How to use treat foods - (2 of 2)

1. Make food treats very, very small

Often the biggest problem is the size of the unhealthy treat. If you do use them, make them very small – one sweet rather than a bag, one chocolate square rather than the whole bar, a few crisps rather than the full bag etc.

2. Delay giving food treats

Rather than giving a treat immediately, delay it until later – e.g. "You can have a small treat, after dinner/when we get home/at the weekend". Delaying treats is likely to reduce the amount the child gets and teaches self-control.

3. Make food treats dependent on good behaviour

Make sure children see any given treats not as an entitlement, but rather a special privilege they have earned. They should not be given after protests but given provided your child has behaved well  Use "when-then" – e.g. "When you tidy up then you can have a treat" or "If you continue to play so well together, you both can have a small treat on Friday". 

4. Calmly ignore protests and tantrums

If a child protests when you refuse a treat, remain calm and hold your ground.  Don’t focus them on what they can’t have and instead distract them to do something else - e.g. "Lets go outside how". If it is hard to remain calm, remind yourself of how important it is not to give in - e.g. Say to yourself,  "By saying no and holding my ground I am helping my child to be healthy".

5. Use consequences for continued protests

If children continue to protest or badger you over not getting treats, warn them of consequences and "If you continue to argue, you will lose some of your pocket money/TV time at home" or "The longer you protest the less treats you will get tomorrow", etc.

You can find more information and parenting tips from John at

Posted: 16/10/2014 16:16:29 by John Sharry
Filed under: Childhood obesity, Snacks, Treats

About Me

Avatar Image
John Sharry
I am a social worker and psychotherapist with over 25 years experience as a mental health professional working with families. I am CEO and founder of the Parents Plus Charity who develop parenting courses and materials that are used throughout Ireland. I also am an adjunct senior lecturer at the School of Psychology in UCD and write a weekly parenting column in the Irish Times. I live in Dublin and am the proud father of three children who are my best teachers about what parenting is all about. My website is