Please stop giving my children sweets

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Okay mums and dads, I have an issue. It’s this: parents handing out sweets to other children to mark a special occasion such as a birthday.

sweets, healthy eating, diet, healthy children
That’ll be me, holding up some of the items I do not want given to my children without being asked first.

It’s not so much the fact that parents give away sweets. What bothers me most is the poor quality of the sweets and the fact I’m often not told or put in a position where I can’t say no without creating a socially awkward situation. I’ve written in the past about my dislike of people I don’t know offering my kids sweets, but it seems to have become an issue among those who my kids know.

Some will disagree and think I’m being a bit harsh. Truth is, it has become a real problem. I want to decide when my kids get treats.

We all fight a constant battle to encourage our children to eat healthily. I do not want my children fed with sweets that are lurid pink or fizz when put on the tongue simply because another child has something to celebrate. When I see kids eating this stuff I can’t help thinking a cup full of effluent from Chernobyl would be healthier.

I usually have very good reasons for limiting my offspring’s supply of sweets. We reward good behaviour every few days with treats. Sometimes these treats come in the form of good quality sweets. If someone gives my kids sweets before the behaviour has been rewarded, well, the system breaks down. Sometimes we limit access to sweets because there’s been a discipline issue. Having someone else offer or simply giving the children sweets does not help in this situation.

I couldn’t resist having some fun. If you click on the video below, you can watch as I pulverise a selection of sweets in our juicer. It was a very therapeutic experience.

It happens at my eldest daughter’s school often enough. The real problem, however, is with Izzy’s pre-school. For some reason the tradition among the parents is particularly strong in this setting.

Many of Izzy’s peers have left pre-school and started in reception class. During August and the beginning of September, at least one child seemed to leave for school every day. Their parents frequently marked the occasion with sweets of the lowest quality.

What started as a steady trickle of sweets quickly became a raging torrent of Z-grade confectionery. Clearly the parents felt under pressure to join in this game of (what I shall call) Childhood Toxicology Russian Roulette.

Thankfully Izzy doesn’t go to pre-school every day. If she did, I suspect her blood sugar levels would still be recovering.

It became so pervasive the manager of the pre-school took me to one side and explained she won’t permit it next year. Personally I feel she should have stepped in this year but c’est la vie, it’s too late now.

It was, I have to say, ridiculous. More than once Izzy was presented with two carrier bags full of sweets to choose from. With all her little friends looking on choosing sweets at the same time, I couldn’t intervene without triggering a major meltdown.

Sometimes when we got out the door I took the sweets off her and substituted them for chocolate, feeling it was the lesser of two evils. On other occasions I simply threw the sweets away and I have no issue admitting it.

It reminds me of the days when I worked in an office environment. Some people would mark their birthday with donuts from the local supermarket for all their colleagues.

On one occasion a French guy celebrated his birthday. With French panache, he bought produce from a patisserie. No, these items probably weren’t any healthier but the quality was far superior and they proved immensely popular.

Using his example, I have found myself wondering what would happen if I packed my kids off to school or pre-school with Kalamata olives and oat cakes to mark their birthdays and other events. Who knows, it might prove really popular among the kids and make a statement about healthy eating.

What do you think about this tradition? Do you think it is correct for parents to dole out sweets to other kids to mark their child’s birthday?

34 thoughts on “Please stop giving my children sweets”

  1. Have to say thankfully it’s not an issue I’ve come across here in Ireland.
    All primary schools have healthy eating policies.

    I’d do the same as you if it did happen I think.

    1. Interesting. I wonder if healthy eating is better policed in the Republic. This post was mainly about Izzy’s pre-school, but sweets do get handed out at the eldest’s school. Not, however, in the same quantities.

      As for doing what I do, I thoroughly recommend pulversising the sweets in a blender.

  2. It’s not clear from this if it’s really the sweets you’re objecting to or the poor quality of them. At E’s nursery and now at school, there have been a few times this has happened, but you’re looking at once a month at the most, I think. S and I solve it by saying sometimes she can spread the bigger amounts out over time and she has in many cases forgotten about them. But perhaps this has happened more frequently to you?

    Even so, perhaps the wider lesson about sharing, about joint celebration, and inclusion are as important here? And perhaps consider that many parents may not be able to afford more than a box of Haribo, and just want to be nice.

    Good luck with the olives. E ate one once, and once will do.

