Cutting Out Sugar?

Updated on April 28, 2010
A.R. asks from Tabor, IA
10 answers

I have a very active 3 year old boy. We have been having problems lately with hitting, kicking, and generally not listening. I take my kids each morning to the YMCA child watch. They are there for about an hour to an hour and a half while I work out. They informed me today that they are having too many problems and they were going to talk to their boss, and probably be no longer able to watch him. I've been thinking about it and it seems to me the times he has sugar (ie: sugary cereal or if he has candy or something) he is more aggressive. I'm not talking about hyper, but aggressive.
So I guess my question is 2 parts:
1) Has anyone cut out sugar from their child's diet because of aggressive behavior? Is it possible for a body to not process sugar correctly and cause behavior problems?
2) Does anyone have any good and different discipline techniques that work with your high spirited child? Nothing I've tried seems to work. Time outs do not phase him. I've tried the occasional spanking, but do not like that because it just teaches him to hit and does not seem to do any good.
Thanks in advance for any help!

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answers from Orlando on

I never believed that sugar truely affected behavior until I saw it in my niece. I don't think sugar effects most kids that way, but with her, it does make her very aggressive and hyper. I think of it like an allergy. Her parents have pointed out her aggressive behavior to her and explained that it's from sugar so she totally gets it that her sugar has to be limited. They buy "sugar free" products like popsicles and syrup for her, and allow her to have sugar at special occasions like birthday parties, but they prepare themselves for the wild animal she will become-- no impluse control at all.

As for time out, try having a basket of stuff in the time out spot that he can fiddle with, like a squishy ball to squeeze (take it away if he throws it-- explain it's for squishing only) and other small toys he can manipulate while sitting. Kids who are aggressive/hyper and get put in time out to sit still --well, it just isn't effective! Think of time out as a place to compose himself, not a place to "be in trouble" so it's OK to have something to hold until mom says it's time to get up

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answers from Portland on

Hi A.-

I am a parent coach I specialize in behavior modification without punishment as well as medication free treatments for ADD/ADHD, I mention this because I've real a lot of research about sugar and behavior. Here is what I've learned.

While sugar can cause blood sugar crashes, it does not cause hyperactivity. When treating hyperactivity, like in ADD/ADHD, I recommend high protein diets. Protein helps the brain function, in your case, helping your son hear and remember instructions. I would recommend a slice of cooked ham, and egg or sausage with breakfast, especially if you serve sugary cereal.

Here is the second part or your question. Three year olds are tough, three year old boys are tougher. They are big enough to cause trouble or pain when they're too rough, but they are still immature enough not to realize their actions until it's too late. The key here is to be proactive. When you see your son getting too rough do the following:
go over
put your hand on his shoulder
get eye contact
tell him what you want/need of him
ask him to repeat your request.

This process is important, because if you call out from accross the room, your son will not process your request, but if you follow the above steps, the words are processed by his brain and remembered. It's also important to be consistent with your reminders. If you ALWAYS disallow running indoors, it will become the norm.

Lastly, I am a big supporter of positive praise. When your son behaves well, notice it and praise. If the only attention he gets is from his naughty behavior, that is what he will show. Children want to please, so let them know they did well.

R. Magby

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Sugar absolutely can do this! My Stepdaughter is not allowed to have much sugar because of it. Do be careful, sucralose (splenda) and aspartame and sacchrine are all sugar substitutes used in "sugar free" things and they are NOT good for children! Try Stevia or Xylitol as sugar substitutes.

Check and see if your son has a candida issue. Sometimes that is caused by antibiotics. You can read more about candida on the internet.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

As an adult, I notice I get very cranky and tired if I eat junk food and I can see how a tired cranky kid could quickly turn into a hyper, aggressive kid. To avoid a complete revolt from your son who by now is used to getting sugar, I'd first try to stop giving sugary snacks and make sure he's had something healthy and balanced before offering sugar.

