Does Carrot and Stick Work for Picky Eaters?

“If you finish your meal, I will give you a chocolate” I remember saying this to my picky eater so often. In my mind the equation was clear, if he finishes his portion of veggies, a small chocolate is not going to do him any harm.

But I was so wrong. Firstly, according to nutritionists, chocolates not only contain high amounts of sugar, but also loads of preservatives which are harmful to the child. Chocolate consumption should be restricted to 1 or 2 times a week. And I was giving one everyday!!!

And the second challenge was even worse. He was getting into the habit of expecting something in return for every good deed of his. “Mama, I cleaned my room, can I have a chocolate please?”, “ I shared my toys today, can you please give me candy?” Unknowingly I had trained my little one to expect something in return for every good act of his. What a blunder had I made. If I always wanted him to become a responsible citizen of tomorrow and do things for the joy of it, this carrot approach was a wrong choice I had made. It was backfiring..

I have even tried the stick approach. And I have to admit it works wonders in the beginning. And since it showed great results, I got into the habit of using it very often. Even for smaller tasks which otherwise could happen with minimal convincing.

It was dinner time one day and I was super tired. “Finish your food in ten minutes or no TV time for you tomorrow” I shouted at my kids. I was shocked to see their reactions. My younger one, who generally enjoys her meals, pushed her plate away and said “I dont want TV tomo mama, but I cannot finish this in 10 mins”. The elder one did not even taste the food saying he was not hungry. But in reality they were avoiding the stress associated with food. It was then that I realised that the stick approach also backfires. It has to be used as a rare commodity..

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Team PIU
Himani and Kalyani are Co Founders of Partners in Upbringing. Both of them are mothers and are extremely passionate about parenting.

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