Using Sugar to Pacify Emotions

We very rarely have candy or sweets in our house. I mean . . . Like. Never. Well, I guess there’s Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and the 4th of July Parade. But other than that, it is usually a rarity in our house.

Except for this week.

I had a meeting I was in charge of, and since I had to pick up some Andes mints for it, I got to take the extras home. I debated about throwing them in the trash on my way out, but decided to treat the girls to something sweet and unexpected. There was only about 15 mints left, which meant 2-3 per child. We could handle that, right?

Well, everyone got one after dinner that night, and then those Andes mints sat in a bowl on the countertop for a few days.

During this same time, my kindergartener began experiencing some emotions before leaving for school every day. She would cry, not want to go, feel nervous, and express sadness as well. Because we were in a time crunch, and I knew they dawdled on their walk to school, I would always feel anxious to just get them out the door on their way. I didn’t want to take the time to ask about her feelings and help coach her through the experience of recognizing what her emotions were trying to tell her in those moments.

So I did the awful thing . . . I gave her a mint and shoved her out the door.

PROBLEM: I used candy to pacify my daughter’s emotions.

Not such a bad thing. I know. But then it began to happen, day after day, and suddenly, I am out of mints and now giving her chocolate chips to help her stop crying and get her on her way to school.

After too many days of this, I realized what I was doing. I was feeding my daughter sugar to help her “feel better.” I was teaching her that rather than exploring those uncomfortable feelings of sadness and fear, we can eat sugary foods, to suppress and stop (for a time) those feelings instead.


The next day, when she was crying and asking for chocolate chips to eat on the way to school, I announced to the whole family: “No more candy or sweets on the way to school. We do not eat those kinds of food to help our emotions feel better.”

SOLUTION: Recognize that candy is being used as a pacifier, rather than taking the actual steps to address the emotions. Cut that tie! And teach how to work through emotions instead.

She hasn’t asked for sweets any more. And we still haven’t gotten to the root of her emotions before school, but we know the steps. We know how. (Do you? Check out upcoming posts to learn the steps.)

Do you give your child sweets to get them to stop crying? Is now the time to cut that tie? Do it!!!

Go on now. Go on . . .

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