As a teacher, I've found that the key to good discipline has less to do with the method than a consistent delivery and confidence in the adult. Remember that the point of discipline is to stop a behavior from continuing, not to punish the child. You say time outs don't phase him. It doesn't have to bother him to be effective. Even if he's happy and laughing the whole time, you've successfully removed him from the inappropriate behavior. The key is to warn him as soon as you see the behavior then if it continues do time out and then redirect him toward GOOD behavior when the time out is over.
1) "Son, you are being too rough with that book. Please read it properly or choose another toy."
2) "Son, I told you to be gentle with that book and you didn't listen. You are on time out."
3) "Son I put you on time out because you were ripping pages from the book. That is not okay. Now lets go color together."

Time out absolutely can work for your son, but it has to be something you're comfortable with. Spanking can work too, but like you, I think it sends a mixed message about whether or not it's okay to hit. Whatever you decide to do, be clear about it and stick with it.




answers from Kansas City on

Sugar is a culprit AND artificial colors. If he is eating sugary cereals, candy and even some "juices" add artificial colors and flavors which has been scientifically proven to cause behavioral problems.
I think Dr. Sears may talk about it on his site,

In good health,


answers from Killeen on

I do think that sugar is related to behavior. If his diet contains a lot of sugar right now, you may want to ease him off. My son has a strong reaction to sugar, where as my other 2 children do not. He is hyper, aggressive and has a hard time control himself and his emotion when he has a lot of sugar. He knows how he acts when he has sugar so he even asks about sugar before eating something. It is more of the coming down from the "sugar high" that causes the trouble. So this could be what is happening at the YMCA if he had a high sugar cereal.



answers from Odessa on

Sugar definitely does crazy things to my kids! I would try cutting it out and feeding him a healthy diet with lots of fiber and protein rather than carbs and sugar. Don't get "sugar free" as those have more chemicals and things that are worse for you than sugar! Go for a more natural food.
As far as discipline, the book "Love and Logic" is a perfect book. it has worked wonders in my life!



answers from San Francisco on

To your question #1, yes, if your body doesn't process the sugar correctly, aggression could be a symptom of something, like coming off a high (sugar high, that is).

#2. My family is on a strict sugar-free/low diet, not because of behavior problems, but it has helped my son who is diagnosed ADHD/ODD.

#3. Have you tried 123 Magic? I started looking into it about 2 1/2 years ago because of my high-spirited son. He never responded to grounding, time outs, spanking, nothing! We were asked at least three times to find another daycare for him due to behavior issues. 123 Magic worked wonders for both of us. He is listening better and I am not as stressed out trying to get my point across to him. They have book and videos to watch to teach you the method. *spoiler alert* The videos are very boring. LOL


answers from Kalamazoo on

Definetly reduce sugar wheather that is the direct problem or not. Also watch out for processed food in general, dyes etc.
My son is a very active 7 yr old. I noticed around age 3 that time outs weren't working anymore and I don't really feel good about spanking unless the behavior was really severe. I started to implement exercise as a punishment. It started the summer he turned 3, so we were outside alot. I would make him run laps around our garage and garden area. If he complained, then he would run another and so on. If his action was really bad then he would start out with more laps. Then comes winter in Michigan and I don't want to send him outside every time he is bad, so I teach him how to do push ups, toe touches etc. When he is bad, I say 15 push ups or 4 min doing windmill toe touches. My theory was that alot of his bad behavior stemed from pent up extra energy, so this was a way for him to release it. He almost always felt better afterwards AND BOY IS HE AN ATHLETIC FAST RUNNER!!! :) We call it army style discipline and we use it for that constant hyper, I'm not listening even when you tell me 5 times to stop, behavior. Other behavior like hitting or talking back can result in other more severe punishment like losing a toy.



answers from Peoria on

We learned that my son's problem was not sugar but food coloring and red 40 was the biggest trigger. Red 40 is in everything including things you would not think of like white frosting. My son would hit and become a monster when he had something with red 40 in it and then we would send him for a nap and he would be in bed shaking because he was that hyper. We have switched several foods and eat more natural foods and he is tons better. If you have any question you can send me a message and I will try to answer the best I can.

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