Should I give my kids dessert if they don't finish their dinner?

Dear Sue,
Should children be allowed to have dessert if they haven't finished dinner?
--an iVillager

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Letting children have dessert if they haven't cleaned their plate has been the source of argument between parent and child for generations. Part of the reason dessert holds such appeal -- besides the fact that it's sweet -- is that it is the forbidden fruit. Withholding dessert until a child "eats her peas" only serves to increase the importance of dessert and make the dislike for peas even stronger.

Instead, why not make it okay to eat dessert, even if her dinner plate isn't clean? Serve a healthy one that will contribute to her total nutrition intake for the day. Or better yet, try making the dessert so nutritious that you could serve it WITH the meal. By serving dessert and the main course side by side, you have taken much of the glory away from dessert and the stigma away from dinner. If you make these changes, the answer to the question, "Why should children still have dessert if they haven't eaten any or little dinner?" will become, "Because it is nutritious and healthy for them."

Take care,
Sue Gilbert, M.S., Nutritionist

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