Picky Eaters: Using Snacks as Rewards

Ever since our son was a toddler, he's gotten a snack about an hour after dinner. Now that he's older, he gets a snack if he eats all his dinner. I've read that parents shouldn't require children to eat everything on their plate, but I'm afraid that if we didn't, our son wouldn't eat anything. Should we offer this snack as a reward for eating all of his dinner?


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

Children can best stay tuned to their internal eating cues without outside rewards and punishments, so snacks shouldn't be offered as rewards. Offering food as a reward for anything -- be it good behavior or a clean dinner plate -- can set up habits and attitudes toward food that may be unhealthy in the long run.

If your son is hungry, he will eat his dinner. And if he's full, he will stop. You don't want him to eat more than his body is telling him to eat out of fear that he may not be getting a snack later. Children (and adults too) need to learn that food is to satisfy hunger, and that they should push their plates aside when they are full, not just when their plates are empty. Likewise, we should all allow ourselves a snack at night if we are hungry. I suggest that you continue the evening snack routine with your son, unattached to any previous behaviors. Perhaps you can even join him!

Need Advice?
Get answers from iVillage experts and other moms just like you!
Question Details
  1. Pick a subject:
Connect with 1,039,394 members just like you
Share your knowledge, ask questions.