A Rewarding Path to Healthy Living

As concerned, health-conscious parents, we try to protect our young children from over exposure to health-destructive foods. Ensuring our kids eat well balanced meals and limiting sugars and trans fats is a fairly easy task when our kids are under our immediate supervision. But the external influences they encounter as soon as they step out of the house can pose a big problem. Sometimes the most shocking part is realizing where some of the negative influence is generated from.

When my older daughter began kindergarten last year, I began to realize there was a big problem at school. My daughter was either having candy at school or bringing candy home every single day and her teacher gave it to her. A lollipop one day, Smarties or Tootsie Rolls the next, and the days she didn’t bring anything home it was because she had already eaten it at school right there in class! Although I was beginning to get very upset, I did not want to be “that mom” who had to make a big stink about it and possibly embarrass my daughter. Instead, I casually mentioned to the teacher in a non-direct way (I just fit it in to an unrelated conversation) that we are health-conscious and my kids don’t eat candy during the week. To no avail, my daughter continued to receive candy every day. I became even more curious as to why she was getting candy. My daughter explained to me that the teacher gives each child a piece of candy if they raise their hand to answer a question correctly. I was floored and had to verify that this information was in fact true…and it was! I was told that the children are rewarded for participation, sometimes “it’s just with a few M&Ms.” Now I have several reasons to be upset. Not only was I never asked if this was okay, but this does not help change the fact that childhood obesity is affecting almost 20% of our nation’s children with 12.5 million kids between the ages of 2 and 19 being obese, according to the CDC. Even besides that stunning statistic, I don’t believe children should be rewarded with food. This will increase the likelihood of developing eating disorders in the future and it is sending the wrong message as to why they should be participating at school. They should participate in school because that is their responsibility and it will positively affect their progress, not because they will receive an external reward.

This year, I now have a daughter in kindergarten and a daughter in first grade who attend the same school and both began receiving candy as rewards, just like last year. I immediately told the teachers that my daughters are not allowed candy during the week. Because of the reward system, I did not want my children to feel left out so I came up with two approaches. First, I went to the store and purchased tons of stickers and other cheap, small rewards like rulers, pencils, erasers, even headbands and lip-gloss. The teachers and I agreed that these are items that my children are allowed to be rewarded with for having an overall good week not each day for participating.  Secondly, for my kindergartner, I bought stickers for her teacher to give to her for each great day so she is feeling accomplished each day at school. At the end of the week, if she has five stickers, we, as her parents decide on her reward that weekend. Although this arrangement may have taken a little extra effort, it saved me from being the overbearing parent and did not cause any tense relationships with other parents who don’t mind the reward system in place at school.

More importantly than the actual creation of a new reward system, my husband and I explained to our children why we did it. Every day we try to help them understand the importance of health and that there are more satisfying ways to celebrate our successes. We also express how important their honesty is to us and that if they are given candy they can trust that we will not take it from them but instead will give it to them at more appropriate times. I am happy to report, that when they do happen to get candy from school, perhaps from the lunch lady or the principal for having extraordinary behavior, they have been bringing it home and we put it in a bowl for a treat later on. Now everyone is happy!

My main point is that we have to take control of the health of our children and intervene when necessary. We are shaping our kids’ futures and we must do so from the inside out!



Jonelle Baglia NPC Figure Champion

Jonelle is indeed a Fit Mom, inspired by her children to set a healthy and positive example.  Not only is she a smart & busy woman – she has a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science & Health Promotion, is a certified personal trainer AND works ful time for the United States Air Force, she is an accomplished Figure Competitor, winning shows in 4 different countries.  Through clean eating and her commitment to her training, Jonelle has been able to stay fit through her pregnancies and come out even stronger after each one.  Here at TeamFITBODY.com family always comes first and we love how Jonelle promotes good health through nutritious meals and fun activity!


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