    1. Well, a few people have misunderstood this post. Here is the maths. A total of 40 kids left my youngest’s nursery during August and September. That’s roughly 50 business days during which 40 kids left the establishment, the majority of them handing out sweets. They didn’t leave in one go, it was spread out so pretty much every day Izzy was at pre-school, some awful confectionery would be offered to her as she left. This was generally done right in front of the other kids or while other kids were also helping themsleves. To intervene would have led to a confrontation. Added to this, she has an older sister who was being left out of the gift sharing, leading to arguments.

      Yes, parents were trying to do something nice. In reality it was ill-thought and deeply unhelpful.

      Am I more bothered about the fact people are offering kids sweets or the quality? Both! It would be avoidable if people would ask me first or simply hand the sweets to me. Of course my kids eat sweets, but I want a say in when they eat them and how often. That’s not control but parental responsibility.

      As for the olives, Izzy absolutely loves them. Ironically, however, she will only eat them if they have been stored in brine.

  3. It happens at my daughter’s primary school too. Every time someone has a birthday, they take in sweets. Like you, I think chocolate is the lesser of the evils, so I always send my kids in with treat size chocolate buttons. I do let the kids eat them, instead of the biscuit they would normally eat when they get in from school, but my kids are older and bigger and those quantities of sugar would have less effect on them.
    My biggest issue with it used to be that it caused arguments. Every single time, the sibling would ask for a sweet and it would be refused, causing a sulk. I said we needed a rule to stick to – either that they always gave a sweet to their sibling or that they never did (because the other child would have 29 packets of sweets over the course of the year too), but they never could agree and we continued to have sulks. It was quite a relief when my son went to secondary school!

    1. Now there’s a thought. Secondary school kids handing out chocolate buttons!

      Anyway, yes, arguments. The other reason I dislike this practice. I have had to mitigate in so many such arguments and it tires me out. Of course I only have two kids. You have three to deal with! Am I against my kids having sweets? No. Do they get offered sweets too often…yes, and they are often junk. The inspiration for this post was the summer holidays. During that time 40 kids left her pre-school. That’s 40 kids leaving over 50 (ish) working days. The majority were handing out sweets. That, to me, is excessive.

  4. Louise Fairweather

    I hate it, but I follow suit as my kids want me to. Haribo seems to be the “correct” thing where we are as more kids can eat it. Would rather not do it. It was even worse at my youngest’s pre school as a lot of parents put chocolate in the Christmas cards!

    1. Chocolate in the Christmas cards. Not come across that before! I do wonder if there’s a pre-school / school thing going on here. Parents of pre-schoolers might not have older kids and be a little more liberal? That’s not a criticism, I know I made (continue to make!) mistakes every day. I think parents of school aged kids are possibly a little more on the pulse with these things having had more experience of dealing with the fall out. As it happens, I don’t tow the line. I won’t hand out sweets as I think it can cause so many problems. I’m happy to be labelled the miserable one!

  5. My mum and dad were ahead of the game with this. When I was little (now 34 sob) we were NEVER allowed crappy sweets and would he sent in with fun size choc bars. Yes – still sugar but less of the evil rubbish and much nicer?! I recall kids taking the mickey out of me for it! But I don’t have a single filling yet – -and neither do my 4 brothers! Charlie @realgirlramblings

    1. Your parents and I are on the same page. I’m not against my kids having sweets. Prohibition would be the worst course of action. All I ask is that parents ask me before giving my kids sweets or hand them to me, instead of the kids. If they’re handed out to an entire class in one go, some of the kids start eating them immediately, your’s then wants to join in, any siblings who weren’t included then have a melt down and it gets ugly. I don’t mind my kids having sweets but I do want a say in what they eat and when. And yes, I would rather my kids ate chocolate than something that’s lurid pink in colour.

