If you are going crazy trying to figure out how to handle your child’s pleas for treats or dessert, you are in the right place!
Dessert or no dessert? It’s a question that can leave us parents tortured by our internal debate.
If you’ve been trying to follow the division of responsibility and are now at the point where dessert has you stumped, we’ll shed some light on how to go about adding those sweets in the mix.
Tip #1 When you do decide to offer dessert, offer it as part of dinner.
You’re going to make it so that it’s an actual option to choose from at that particular meal. It can be anything from fruits to cookies to cake.
If you recall, under the division of responsibility, you decide what to serve for dinner. That includes all foods sweet or savory.
The only reason we want our kids to eat is because they are hungry and to stop because they are full.
If we withhold dessert until after dinner, we are teaching kids to fill up on dinner and then ignore their satiety cues and overeat when dessert is served.
Kids are smart … and excellent regulators. They will come up with tricks, excuses and shenanigans to get out of eating dinner to leave room for dessert. In a way, this is a good sign that they are in tune with their body …
However, usually, what happens at this point, based on the amount they’ve eaten, we don’t believe they are full … which is probably true that they are not … It’s a classic mealtime battle waiting to happen.
By offering dessert as part of the meal, we are giving control back to our kids so that they can choose what to eat and stop when they are full.
But my kids will only eat dessert and nothing else.
Now I can just hear you thinking … but if I give them the option to have dessert, they will choose it over dinner every time. Not to mention they’ll only eat dessert and nothing else.
That is indeed how it will go. Especially in the beginning.
Here’s how to get around that.
When using the division of responsibility, your child is in charge of how much they want to eat. With desert is the only time you’ll sort of break that.
You will; limit the dessert by only putting our on the table the portion you’re comfortable them eating. For example, if you want them to only one cookie, put out one cookie for each member of the family. Next, let everyone know that’s all the cookies we have and everyone gets one.
They can choose to eat it first and that’s okay too. That’s their choice if you follow this style of presenting dessert and something you’ll have to be okay with.
Thins will change as more meals come along, as more foods are added to their safe foods list, and as the novelty wears off.
What if I’m not offering dessert and my kids keep asking for it.
When using the division of responsibility, you are the one to choose what foods to offer at any given meal.
If it just so happens that the meal did not come with a dessert … well, tempers can go flaring.
When your child makes a request for a treat or a dessert you tell them that it’s not part of the foods you choose for this meal. Let them know you still heard them and that their input is acknowledged. You do this by letting them know, you’ll add it to a meal soon.
Because they will not be getting what they want, they might be mad. This is where you have to be consistent in giving this answer each time they ask for a food that is not served at a particular mealtime. It doesn’t matter if the food is a treat, a dessert or any other type of food.
Tip #2 Sweets cut off your Child’s Appetite
To complicate things, there’s no way we can have this conversation about treats if I didn’t mention that eating sweets shortens the time we have to feel full.
It takes the brain about 20 minutes to register that we are full. But when we eat sweets, it narrows it down to about 10 minutes.
Do you remember those times when your child had a treat for a snack, ate it quickly and said they were full … only to be hungry about 1 hour later asking for another snack?
Well … they weren’t lying. They responded to their bodies exactly as expected.
Now, if we are using the division on responsibility and are offering a treat or dessert with the meal, you have to be prepared for the possibility that your child will eat it first.
You’ll also have to be prepared that in about 10 minutes, the’ll want to end their meal.
This is definitely not good. But knowing that this is how the body works, there’s no point to keep hounding them to keep eating. If you are following the DoR, it’s a consequence you’ll have to accept.
As it becomes less of a novelty and the more you treat foods (sweets nor not) the same, the more include your child will be to not do a dive for the treats first. It does take time.
If you are in a situation where your child already eats so little, has very few foods on their safe list or responds very poorly to hunger and satiety cues …
… you’ll want to bring out the sweet in the later part of the meal.
You can say you “forgot” about it and bring it out when about three-quarters of the meal is done or when you noticed that the bites of food are not coming in as fast.
This way, you’ll give your child time to quench their hunger with heartier foods. You want to add the dessert before your child is actually full and starts ignoring their satiety cues just to eat a treat.
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