Once in a while I stumble upon a piece of parenting advice that is so brilliant, I feel the need to share it with each and every parent around me. This is a piece of advice that is time-tested and truly nothing short of brilliant. Prepare to be blown away. (Okay, chances are, this is a no-brainer for some of you, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say for others, it will change your life.)
For years, my husband and I struggled with the daily dessert debacle in our home. Just as quickly as our children were putting full sentences together, they realized the serious dessert bargaining power they could command over us. A simple nails on a chalkboard whine would change our fatigued 7 PM “no'” to “yes” more often than not, and dessert was commonplace in our dining room. I wasn’t especially proud of the amount of sugar my kids had night after night but moreso, I was pretty disappointed that dessert became a reward for eating dinner. My husband and I both feel pretty strongly that dinner be had together, sitting at the table, but with the potential sweets looming in the near future, our precious time together was nothing short of a stressful mess. The fruitful conversations and healthy eating habits were nowhere to be found. There was bargaining, whining, promising and crying. (And that was just from the adults.)
A friend of mine mentioned in conversation that her family was a “weekends only” dessert family. Initially it sounded kind of batty to me. Who does that? So restrictive! Barbaric almost! But as I thought through her family’s dessert routine, I had my light bulb moment. Well, it wasn’t my light bulb since it wasn’t actually my idea, but you get the picture.
And so, our Tuesday/Friday rule was born. As you can imagine, the kids were less than dazzled by this new plan of eating dessert only two nights a week. In fact, we sustained several evenings of fist on floor, no holds barred tantrums. (Which only solidified our decision that we needed a better plan.) But we held strong and the result was nothing short of amazing.
On Tuesdays and Fridays (Fridays because it’s Family Night in our house and Tuesdays because, well, they’re kind of boring otherwise) our kids get dessert after dinner, regardless of behavior and regardless of the quantity and variety of dinner they ate. If we have a dinner at a friend’s house or a birthday or special occasion, exceptions are made. (And presently, we’re visiting my parents in NJ…you bet that we’re cashing in on the treats every night!)
What has resulted since instituting this rule many months ago is a less stressful dinner as well as cleaner parenting consciences. We look forward to dessert nights and plan out what we will enjoy together. Once in a while, we incorporate dessert into the actual dinner, a-la homemade waffles with ice cream, fruit and whipped cream on top. Total hit!
So if you are suffering from some over-sugared kids and are aching for less stress at dinner, give it a whirl for a few weeks. Bet you a brownie that you find dessert becomes a real treat, just as it should be.
By the way, you should probably make these, RIGHT NOW.