The Great Candy Debate

This morning, as with most mornings, I checked my email quite early in the day. I scrolled through, browsing a few advertisements, marking some emails that required further action, and then turned my attention to a birthday party e-vite that had come in from a mother of my son’s classmate.

A Candyland themed birthday party.

The birthday party theme in and of itself sounded cute and classic, but I had to take a step back and consider the idea. Our kids seem to be surrounded by candy. In the best of situations, where nosh is rationed on the home front, the kids are still bombarded with sweet treats everywhere they go.

Candy’s commonplaces:sweets-316108_1280

  • In class birthday parties, with cupcakes, donuts or other sweet treats
  • In class Shabbos party, where often a whole host of candies and gummies are offered up
  • Classroom incentives in the form of jellybeans or other small treats
  • Shul learning programs for boys and girls
  • Aufrufs, bar mitzvas, kiddushim, and other simchas
  • Purim!
  • The infamous shul “candy man” – or, “candy men” as the case may be

In summary, there is no shortage of opportunities for kids to indulge their sweet tooth. That is, until it decays under all the layers of sugar.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fabulous that morahs, rabbonim, and rebbeim are offering positive reinforcement for our children’s behaviors and yearning to learn. I merely think there might be healthier ways to do so.

As in many areas of life, a cost benefit analysis goes a long way here. We have to be able to objectively look, as a society and as a community, at whether this system of candy based reinforcement is helping or harming our children.

Concerns related to considerable candy consumption:

  • Moderate to severe ADHD, behavioral, skin and migraine related reactions to food coloring found in the majority of sweets. Did you know even white marshmallows include blue dye?
  • Tooth decay – many parents let this one go as they brush children’s teeth twice daily, however the prolonged contact between brushings, of sugars and teeth, particularly when having eaten soft, chewy, or gummy type candies can cause significant damage.
  • Sugar’s impact on the whole body. In recent years, the impacts of sugar on the Western diet have been studied, publicized, and are shocking. Nearly every factory produced food we eat has added sugar. Do we really want, or need, to offer our children more than this?

Recently I came acrosslump-sugar-548647_1280 the book Eat Healthy, Feel Great by Dr. William Sears. I can tell you firsthand of the benefit it’s made to my child’s diet. The book speaks of, and educates children in a fun, comprehensive manner, on what foods are considered red lights, yellow lights, or green lights, and why. Now when my son brings home extra candies that have zero nutritional value (red lights), I ask him whether he’d like to trade them with me for a yellow light food such as chocolate or a cookie – I’ve seen 100% success.

In our house, we certainly do have treats, however they are almost never candy based., and more often than not, I know what ingredients have gone into them, because I’ve made the treats myself. I offer chocolate chips for reinforcement of good behavior, and fruits or homemade cookies for dessert. I always have dried fruit in the pantry which my little guy loves. It’s all about setting standards and training an appreciation of nutrition, and of the human body.

I say it’s time to reform the public system. Schools have begun introducing nutritious lunches, and banning nosh that is sent in lunches. Each step goes a long way. As we raise our children with Torah values, we must stress “u’shmarem me’od l’nafshoseichem,” – “and you shall guard your bodies very much.” Our children are the greatest value in our homes. We owe them that much.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that the candy being offered today is excessive? Do you speak to your children about limiting candy intake, or do you not mind the amounts or nosh that are made available to children?

Please comment!

6 Ways to Teach Appreciation to Our Kids

thanks-418358_640We are constantly trying to raise our children to become thankful little human beings. We remind them of their “P”s and “Q”s and to be grateful for their bounty. How many times (today) have you told your little ones “You get what you get and you say ‘thank you!'”? And perhaps just a tiny little part of you wants to be shown gratitude for the endless efforts you’re putting into fulfilling their every need.

How do we raise our children to be thankful? Model appreciation.