    2. I agree, I can’t stand how normalised excessive sugar giving is and it’s not just cheap confectionary in my opinion, it’s everything. My issue is exasperated by the fact that my son had to have a harrowing operation to get some teeth out as a very young child because of damage to his teeth from having fevers. The sugar he ate then, though minimal, damaged his teeth and they rotted. I was mortified and have been absolutely militant ever since, particularly as he woke up from the anaesthetic in a psychotic state which was so terrifying. There is a very unhealthy culture of thinking that giving sugar is kind and fun. It’s not. It’s completely and utterly irresponsible! I know I sound like the fun police and I’m without fail, in the minority including with my son’s dad who doesn’t see the problem. It’s a constant battle and my son is 11! It doesn’t stop at pre school and continues on until later years. I do have to strike a balance though, because demonising it has made my child obsessed with it and he has a very sweet tooth. I really think we ought to change the culture around food and rewards and all we can do is teach the benefits of healthy food and eating, which I try to do with my food intolerant and fussy-eater – not an easy task! Well done for standing up for yourself, it’s tough in the minority, but you’re right to do this for your children, even if they won’t thank you for it now.

  6. We’re the same and never buy the stuff for the kids. Monkey gets a lolly from the hairdresser when he has his hair cut which I’m ok with as he used to be a nightmare getting it cut so its a treat for being a good boy. I always think anything in moderation is fine but hate it being taken out of our control by other parents and the frequency of birthdays of his classmates so I agree with where you’re coming from. I hate feeling obligated to do it in return too and wonder how it would go down if I sent in something healthy instead! I also hate the social awkwardness when you want to say no, my neighbour always tries to give the kids sweets about half an hour before teatime and I am left feeling like the mean mummy for saying no because I want them to eat a good meal, sorry for the long comment, clearly touched a nerve 🙂

    1. I find this comment fascinating. Someone on Facebook (where else) has remarked that it sounds “like I have a control thing”. As it happens I do! I want to have a certain element of control over what my kids eat and how they are educated. You’re quite right: that parental control is eroded by other parents. I also think it should be referred to as responsibility, not control! As for the neighbour doling out sweets just before bedtime, yes, we’ve had similar. You then say no, it kicks off an argument with your kids and everything goes horribly wrong. If people want to offer my kids sweets: fine. Please just ask me first. It would avoid so many problems.

  7. I’d love you to meet the woman in our town that thrusts lollies in kids hands then angrily demands money from parents! Needless to say we give her a wide birth. The sweets thing hasn’t been an issue yet, once in a year so far. I think as long as it’s not often I wouldn’t mind but as we are usually on the way home for dinner, I could do without the battle of trying to explain he can’t have them straight after school!

    1. Well she sounds like an interesting individual! If it isn’t often, I don’t mind too. Unfortunately it got excessive over the summer period. I fear my patience was tried just a bit too much when I discovered the kids secretly gorging on sweets that had been doled out over the summer months. These were sweets that had been squirreled away. It was too much. Pretty much all 40 kids who left my daughter’s pre-school over the summer were giving out sweets. That’s a lot to dish out over a two month period.

  8. It’s not allowed on many schools now as they work towards healthy schools status / dental awards or are aware of cultural issues / allergies etc etc.
    My children school encourage a gift of a book to the class.

    1. Well Colette, I’m not going to tell you my eldest’s school has stamped out this behaviour entirely (it has “healthy school” status, btw) but the real issue is my youngest daughter’s pre-school. I’ve had a few people on Facebook paint me as some kind of evil killjoy. The maths, however, says it all. In total 40 kids left the school over two months. That’s approx 50 business days with 40 kids leaving the pre-school during that period. For whatever reason, the parents seemed to loose the plot and bring in carrier bags of sweets. It was excessive. Added to this the usual battle of other relatives etc giving the kids sweets and it all builds up. A gift of a book to the class is a brilliant idea.

  9. I agree. Especially as the sweets always seem to be the vile Haribo. Although I have to say that mostly at our school or pre-school it’s always seemed to be nice homemade biscuits or the like rather than sweet lollies which N is not allowed. Given that the dentist said no sweets, he only has them occasionally, but it’s not great to have to take them away after they’ve been given them.

    The worst at the moment is at tennis club.They have a leftover tub of swizzels sweets (love hearts etc) from holiday camp. So if the kids have been good they’ve allowed a pack of sweets afterwards. Thankfully another mum is going to complain so I’m hoping that’ll put a stop to it, otherwise I’ll have to mention it. A) it’s sweets and b) sports shouldn’t be rewarded with sweets.

    1. Eurgh, I hate all those sweets. The tennis club must smarten up its act. Such sweets have no place in a sports club. As for lollies, I can’t stand them. Artificially colourd sugar on a stick. What is the point?

