Friday, October 30, 2009

Avoiding Halloween Sugar-Overload

It is the day before Halloween, and our family persists in charging out into the night to demand candy from strangers. As a child, this was one of my favorite traditions, and I am sad to see how few children are allowed to carry it on. There is such a culture of fear in our country that people take their kids to the mall during the day to collect candy. How does that compare to striking out into a spooky Autumn night, trees and leaves rustling in the wind, venturing up to one door after another, never knowing who will answer? But, some unfounded rumors of razors embedded in apples, and an increasing mistrust of our neighbors, has changed all of that.

Many of my parent friends don't send their kids out simply because the sugar overload is an experience they dread. My daughter reacts strongly to sugar also, but I feel like it is a once-a-year indulgence, and I can deal with it. However, here is one technique we use to create a compromise:

We used to allow Anouk to keep something like 10 pieces of candy, and we traded the rest for a new toy (something she has been wanting, purchased ahead of time to make it easy to give up the candy.) Last year, she was five, so we made the arrangement a bit more sophisticated. We decided we were willing to offer her up to $20, and she had collected around 25 pieces of candy. We said we would give her a dollar for each piece she gave up, and would take her to her favorite toy store to spend it. Initially, she traded for $15, keeping 10 pieces of candy. At the store, the toy she wanted cost $18, so she gave up three more pieces of candy.

One thing to keep in mind is to follow through on the arrangement as soon as possible. Immediate gratification is key for kids and negotiation. Also, as she grows, she will get faster and more efficient at collecting candy, and we won't be able to offer as much money per piece. We will have to stay flexible and change the arrangement as she grows. Eventually, she may just stick with the candy.

As a kid, I stayed out late trick or treating, collecting bag after bag of candy. I made that candy last until Easter. Each kid is different, but so far, we are all satisfied with this method, and Anouk learns a little lesson in value and commerce.

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