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From the moment he wakes to the moment he falls asleep my toddler barely ever stops asking for "chocolate", "sweeties" or "cakes".

He frequently doesn't eat his meals well, but we are fairly strict with giving in and only give him these treats after meals.

Often he becomes so distraught he works himself up into a frenzy and just won't calm down. Trying to reason with him has got us nowhere in the past.

Should we try to wait out the tantrums, give in every now and again, offer an alternative (suggestions?), or persist with trying to reason with him.

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some questions: How old is he/she? How long is this already going on like that? Where does the idea of sweets/chocolate come from - does the child get more sweets anywhere else? –  BBM Jan 9 '12 at 10:58
    
He's just turned 2. It's been going on like this for probably 6 months now. He does get sweets as treats from us, nursery, family, etc- I think they're pretty unavoidable. –  Urbycoz Jan 9 '12 at 11:39
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9 Answers 9

up vote 14 down vote accepted

NEVER give in. Put him in another room (no one wants to be around tantrums, and tell him so) and wait it out. He may cry for a pretty long time the first couple of times but when he realizes it gets him ABSOLUTELY no attention the time will lessen.

He ONLY gets desserts after eating dinner (you determine how much that is). If he is not hungry enough for foods he is not hungry enough for treats.

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I can't vote this one up enough. Never give in to a tantrum, EVER. I've actually had a kid that threw a tantrum because one of his siblings did something unfair, and I've had to not let the one throwing a tantrum win... –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 9 '12 at 19:36
    
I will support Morah's "don't give in" with a reason . . . –  monsto Jan 16 '12 at 8:36
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You said in a comment that receiving sweets is unavoidable. I disagree, but it takes a conscious effort.

My 2yo son also frequently gets candy offered (in shops, restaurants, etc.) but we as parents politely decline the candy, or receive it for him, but he never receives it himself to eat right away. He learned right from the start that he is not allowed to receive candy from strangers, and if some is offered then the parents are the judges.

This has worked so far without any tantrums. As a privilege, he sometimes gets to hold/carry what he received, but he's not allowed to unpack it. Obviously he won't continue being such an angel, but it works so far because we were 100% consistent about it right from the start.

Your situation is different, but you can still achieve it. Set a new course and maintain it. Be consistent. No exceptions. Morah's answer could be a way to train this new rule.

Explain yourself every time if you must. But don't give in -- a single exception can ruin weeks of training.

Don't forget to discuss your new rules with other caregivers (grandparents etc.) and make sure that they follow them too.

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we did it quite the same way and the answer "single exception -> weeks of problems" can be very, very true. –  BBM Jan 9 '12 at 16:28
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Absolutely with the periferal family. of course, you may not be able to get them on board, grandparents are like that. but if it's an occasion that's limited to them alone, then it will become their problem not yours. And when the kid starts hollering about wanting candy from them, and they won't give it up, and they call you for help "You should have followed my rule." (yes, personal experience) –  monsto Jan 16 '12 at 17:08
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Have you considered just throwing out the food that you don't want him to have?

I sometimes give in and purchase chocolate; if my child sees me eating it, she wants it too. My child wants to eat whatever I want to eat. So I stopped buying things that I didn't want him to have - and stopped eating it myself. Someone gave you a chocolate bar and you don't want the child to eat? I just throw it out.

If I don't keep the food in our house, our daughter doesn't ask for it. If she does, I just show her empty containers and say "no more" or "all gone." She sees that it's gone, and eventually moves on.

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Seems very extreme to me. I don't want to stop my child having sweets. I just want to stop the tantrums when he can't have them on demand. –  Urbycoz Jan 10 '12 at 11:59
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My child still has sweets, they just aren't found in the house. If she is at a grandparent's house, or we're eating out and they're available - she is welcome to them. It's just not a regular thing. It's a once-in-a-while treat. –  Swati Jan 10 '12 at 13:40
    
That's the way to do it. You can cut out routine treats and help cut down on or eliminate the tantrums over them without being crazy militant about it. Just don't have them at home, don't make a big deal about them either way and let them enjoy the occasional treats while you're out, special occasions, etc. –  Saiboogu Jan 10 '12 at 14:20
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I will support Morah's "don't give in" with a reason: when you negotiate with terrorists . . . er i mean 2 yo's, the adult does all the compromising. all a 2 yo knows is what they want. they have little concept of value beyond "mine".

On the other hand, depending on the child, they may have a hard time learning from "go to your room" and staying in there to cry it out.