  10. I agree. Mine actually rarely end up reading them. We save them for another time then file them under b1n when they’ve forgotten about them. My girls would be delighted with your offering of olives and we’d even let them eat those. Go for it 😉

  11. Coincidentally Tilly’s preschool has just announced that they’re no longer allowing birthday treats. I think this move is sensible. Food is a minefield for parents and it feels we’re constantly fending off brightly coloured products full of sugar and chemicals. Good intentions by a parent can unintentionally open a Pandora’s box to a world of low quality treats that can be extremely difficult to close again. I also completely agree that treats are often rewards and shouldn’t be readily available to young children.

    1. I am going to be speaking to Izzy’s pre-school. Ironically, the day after I published this post I went to pick her up and, surprise surprise, it was some kids birthday and sweets were being handed out. It is a Pandora’s Box. What is meant as a nice gesture is, in fact, incredibly inconsiderate behaviour.

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  14. I just raised this very issue with our childrens school. We have expressed our unhappiness with the practice and explained that our childrens teeth, weight and long term health are a concern to us as parents. We provide them with a good healthy diet and occasional treats, including sweets and deserts. They also love fruit and things like carrot sticks, cucumber and cherry tomatoes,which makes them very happy children, even without these damn poor quality Haribo;s and stuff from other children at school

    The School have invited us in for a meeting, and I suspect we are going to be lectured on how we are control freaks or destroying their happiness. I am prepared to tell them that all I want to hear is that they will stop this practice or, at the very least, respect our wishes and stop the distribution to our children. If they won’t then I will take it further with the ultimate sanction being removing my children to a school that wont allow this practice.

    1. I’d love to know how you got on with your school. So many seem to have ‘healthy school status’ these days yet do little or nothing to stop this from going on (although how you stop mums and dads from doing this in the playground is a tough one).

      Glad you agree and well done for raising it with the school.

    2. Mrs Teeth protector

      I’m glad you want to protect your child’s health as I do. I feel alone in my concern, as I feel if I raise it with other parents I will appear to be a party pooper. what happened In the meeting with the school? What has happened at the school since, did they issue a healthy eating policy on no sweets to be handed out or did they have one in place before, that just
      wasn’t enforced?

    3. I’m so glad I’m not the only person who feels like this! Everyone makes me think I’m a sugar control freak.

      1. You are soooo not the only person who feels like this. Other people should get a grip. If you think of how often your kids get access to sugary sweets, it’s a lot. Othr parents don’t help and I hate it when parents hand out sweets at the school gate.

  15. Mrs Teeth protector

    My child’s school has a healthy eating policy of no sweets but the parents (and teachers at Xmas) still hand out sweets for birthdays, often twice a week, then party cones at the weekends too at parties with about 100g sweets in, all covered in citric acid to eat away at their teeth while they play in the playground.
    I have spoken to my child’s teacher about my concern as I want to be able to protect my child’s adult molars to avoid them having dental decay and to protect my child’s stomach from so much acid in the sweets as my child has digestion problems at times. It is difficult to say no to your child and make them left out in front of another parent and child on their birthday. I shouldn’t be put in that position, the school should just say no, “please don’t hand sweets out outside the classroom door” and take the sweets out of the school and us parents won’t be subject to peer pressure to offer sweets every birthday at school so our child gets to ‘join in’ with the group teeth decay club.

    1. It’s something mums and dads do that drives me crazy. It’s so inconsiderate. Not only is it unhealthy, but more often than not, my eldest child emerges with sweets and then the youngest kicks off because she hasn’t got any. This, despite the school have a healthy eating policy.

  16. Hi we’re the same here. We don’t ever give sweets to our children. We get loads of them at birthday parties, from school Halloween parties etc, from friends for birthdays… we don’t give any of them, we tell them exactly what’s in them and they are disgusted! We swap them with a little good quality chocolate….they’re happy at that. We have also shown them pictures of children with rotten teeth…
    It’s difficult as other parents look at us as if we have horns! I’m stubborn and assertive so just say why we’re not giving sweets…gunk in them, crushed beetles, boiled skin and feet, sugar…not good for their teeth, blood ….choking risk for little ones….my children so far are good at refusing or taking and giving to us…. we had similar issues with dummies,…. we don’t buy them and told we should get them and use them….we hate them and they didn’t need them, although times it might have helped quite them temporarily but I’d rather human natural methods rather than shutting them up! Our children are exceptionally confident, clever, happy and articulate so we’re happy so far with our decisions….

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