1. Catch Them in the Act

Noticing those moments of growth in our children is essential. The continual reminders you’ve given them have come down to this. It’s the bottom of the ninth, her little brother is grabbing and….. she lets him have the toy. “Thank you sweetie! I know that you had the doll first but do you see how happy you’ve just made Avi? Keep it up and he’ll learn how to share with you!”

2. Give Them Your Undivided Attention

Your time is precious – show them that theirs is too. You’re preparing dinner, overseeing homework, and then the phone rings. “Mommy, please can you help me with this question?”

Think about this scenario for a second. There are two options here. You could whisper to your child that you’ll be off in five minutes – the amount of time it’ll take to hear about the great deal your sister found today – or you could tell her “Listen Sarah, I can’t wait to hear all about it, but I’ll ave to call you back. I’m just helping Benny with his homework.” Let your child know that your attention is focused on him. Granting him quality undivided focus will teach him to appreciate the value of a person’s time.

3. Pull Back the Curtains on Your Efforts

Have you ever gone to see a professional production and marvelled at the product before you? Did you forget, even just for a moment (or for the entire play) how much work and collaboration goes into coordinating all the costumes, music, acting, and special effects? That is, until the production teams were thanked at the curtain call? This is how you kids view you.

Your children accept realities at face value. When they sit down to dinner they don’t wonder how it came to be. They accept as a given that clothes are always fresh and clean (“Mommy, how come your socks are in my drawer?” he giggles).

Well, I’ve started pulling back the curtain and letting little ones in on parenting secrets. My little one asked recently in all sincerity why I had to go to work, as we have the money we need to buy things. He said “the cashier always gives you money when you buy things.” Money? Trees? Anyone? But seriously, I’ve begun explaining how all the neat and tidy ends come to be at home, and that it’s not merely by the swish of a wand.

4. Hone Their Work Ethic

I love chores. Not doing them per se, but rather the habitual nature of them. I’m all for little ones learning to clean the bathroom with you. If you find that a bit much, begin with gently handing over a paper towel when your little one spills the milk. Or have her put a new bag into the garbage bin. And thank them for it – specifically. Remember point #1? The more educated they become on what it takes to run a home, the sooner you’ll begin to receive their expressions of thanks.

5. Mitzva Note Flips

So many schools have implemented the mitzva note system, encouraging parents of kindergarten aged kids to send in notes catching their ids in a good deed. One of the best tricks I’ve found in imbuing a sense of appreciation within little ones is for them to ‘write’ or just voice mitzva notes for other family members. Whether for parents or siblings, having a child focus verbal expression on the good that they see others doing, especially for their own good, creates a world of thanks. Offer suggestions such as “Mommy, thank you for giving me a bath so that I’m always clean,” or “Mom, thank you for such a delicious dinner that helps me grow big and strong.”

6. Model Appreciation

It goes without saying, practice what you preach. To raise an appreciative child, you must exemplify the appreciative person you’d like them to become.

It all begins with “Modeh ani…” Thank You, Creator of the universe, for another joyous opportunity to raise my children with appreciation and recognition of Your good graces, and the efforts of those around them.

What Makes a Mother


Have you ever thought about it?

Each of us is created of a partnership: G-d + father + mother = life.

Whether we have grown up with a mother in our lives or not; whether we have had a close, nurturing relationship with our mothers or not; whether we have known a biological mother or not, now is our time. It’s time that we take hold of this opportunity to become the best mothers we can be.

Mothering is not about perfection – it’s not about having doilies on dustless furniture like our Bubbies had, or about having dinner on the table every night at five o’clock before the kids go bouncing off the walls. And let me share a secret, it’s not even about having professional photos of the most adorable smiling faces all in matching outfits.

Being a mother is about being the nurturing woman you are, with the capabilities the Good Lord Above has blessed you with. HaKadosh Baruch Hu has given YOU strengths, weaknesses, talents and shortcomings that make you unique and valued as a member of the klal.

What we hold within us is incredible potential. We are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, friends, and we are changing the world one step at a time. Perfection is not measurable. Perfection is being you.

Now go be YOU and love yourself for it.