Candy as a classroom reward?

My son's kindergarten teacher gives candy to the children who are good listeners on a daily basis. I took my son to the dentist and he has two small cavities. I take very good care of my children's teeth and I don't like what she's doing. I know she means well and she's a wonderful teacher but I want her to stop giving candy to my son -- at least not everyday. Should I supply her with some stickers specifically for my child? I don't know how to talk to her without offending her. Please help me out!

Cavity Mom

Question:

Dear Cavity Mom,

Thank you for your letter and for expressing your concern. I hope to offer you some alternatives on how to handle this situation with sensitivity and kindness.

Teachers can and do use a variety of items as incentives for their students. Teachers of older students may have a ticket system, or may even use play money to entice their students to behave appropriately and stay on-task in the classroom. Younger children, however, need the quick, on the spot reinforcement that small prizes give them. Food is one of the items that teachers choose time and again as an incentive for their young students. Children respond positively toward food. They like to eat and enjoy tasty snacks that can curb their hunger until their next meal.

I regularly use pretzels as an incentive for my students. I buy them in bulk at a warehouse store for very little money and all of the kids like them because they are filling. That's not to say that I never gave them candy. Around holidays such as Easter, Christmas, and Valentine's Day I usually give out the candy of the season, such as conversation hearts, jellybeans, and mini candy canes. I try to limit the amount that I give to each child, but I do like to give them "special treats" at these times.

I think that you should discuss this situation with teacher. Begin your conversation by telling her how much you appreciate the work that she does with your son and the other children in the classroom. Ask her how her reward system seems to be working. Do the kids respond well to the candy as an incentive? Then ask her if she has tried any other types of rewards. Make suggestions to her, such as small crackers or pretzels, and see how she responds. If she protests using something other than candy as a reward, then go ahead and ask her if she would mind giving your son stickers instead of the candy. Because the children will notice the difference in rewards, she may decide to use something else as an incentive that can be given to all of the children.

As in any situation, being positive is the key. As long as you phrase your words carefully, the teacher will respond in a positive way. I think your idea about giving her stickers to use with your son is great! You are being proactive without being too blunt, and she can accept or decline the offer. If she does decline and responds that she plans to continue using candy as a reward, it is perfectly reasonable for you to tell her that you would like to decrease the amount of sweets that he consumes.

From the tone of your letter, I think you will handle this situation with kindness and sensitivity. Best of luck to you!

Sincerely,
Erlyne

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