Helping kids build relationship with food is better than bribery

January 30, 2017
in Kids

How can you get a fussy child to eat vegetables? It's a question that plagues many frustrated parents at countless mealtimes. Some take to hiding morsels in more delicious parts of meals, while others adopt a stricter approach, refusing to let little ones leave the table until plates are clear. One "alternative" idea touted recently is for parents to essentially bribe their children, depositing money into a child's bank account as a reward when they eat vegetables -- an idea actually backed up by research. A US study in 2016 showed that the technique continued to encourage primary school age children to eat their greens for up to two months after these incentives were stopped. Children who were incentivised for a longer period of time were more likely to continue eating vegetables after the deposits ended too. The core idea here is that, providing children have the cognitive ability to understand the exchange, they will learn to eat healthily as well as learn the value of money. After a while, they will continue eating the food, not because of the reward, but because they will get into the habit of eating healthy. But one study is really not enough to draw conclusions and suggest action -- especially as there was not a control group to compare money with other types of incentives, or no incentive at all. And monetary incentives can actually decrease our motivation to perform the activity we are paid for, and eventually we lose interest. So, even if bribing kids with cash to eat their greens works at...

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