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July 12, 2011

Setting a Good Example: In Moderation

So…speaking of ice cream…

…ever see a mom sitting nice and prim and proper at the ice cream shop, maybe sipping a bottle of water or a diet soda… while her kiddos consume gigantic bowls of ice cream the size of their heads?

I don’t want that to be me.

Long before we had children, my husband and I talked on numerous occasions about how we’d handle alcohol in front of our kids. I don’t know why that topic was of such interest to me…

…maybe it was having grown up in a small town in the deep south where many people only drank behind closed doors…maybe it was having had friends who were shocked to have “discovered” a stash of their parents’ liquor…maybe it was seeing some of those same friends experiment with alcohol in a very unhealthy way…

My hubby and I decided many years ago that we want our children to observe us enjoying the occasional glass of wine or beer in a responsible fashion. We want to show them what “moderation” is, and pray that we avoid the “forbidden fruit” syndrome that I think can lead some folks down the wrong path.

I think a similar approach can be applied to sweets.

We don’t eat dessert every night. Sometimes I make a fresh fruit cobbler, or occasionally I might even make a cake or a pie. When I do, I will offer the girls a small bowl, or let them share some of mine.

I don’t hold the dessert over their heads…”If you eat your vegetables, you can have some dessert.” I’m blessed to have good eaters (KNOCK ON WOOD), so I try to take a matter-of-fact approach to dessert. “Mommy made an apple pie. Would you like some?

We go out for ice cream or yogurt about once a week. I will have a small bowl, as will each of the girls. As long as we eat relatively well and exercise somewhat regularly, it’s fine to have a little treat…no big deal.

I hope the girls will see that you can do a lot of fun things if you do them in moderation, and I hope that will lead to a healthy appreciation of lots of good stuff. And I hope they won’t feel like they have to seize a sacred opportunity to eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting.

(And I hope it’s a long time before they learn to open the freezer and find my secret stash of fro-yo that I *occasionally* get into after they’re in bed!)


Wiley said...

I think you've hit the key idea on the head with moderation. I think that's the best path with most decisions in parenting.

I was busted eating angel food cake and whipped cream early one morning by my older son. My response was to grin at him and ask him if he wanted some.

Julia said...

Funny, both our posts have the word "moderation" in them today :)

We take the same approach with alcohol, and, while they don't understand that quite yet, with sweets also.

I think it's so important to exercise balance and moderation with that stuff. I remember my mom (who is so tiny) would eat like an entire (big)bag of M&Ms sometimes. There was no balance there. No--"just enjoy a few at a time". And, it was always---"clean your plate" at my house growing up--we'd have to sit for hours until we ate whatever it was we didn't like. I think it's important to teach awareness of when you're full, stop.

I find, too, that I eat really fast. Reminant of those early days when hubby would hang with both girls while I wolfed down dinner then switch. I want to teach the girls to eat slowly, so that they can better register when they are full.

So many things to think about and model appropriately.

Thanks for mentioning this. It's a good reminder to work on that stuff!

Quadmama said...

We rarely have dessert. We're just not big dessert people and if my girls have sweets after dinner I'll be lucky if they go to bed by midnight. However, they do tend to have a piece of candy or a treat of some kind after lunch. I do make them finish their meal to get the treat, but it's never a huge deal and there's no pressure. I've actually had my daughters say "I'm not hungry so I'll just wait until tomorrow to have candy." My girls are starting to understand WHY they can't have sweets all the time or go to McDonald's every day, but they also know it's a big deal when they do get to have to those things. A few months ago my MIL picked my girls up from preschool and took them to lunch. She was flabbergasted when they insisted they could only have white milk for lunch not chocolate milk because they had a cupcake as school for a classmate's birthday. I consider it a small victory in their learning process (not that chocolate milk would have been a huge deal, but it shows they're learning the concept of moderation).

Just Another Mom of Twins said...

I couldn't agree with you more!!
When something is seen as a "from time to time" thing you eat or drink....the allure of it as a "treat" is less appealing and therefore less "tempting" to over-indulge in! (or se we can hope!)


Marcia (123 blog) said...

I've only just started being very slightly more lenient with mine. However if they catch me eating chocolate, I do share a tiny piece with them.

I'm not good at moderation myself but I can do without most things for a long time.

Beth said...

Perfectly said!

I had a very similar conversation with Will. They had a program at school about avoiding drugs and alcohol. I totally support the idea, but Will came home asking, "We should never touch drugs, cigarettes or beer, so why does Daddy drink beer sometimes?" I told him to never use cigarettes or drugs, but beer (or alcohol) is like candy. It is okay to have *some* candy *some*times, but you don't want too much or too often.

Sounds like your girls are learning moderation the best way, by seeing it modeled!

yettie said...

Smart move, that's the same thing my father did. He has 5 daughters and he figured out that the best way to ensure "boys bearing alcohol" do not look exciting was to introduce us all to the taste of alcohol. So Sunday dinner was a nice formal meal complete with measured amounts of wine for the kids. It worked. None of us had the "get trashed on 21st birthday" syndrome plus we're able to recognize alcohol even when it's disguised in fruit juice/punch and know our limits

Anonymous said...

b and i have had this conversation, too. we've even taken it a step further as to if/when we might let the kids try a sip of wine. we've tabled that discussion as we have MANY years to decide. but sweets? right now b and i only have dessert on the weekends. just b/c that's what we do. it's a special thing, not a daily thing. but we still might get the occasional treat during the week. the funny thing? m has a memory like i can't even believe. she had 1/2 of one donut in NOVEMBER during football season and asked for one the other day. out of the blue. maybe she's been dreaming about them?? :)

Helene said...

Good for you on getting off to such a great start with your girls when it comes to delicious treats in moderation!

I don't want to be that mom who stares longingly at her kids stuffing their faces with french fries. When we do fast food (maybe once a week, if that), I'll get a large fry and we all share it.

My mother was so strict with our treats when growing up that I had a hard time regulating myself when I was finally on my own. So it's always been super important for me to instill good eating habits in my kids so when they're on their own someday, they'll have more self-control and know how to indulge in moderation!

Andrea said...

So very true!! Great post Mandy!!

reanbean said...

This is one situation where we are the complete opposites. Due to some family history with alcohol abuse, we have chosen not to have beer or wine in the house. The kids have seen some friends and relatives drink alcohol, though, so hopefully they will learn about moderation from those situations (along with the truth about our family history when the time is right).

However, we do have sweets quite a bit. It's not uncommon for the kids to have a cookie or small sweet treat with lunch, and then a popsicle or bowl of ice cream or brownie after dinner. T grew up having dessert after every dinner (my upbringing was more like what you've described here), so I guess that's where this comes from. Interestingly, though, the kids don't always eat dessert and sometimes even ask to be excused before even knowing what dessert will be. The nutritionist we used to work with said that dessert every night was fine, as long as it was portioned right and not held hostage by the other foods. In that way, we are also teaching them that sweet treats are not bad. They're just something we eat in small portions.

But we also talk about foods that are good for our bodies (and how that can change as we grow older), and that everybody needs to exercise to keep his/her body healthy.

Hopefully all of this somehow will result in heathy kids with healthy lifestyle habits. Hopefully.

(sorry for the novel. and i really had so much more i could have said!)