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Stop Giving My Kids Suckers!

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Bethany Sanders: "Can she have a sucker?" the bank teller asked. "NO!" I said, a little too loudly. "I mean, no thank you. She just had one at the doctor's office."

kid with sucker mother disapproving

The teller raised her eyebrows at me and put the little red sucker back in the bowl.

This is an open request to all bank tellers, veterinarians, office managers, store cashiers and especially doctors (who should know better): Stop giving my kids suckers!

It's innocent enough. That tiny little Dum Dum is too little to do much harm, you think, and it makes my kids like you. But you aren't the only one who'll offer them a treat today.

On a recent errand-running day, my preschooler managed to collect no fewer than four suckers and a Tootsie Roll. It was like Halloween! And while she was quiet and happy sucking on her stash, all I could think was, "What would her dentist think?" (Her dentist -- who is wise enough to hand out stickers instead.)

Won't anyone think about the children? Or at least their health? We're facing a childhood obesity crisis, and experts say that our kids may be the first generation to have a shorter life span than their parents, due to obesity and its associated chronic health issues. My kids can't get through one day without someone offering them a sugary treat -- classroom birthday parties, rewards for good behavior at school, candy-filled holiday parties and even soccer snacks! Don't get me started on those -- that's a whole other post.

I know that it makes me sound like a food dictator, but that's not the way it is. Treats are supposed to be occasional, not a regular part of a healthy diet. That's what makes them treats. My kids don't even get a chance to crave a treat, because there's not enough time between the last treat and the next one.

Yes, I know that I can just tell them no, and I do. But I wish I didn't have to. It makes me the bad guy -- and, more importantly, it puts me in the position of demonizing treats. My philosophy is "everything in moderation." There are no "good" foods and "bad" foods, just "sometimes" foods and "all the time" foods. But it's hard to teach moderation in our sugar-crazy world.

There are a lot of other things you can hand out instead of candy. (Kids love stickers, for example.) But to tell you the truth, they really don't need anything at all. Chances are that I've already fed them lunch or packed a healthy snack, and they've got books or toys to keep them busy. A kind smile goes a long way in making both my kids and I feel welcome without loading them up with junk food.

How do you handle the excess of snacks offered to kids?


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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sara May 11, 2010, 5:30 AM

Uhhhh, I just say no thank you if it isn’t the appropriate time or say thank you and have the girls or myself hold them until it is. They don’t have to be immediately consumed and if they got one then that is enough for the day. I am fairly certain that dum dums (which are smaller than a dime) are not the cause of our nation’s obesity issue. If they were handing out cheetos, I would be more concerned.
I think a bit of an overreaction. Those businesses are trying to make moms (or dads or grandparents) have a more pleasant outing and I for one appreciate it.

chris May 11, 2010, 5:37 AM

I agree with Sara. If they hand out lollipops I will either let them have them then and there if we have been doing a lot of errands or I just stash them in my purse and most of the time, we all forget that they’re in there. I don’t see a big deal about it.

AJ May 11, 2010, 6:13 AM

I don’t see the harm. It’s a huge PITA for me as my 3 year old has allergies so we have to decline every single one which is hard for her to understand, but we sometimes pack a treat we know she can have if we’re going somewhere she’s likely to be offered candy and then just say “No thank you”. But for most kids, a bit of candy is an exciting treat in an otherwise boring day of errands, and as mentioned, it’s not so hard to just say no thanks.

Angelle May 11, 2010, 6:22 AM

I love this post and second the request! As adults who care about kids, we need to step up to our responsibility of teaching them healthy habits. Party foods should be treats - running to the bank is not a party. I’m not anti-sucker, but if you add up all the fake food your child is offered each week, you will see that it’s enough to tip the scales to poor health. We know this stuff is bad for our kids, but we keep rationalizing it by saying, “they’re just kids” or “they deserve it since they are bored”. I totally get that people have the best of intentions when they offer the sucker, but as adults we need to stop and think about the fact that it’s not okay to offer other people’s children food that is not healthy. And, we need to stop rewarding kids with food - too many adults fight that issue everyday, so why not change it for the next genration. Angelle, NourishMD.com

Rita May 11, 2010, 6:30 AM

ITA with the above posters. Its not like my child is going to get fat from having one lollipop, in fact having a lollipop is a great way to get rid of a sweets craving because they have very little to no calories. On the same token, you can eat grapes or something.

