Parenting Traps

The padlock in the kitchen

Advocating a policy that’s one cookie shy of an outright ban.

By Virginia A. Smith
January 24, 2010

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It’s 3 in the afternoon, and my house is full of kids. My 15-year-old has four friends over, my 13-year-old has three, and my 7-year-old has one. Somebody calls out for cookies. Most parents would point to the cookie jar, but I head for the lockbox.

The lockbox is a large drawer with a padlock worthy of Gitmo in which I store anything loaded with sugar and fat -- cookies, chocolate chips, Tostitos, marshmallows, frosting -- all stuff I don’t mind my kids having in small quantities. But to John, my middle child, there’s no such thing as moderation. He has never met a grain of sugar, a gram of fat, or a chip of chocolate that he hasn’t wanted to consume immediately.

His two sisters keep reasonable control over their food-related cravings. My spouse, Kathy, cannot control herself in the presence of Oreos, so we keep them out of the house. My weakness is chocolate.

I recently spoke with Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children’s Hospital Boston and author of Ending the Food Fight: Guide Your Child to a Healthy Weight in a Fast Food/Fake Food World. He tells parents to turn their home into a “nutritional safe zone.” Purge the junk food. Then every night make a ritual of dessert -- with healthy food such as dark (not milk) chocolate, whole-grain cookies, dried fruit, roasted nuts, and fruit smoothies.

He was so convincing that at first I wanted to do away with the lockbox and serve only healthy foods. But while my kids could definitely be eating better, they all have low body mass indexes, and I don’t think we can go cold turkey. I’ll keep pushing the fruits and veggies, the whole grains and the low-fat milk, but I do want to have chocolate chip cookies around the house for the kids’ lunches and their friends, and for my occasional cravings, too.

So I will continue to judiciously dole out cookies to the kids. As for me, I’ve got myself under control -- really. After all, I have to. I know the combination.

Where do you draw the line on your kids eating junk food?

  • January 24, 2010 cover
  • january 24 globe magazine cover
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