Three days ago, Gadget Man and I announced that there would be no more junk for dessert after dinner. We told our children (ages five and two) that, with the exception of Friday night, when we celebrate Shabbat, “dessert” will be a choice of fruit. We explained that cookies, cake, and candy were not healthy, and that they shouldn’t have it every day. We braced ourselves for whining and crying. Instead, the children simply smiled in agreement.
Of course, the children knew they were getting dessert on that night. I realized that the tears and foot stomping (yeah, they do that) would come the next night, when the new policy would actually apply to them. To our surprise, they ate their orange sections with relish. To top it off, dinner was a pleasure for a change, and it has been for the past two nights.
This drastic move to ban dessert was our last resort. We eat as a family every night, but they were not the Norman Rockwell family dinners we desired. In fact, dinners were replete with indigestion inducing crying, whining, and enough negotiating to make Jimmy Hoffa want to leave the table. “What do I have to eat to get dessert?” “No! Not the sweet potato!” “What else can I have instead?” “No! Not five carrots. How about two?” “Hey! He got the bigger cookie!” Needless to say, I hated dinner and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
I never wanted to be the kind of parent who negotiated over dinner and dessert. In fact, I vowed a long time ago that I wouldn’t do it. Somehow, it just happened. I don’t know who said it first, but long ago, Gadget Man or I said, “If you don’t eat that, then you can’t have dessert.” It seemed to come soooooo naturally. Perhaps it was the following night when our daughter showed us her plate and asked, “Can I have dessert yet?” It all went downhill from there.
Before banning dessert, we tried to go a different way. In order to eliminate the stress of negotiations, we allowed dessert no matter what, but we didn’t tell the kids about this decision. Instead, when our daughter asked, “If I eat three more bites of the pasta, can I get dessert?” We replied, “If that’s all you want to eat, sure.” This worked for a while on our five-year-old, but our two-year-old was becoming a sugar junkie. He hardly eats as it is (thank goodness he is still nursing), so for him, he would sit at the table, push his food around a bit, throw a few pieces to the dog, and wait for dessert to arrive. Of course, this was unacceptable.
So for now, our home has a no dessert policy. Did I mention that adults are exempt? After all, while the kids are asleep, what’s the harm in a little chocolate ice cream sundae on the couch in front of the TV? I know, I know, those last “baby pounds” aren’t going to drop off by themselves.