Whenever we go to Jason’s Deli (about once a month or so), I usually take a few of their complimentary organic lollipops. They’re great to have in a pinch and they don’t have high fructose corn syrup!

I know my children get enough exercise running and playing outside so I’m not worried abot them gaining weight.

Lighten up.

OUTRAGED!!! May 11, 2010, 12:20 PM

Wow! Really????
I guess I don’t see what the big deal is considering I will let my kids accept the lolipop and then tell them to wait until after dinner. Then again my kids don’t really like suckers so it’s not a big issue with them. Kids today are overweight because we don’t encourage them to get enough exercise not because we gave them a sucker. I have 2 kids and neither one of them are overweight even though I can’t say the same thing for myself. My kids are not overweight because I don’t let them spend hours in front of the Playstation or in front of the TV. After homework is done they are to go outside and play. If the weather is bad they are to find something constructive to do besides the games. They usually end up having a pillow fight or even jumping on their bed. OOOOOHHHH does that make you cringe? They are moving and getting exercise and having fun being kids. A couple of suckers are not going to make your kid fat. I wish everyone would stop thinking that a little sugar will cause obesity. That is rediculous.

Rita May 11, 2010, 2:07 PM

@outraged Sugar is far better then the high fructose corn syrup most companies put in candies and other “treats”. Of course, you still need to moderate the sugar intake!!!

A few years ago, my then 5-year old daughter would go absolutely stir-crazy after she ate dinner. She loved to have ketchup with whatever she ate, I finally realized it was the high fructose corn syrup that was making her hyper. We stopped buying regular ketchup and paid up to $1 more for organic ketchup at
H-E-B (a popular grocery chain in Texas), their organic ketchup came from their own natural whole foods store, and it’s so much better tasting then regular ketchup. Then last year sometime they came out with an inexpensive regular ketchup but without high fructose corn syrup, it tastes wonderful too, and my kids love it. We try very hard to stay away from products made from HFCS and partially hydrogenated stuff, we may pay a little more but it’s so worth it! Now my kids act like kids and not kids full of HFCS!

agree May 11, 2010, 3:27 PM

My husband have this conversation ALL the time—- it’s not just about suckers, sweets in general are just more available to kids—- for instance, on any given Sunday, my son will have a snack in Sunday School, then there might be brunch pastries at big church….then if we go to lunch, there is a complimentary dessert and we’re just at 1pm! Suckers are not the cause of obesity, but sweets are just more readily available and not nessacarily “treats” anymore.

Anon May 11, 2010, 6:23 PM

GET OVER IT!!!

Pamala May 11, 2010, 6:33 PM

I want to know where the heck everyone is going to get this many lollipops. I mean seriously my daughter is never offered any, even at the doctor’s office, which has a jar on the counter. Oh and get this, it’s an Endocrinologist office! He keeps both sugar and sugar free lollipops out for the kids. Can you believe it? I mean if a doctor who specializes in Diabetes isn’t anal about it, why are parents?

All you have to do is say no thanks or take it for yourself and hide it (which is what I typically do when we do get any).

Callista June 4, 2010, 7:43 AM

No they may not get fat over suckers but I still agree with the original post that they don’t need to hand out suckers anywhere. We can’t leave the doctor’s office without the kids wanting a sucker now. I don’t want them thinking they need candy everytime they go to the doctor’s. They go to the doctor’s because they need to go to get healthy or stay healthy. They do it because they have to, not because they are being bribed.


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