Guest blogger Gay Uncle: As we near the end of what I call "Candy Season"-- a term that begins at Halloween and lasts through January 1st -- and approach the "Dour Season" of ambitious New Year's resolutions, I have a few thoughts on how to manage children's intake of fun compelling garbage like sweets, snacks, and TV.
Too many parents end up locked in constant battles over these forms of mindless fun, attempting to fend off their child's desire, or completely restrict their access. This often ends up backfiring as a) kids love a fight, as it provides them a template and opportunity for engagement, and b) absolute limitations create a countervailing -- and often stronger -- desire for transgression.
We all know just how alluring junk can be. We all know just how good it feels to indulge. And we all (even kids) deserve some wanton happiness. So the goal -- as with most things with young children -- should not be to attempt to completely quash this profound desire, but to teach your kids how to have a healthy relationship with it.
Instead of creating unconditional and impossible rules and expectations, try what I call the Co-Option Option (COO). Make clear protocols about when and for what duration treats like candy, snacks, and television can be consumed, and then stick to them. If kids know that dessert comes only on weekends, that they can watch fifteen minutes of Dora once they finish their chores, or that they can eat their fill of Cheetos when they visit their Gay Uncle -- and that these are the only times that such things are generally allowed -- they'll be much more likely to understand that these are "treats" to be controlled and doled out in limited quantities, and much less likely to ask for them when these requirements aren't met.