, an A on a test, etc.). They loved it!

My 2 (almost 3) year old doesn't understand the value of money among other ideas for rewards, but he does understand if does one of the above mentioned he will get one gummy worm, and the values I'm instilling in him are priceless!

1 mom found this helpful

I see that you've gotten many responses, but I thought I would add my 2 cents in. I am a teacher, and we are not allowed to do this in the public schools because of how detrimental this can be to a child. At the age of 3, your daughter is being taught that food is not just something for survival but that everytime you do something good, you should expect food in return, which can lead to obesity problems. It also has the potential of telling her that she will not get fed if she doesn't act right. This is a horrible way to teach children, and the head of the school should be made aware. voice your concerns because this can't be good. If necessary, go in there armed with information that backs you up on your concerns. Good luck with it!

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter started Kindergarten this year and she came back home once with a few candies that she got from her teacher as rewards for her good behavior. I instantly got really annoyed because I am so careful with her teeth since we don't have dental coverage and I would rather avoid taking her to the dentist anyway to treat cavities. I have nothing against candies but on my own terms: once in a while for Halloween, Christmas and Easter. Plus I don't trust candy makers who will fill their candies with high fructose syrup. Like any other food, if my daughter eats candies or chocolate, I'd like them to be good products, not full of all kinds of chemicals.
Anyway, the day after, without me telling her anything, my daughter talked to her teacher and asked her to stop giving her candies because they were bad for her teeth!!! The teacher came to talk to my husband at the end of the day, she was very understanding and said that from now on, she would give stickers to my daughter.
Great. Problem solved.

1 mom found this helpful

Didn't you just say she was the best teacher? It's a couple of M&Ms!!!! I'm sure they use lots of little treats and rewards and this is just ONE OF MANY to keep it new and fun and to motivate them to make good decisions. The important thing is are they getting it and does it seem to help? Is your little one happy? No one is perfect, no one does everything right...so I say give her a break. I doubt very seriously those couple of M&M's are going to give her a food hang up later in life, I think your over reacting. If its that important to you send in some stickers or a make a "grab bag" for the class that the teacher can hand out as a reward. I'm sure she just picked it because its a small little treat, something they love and something cheap (she is probably paying for it with her own money). They have ones you can order off of the oriental trading company. If its not the cost or convenience, she probably would have done something else...except figured that everything they would get would end up in their mouth anyways so it might as well be something they can digest!!!!!

1 mom found this helpful

Yes, natural consequences are probably the best way to go. But -- it's a few M&Ms. It's not going to scar anyone's little psyche to be rewarded with -- heaven forbid! -- chocolate. It's my opinion that we focus on all the wrong stuff. The more critical concern is -- how is your daughter doing in school? Is she thriving? Socializing properly? Is she understanding order and rules? Those are the key points, not using food for rewards.

Going to add: I taught preschool before moving here. While natural consequences may work for some children, they do not motivate others at all. And parents are typically very vocal about everyone having the exact same thing. So, in order to keep order, an M&M might be the best stepping stone to maintain order until all of the kids get the hang of the rules and are on the same page. I think it's great that your teacher is using rewards, and not punative efforts. If M&M's get those tough cases to get to the potty on time, to sit quietly with their hands to themselves, etc., it's likely to have far more benefit than deficit.

And, if your child is not thriving, it's time to discuss why with your child's school. The likelihood that it's linked to M&M's is highly dubious.

1 mom found this helpful

I feel it is inappropriate as well. If you want to use this system at home, that is fine. (I do to some extent) but it should not be used at school. Not for 3 yr olds anyway. I can remember something like this in high school, but that is a little different. Stickers or certificates would accomplish the same goal.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't agree with it at school, the school my child goes to does stickers. I know at her last school occasionally they would do that and I never liked that, I always felt like the bad mom sayng you can eat it after dinner. But occasionally I have used dessert to get her to finish eating her dinner. She only gets dessert about 1-2 times a week (so I don't use that very often).

1 mom found this helpful

I second Kay's opinion fully!! That kind of food does't even need to be part of a 3 year olds day. Our school doesn't even allow food as part of teaching, partly because so many kids are allergic...my daughter is one of those. She cannot eat M&M's because they are processed w/nuts and it could be deadly for her. I think stickers and rewards like extra playtime or games is much more appropriate!

1 mom found this helpful

I personally use M&Ms as a reward at home (mainly for potty training, and the reward is 2 M&Ms, which I think is hardly a dietary crisis :-)), but I don't think the teacher should use them. My daughter's preschool uses stickers and certificates and they work just fine.
Another reason M&Ms are bad in a classroom setting is because of food allergies (milk and peanut in particular).
I don't think you're out of place to discuss your concern with the teacher. I wouldn't say you're concerned about eating disorders (that might be a little overkill for a 3 yr old), but that you are not comfortable with using food as a reward, period.

Hi P.,

I totally agree with you, especially when the "food" is not food at all, it's sugar! Most American kids ingest about 5 pounds of it per week with no encouragement needed, hence our obestity and Type II Diabetes epidemic. I am glad there are other moms out there who speak up when the teacher gives the kids something they are not allowed to have consistently at home.

I would talk to her about other non-food related methods of discipline. For instance, they could earn tickets for good behavior that get taken away for making bad choices (behavior). The tickets can be redeemed for special treats like extra time with a treasured toy or activity or something like that.

For those who do like to reward with candy at home, what if the "candy" was actually a gummy treat containing 17 fresh, raw fruits and vegetables? Would that not be the best of both worlds? It has worked wonders in my family. Email me if you know anyone who would like to know more about a product like that.

M.
"My son finally eats all his veggies. Even the green ones."
www.M..NetworkMarketingCentral.com

I honestly think it is no big deal. Unless there is an allergy concern. It is only a coulple of M&M's, not a whole bag. I'm a dental hygienist, so trust me, a couple of candies are not going to harm your child's teeth. Unless, you aren't doing your part at home with twice daily brushing (by the parent, not the child, until the child is AT LEAST 8 years old) to maintain your child's dental health. And, she's not going to be obese from a couple of M&M's at school. Kids today are obese because parents are lazy at home, feed them junk, and let them stay in front of the TV or computer all day. Kids don't play outside all the time anymore like when we were little. There is too much indoor technology that parents allow to keep their kids occupied.

People are so uptight these days about not affecting the child's mental health and are afraid that every minor little thing will change them. My experience of seeing children on a daily basis in my office has shown me that the parents who tiptoe around everything they do for their child and try to act like they are so careful not to do anything (however minor) that might be detrimental to the child, are often the ones who have the WORST behaved children. I know I'm going to receive flak for this but, sometimes children to need more stern consequences including an occasional swat on the bottom.

Let your kid be a kid and enjoy getting a small reward at school. Didn't you used to get candy at school all the time when you were younger? You turned out ok, right?

If you don't like the candy, why not by the teacher a pack or stickers, you can get the cheap at the dollar store. Give them to her and explain you would prefer her using them with your daughter, she may switch for the whole class too.

I'm a teacher, & I don't do that. There's other ways to reward.

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