Sweets Remain Sweet — But They’re No Longer A ‘Treat’

Normalizing sugar with my kids

A.J. Bryant


Photo by Encal Media on Unsplash

“Hey guys— do you want ice cream? I’m stopping for some mint chocolate chip. Anyone interested?”

A few seconds later from the backseat— “No, we’re fine Dad. We don’t want ice cream.”

We were driving home from the library in the early afternoon.

I looked at my wife, Sasmita, sitting in the front passenger seat. We smiled and did a fist bump.


Like many parents, we fought constantly with our kids (4 and 7) about cookies, cake, pie, ice cream, etc, If it had sugar my kids couldn’t get enough.

During the pandemic, I read ‘Sugar is not the Enemy’ in the New York Times which helped my feelings on sugar and kids evolve.

It was about normalizing kids and their relationship with it.

The main takeaway was there is no such thing as a ‘sugar-high.’ It also spoke about letting your child self-regulate their sugar intake.

I was inspired and we instituted the following rules:

We never use sweets to induce or reward the kids' behavior.

Gone are the days of saying ‘If you do ‘x’ you’ll get a cookie. Or saying, ‘Unless you stop doing ‘y’, you won’t have dessert.’

Sweets are neither a reward nor punishment for our kids' actions.

It seems simple, but that's not how my parents raised me. Ice cream was rewarded for good report card grades. Or if I finished my cauliflower I might have a cookie.

I hear that talk, frequently at the playground, or in other public places, parents using sugary foods as a motivating element to change how their children act or what they do.

We don’t over-regulate diets at birthday parties, or other social gatherings if sweets are present.

They are excited to be with friends and already hyper with anticipation.

We don’t tell them ‘Eat some fruits and then you can have cake,’ or similar.

If we go to a gathering and they go straight for the cookies, ruining their appetite and feeling sick, that’s on them. They need to…



A.J. Bryant

Adopted from Kerala. I write about adoption, my intercultural marriage, contemporary India and more. Prawns are my love language.