Keeping Kids Away from Sugar: Dealing with Criticism

Keeping Kids Away from Sugar: Dealing with Criticism

One might think it’s common knowledge that sugar is bad for kids, whether in terms of health, behavior, or teeth.  As such, one might expect that keeping kids away from sugar would be something to be lauded and admired.  But if you have decided to keep your kids away from this powdery white drug, you’ll soon find you were mistaken.

As a mum who keeps sugar completely out of her kids’ diets, I can tell you I’ve encountered my fair share of criticism.  My brother-in-law has even made a huge scene in front of my husband’s family when I refused to allow my toddler, who had only just turned 2, to chow down on chocolates and candies.  Sometimes criticisms like this are made loudly and publicly, which could lead to some embarrassment.  If you decide to cut sugar from your kids’ diets, make sure you know your facts and feel confident in your decision, as you should!

Remember, you are their parent and you have the right to make parenting decisions for your kids!  As I told my brother-in-law (in front of his entire family, no less), when he has his own kids, he can choose to feed them whatever he wants.  But he has no right to say anything about the way I choose to raise my children.  I carried them in my womb for 9 months and since the birth of my first son, I have not had even one single day off from being a mum.  Nobody on this planet can possibly care about my kids more than I do and nobody has the right to tell me that by choosing not to give them sugar, I am doing something wrong.

After all. the most common criticism I get is that I am depriving my kids. Of course I am! But depriving them of what?  When people say that I am depriving my kids, they think that because my kids don’t get store-bought candies, cookies, and cakes, I am somehow taking something away from their childhood.  And they’re right – I am taking something away.  Quite a few somethings. I am taking away disease. I am taking away tooth decay. I am taking away uncontrollable bad behavior. I am taking away addiction.

If anybody ever tells you that by disallowing your kids sugar you are depriving them, tell them they are right! And make sure they know exactly what your kids are missing out on.

People also often seem to think it’s wrong for kids to see other people eating something and for them to be told by a parent that they cannot have it.  In this day and age, this is the criticism that baffles me most.  After all, allergies and dietary restrictions have become commonplace.  You won’t hear someone criticized for not allowing their celiac child to have bread when all the other kids are eating sandwiches!  I also get this criticism a lot when it comes to me not allowing my kids to eat meat.  But I never get this criticism when it comes to my decision to keep kosher.

There seems to be a strange dichotomy when it comes to food choices that are bound by religious or allergy restrictions versus those choices bound by, well, choice.  My motivations all have to do with health.  For me, deciding to do something to stay healthy is a motivation that should really be respected.  I mean, don’t we all want to be healthy? Don’t we all want to keep our kids healthy?

I’ve thought about this for a long time and I’ve come to the conclusion that it has to do with a certain human psychology of judgment.  I’ve seen it a lot in other situations and the connection here is clear as day to me.  When someone does something that you know, deep down, you ought to be doing, you feel guilty, bad, or wrong for not doing what you know you should.  Those are uncomfortable feelings to confront and the vast majority of us do not want to own those feelings and that space.  The natural reaction, then, is to lash out at the cause of our discomfort: the person who is doing the thing we see as judgmental.

Take the example of my brother-in-law, for instance.  He doesn’t always eat the healthiest diet and he isn’t in the best overall health for his age.  On the other hand, my husband (his brother), myself, and our kids are all in fantastic health, largely due to the incredibly healthy diet we all maintain.  Perhaps when I refused to allow my toddler to eat sugary candies and chocolates, he saw it as a judgment of his own poor diet.  He knows he shouldn’t be shoveling down the chocolates, but he’s doing it anyway.  Even though judging him for his behavior never entered my mind for even an instant, it did enter his mind, and that’s what counts.

Is this fair? Well, perhaps not, but it is normal and it is the way of the world.  It’s the reason why a friend eating a fatty unhealthy steak dinner almost invariably pokes fun of my healthy salad for dinner.  It’s the reason why as someone who is religious I have been put down by secular people for my beliefs.  Virtually all of us do this in some arena or another.  When we feel insecure and we know we are not doing what is best for us to do, we feel confronted when we see someone doing something that takes courage, verve, and confidence we simply do not have.

I find that when I am criticized for my decisions to keep my kids healthy, whether that means keeping them away from sugar or keeping them away from meat, I keep this understanding of basic human psychology to the forefront of my mind.  The criticism does not mean I am doing something wrong – to the contrary, criticism means I am doing something right.