I would suggest that you drop the sweets altogether. cold turkey. "we don't have any. sorry."

holla holla holla holla whine bitch cry scream "I'm not going to talk to you if you're crying." and the anthem for the time they're in their room, "Are you done crying? when you're done crying, we can talk about it" tossed out every minute or so.

really... cold turkey. cut it completely out. because you're building their eating habits for the next hundred years. I read somewhere that a human learns more at the age of 2-3 than the whole of the rest of their lives. and it's as good a time as any to try and break the fat/carbs/sugars habit. You might couple this with some kinda rearrangement of dinner. maybe change the dining room around or eat in different places at the table or SOMETHING to give it a psychological break.

Anyway, once the habit is sufficiently broken (it may not be, you'll know in a couple months) then you can bring back the sweets every now and then. but for right now i think you should cut it entirely.

[edit] Something that I thought of while replying to another post: If your 2 yo is getting enough junk sweets to be pissing and moaning about it, I really think you should go cold turkey, perhaps for the entire family unit. You are truly setting up your child for long term health problems (even juvenile diabetes) and a lifetime of weight related problems and bodily attachment to the health-care industrial complex.

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+1 for the first paragraph alone! I also agree with the rest -- consistency is key in everything, so make no exceptions (until they've learned the basic rule and understand that exceptions are exceptions). –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 16 '12 at 9:07
    
Small correction: Juvenile onset, or Type 1 Diabetes, is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, and does not appear to be the result of lifestyle and/or dietary factors. However, Type 2 diabetes is very likely linked to these factors, and would be relevant to your edit. –  Beofett Jan 16 '12 at 17:58
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Great answers. As a father of 11 children, we first require our children to eat what is on their plate during meal time, we actually save leftovers on their plate if they do not finish, and do not allow them to eat between meals (bad habit to start). Sweets should not be the norm but the exception. We use them to celebrate, when we have guests, etc. Incorporating sweets into the everyday diet is not a sustainable approach. Make it special and absolutely hold the line when a tantrum is thrown (both you and your spouse, no giving in!)

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"and do not allow them to eat between meals (bad habit to start)" actually most nutritionists these days say that NOT snacking is actually a bad habit. (many more smaller meals is preferred over the traditional 3 main meals). –  DA01 Jan 10 '12 at 0:08
    
@DA01 As long as they are healthy snacks....and most snacks aren't. –  Urbycoz Jan 10 '12 at 12:00
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@Urbycoz There are plenty of healthy snacks. Fruits and veggies make great snacks. Yogurt. Granola. My son loves tortilla chips (we give him baked multi-grain) dipped in salsa. –  Beofett Jan 10 '12 at 13:18
    
Yes, of course. Healthy snacks. –  DA01 Jan 10 '12 at 22:29
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I would not try to reason with my toddler, nor would I give it to their tantrums. Remember, as a toddler, they are naturally going to push the proverbial envelop. Deal with the tantrums in a consist way, whatever that is, time out for example. Be consistent and let them know they are wrong, remove them from the room and put in a safe time out area, and let them tantrum their. Before too long, they will stop the tantrums because they are not rewarded and you are consistent. This is a good approach for whatever the tantrum is about

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Reduce the frequency of the sweets.

It sounds like you are in the habit of giving sweets after every meal. This is a problem.

It seems like they have an expectation for sweets. Remove that, by simply making sweets occassional, not daily.

It's pretty obvious why you should limit sweets. Sweets are high in calories and provide very little nutrition, while at the same time supplying plenty of calories. If your diet is made up primarily of sweets, you won't have enough minerals, proteins, and other such things. Plus, sweets are very bad for a child's teeth.

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For our guy, he had always been given a taste of our desserts, but when he got to the point of refusing everything unless it was a dessert (around the same age), we stopped the desserts cold turkey. He was not happy about it and there were a few days with him crying, pouting, screaming, etc. No matter what, we didn't give in, although we know it would have made him happy. To be fair to him, we stopped having desserts in front of him, until he went to bed. After a while, we re-introduced a dessert, but this time, it's fruit or if he's been especially good, he can have a sugar-free popcicle (we still don't have our dessert in front of him). We try mix it up though; sometimes it's food and sometimes it's his favorite show. The big win is the shift in mindset from an expectation to a reward. The big thing is not to give in or the battle becomes more and more difficult.

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Apart from the fact that this sweets ordeal can be prevented almost entirely, if you're early adopting a cautious and disciplined policy, my best advice would be to tell them the actual truth:

Because sweets are poison

If above doesn't 'take', there's further elaboration …

It makes people die

 

Effects of sugar

'Poison' may not be the perfect epithet for something that has deleterious effects on health. Likewise, the 'makes people dead' statement obviously isn't meant to imply that people are dying on the spot by eating candy – rather, that candy has long-term effects which by extension may lead to life-shortening or lethal outcomes (more or less likely depending on the amount of eating, of course).

I think common repudiatory arguments such as, there's lots of other things which potentially risk making people ill/unhealthy/dead – other kinds of consumption articles, living circumstances, stress behaviors, etc. – fails to answer the question regarding candy: why worsen the odds of a healthy life for your kids?

I'm not a scientist by any stretch – just a layman and parent who cares a lot about my two sons. Therefore, I'd like to add a disclaimer that there might be flaws in my interpretation of the things I refer to below. Now:

Among government and institution reports, scattered articles etc., I base my statements in the answer (where it can be argued that I inappropriately stated that it was the 'actual truth') on the research of one of the world's most reputable specialists on pediatric hormone disorders and leading experts on childhood obesity, Robert H. Lustig. According to him, some of the prominent long-term consequences (or at least risks) of added sugar – that is, sucrose (refined sugar) or High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) are:

  • fatty liver,
  • insulin resistance,
  • obesity,
  • heart disease,
  • hypertension,
  • cancer …

Maybe that's enough bad stuff to warrant calling it poison? I don't know, it's my personal view.

Further info on the predicaments of sugar according to Lustig (which I find very informative):

"Is Sugar Toxic?" (NY Times article, 2011)

"Sugar: The Bitter Truth" (Robert H. Lustig, 2009 seminar; YouTube)

^Same seminar, March 24, 2011; YouTube

Poison in candy

Apart from the deleterious effects of added sugar in sweets, there's also perennial reports of candy being recalled. A few sources related to that:

Toxic Treats Index: The CA state Childhood Lead Poisoning Branch, Food and Drug Administration and Orange County have conducted tests for lead in candy since 1993. Out of 1,503 individual test results, there were 400 tests showing lead-contaminated candy – 261 for candy samples and 139 for wrappers.)

A list of the most recent withdrawn candy

CDPH (California Department of Public Health) - List of recent test results for lead in candy

CDPH - Photos of candies found to contain lead – updated December 29, 2011

Lead poisoning from candies – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Seems mostly pointing at mexican candy imports.)

"Toxic Waste Nuclear Sludge" recalled over high levels of lead (A pretty recent event.)

"Minute traces" of stainless steel in Colombina Mega Pops Lollipops (Yummy.)

Formalin-glazed Candies, Anyone?

Thallium poisoning from maliciously contaminated marzipan candy

The list could go on indefinitely.

… There's also a bunch of candy containing allergens (unlisted sulfites, peanut traces, etc) but I guess that's peanuts (pun) compared to heavy metals and the long-term effects of added sugar. Again, candy shouldn't be singled out as a unique example of recalled consumption articles, obviously, but the point I'm trying to make is, stay alert to what kind of candies you let your kids eat, if any. Contemplate the amount of added sugar your kids consume. Without laying any further weight to whether it's justified or not – well, I fail miserably hiding my personal bias – at least ponder Lustig's notion of thinking of sugar, like cigarettes and alcohol, as something that's killing us.

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-1: On what basis do you say that "sweets are poison" and that it "causes death"? I haven't yet seen any sweets or cakes that contain arsenic or other lethal ingredients. I don't see how you can call that "the actual truth". (I know some Danish strong liquorice contains 6% ammonium chloride but that is clearly labeled for adults only.) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 16 '12 at 9:04
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I think he's talking plainly about the long term health effects of too many sweets, and that if a 2 yo is eating daily sweets and cakes, that child is probably doomed to a life of health problems related to sugar/fat overdose as a child. –  monsto Jan 16 '12 at 16:58
    
@monsto: but I think there is not enough evidence in real life, so the child will see many other children and adults eating sweets and not dying, and therefore I doubt that it will believe this "sweets are poison" thing. We are always explaining our son, that sugar attacks the teeth and therefore is it not good to eat sweets often during the day, especially without cleaning the teeth afterwards. –  BBM Jan 16 '12 at 17:42
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+1 for the edits detailing the findings of Dr. Lustig. While I'm not certain I take his stance as gospel (I'd need to do more research, as I'm not inclined to take a single proponent of a relatively controversial opinion without seeing some other supporting expert input), it's a good edit. However, -1 for the whole section claiming that because there have been cases of candies being contaminated or poisoned, that candy = poison. One could make that same (fallacious) argument over any number of legitimate foods, or even medicines. –  Beofett Jan 23 '12 at 16:43
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tomjedrz. I never pretend to answer questions (do you?). My contributed answer to the question was (pretty easy to follow): Tell your kids the truth about the health effects on sugar. Main effect, here, being that candy contains humongous amounts of sugar (as in saccharin and high-fructose corn syrup). These maligned sweeteners, opposed to natural sugar and starches, doesn't get metabolized by your body cells. Instead, their fructose component is solely metabolized by the liver. When the liver gets to work harder, your heart will take the toll, which leads to all kinds of unnecessary things. –  hced Mar 29 '12 at 1:49
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