Can we get a Jolly Rancher for an A? A Snickers for winning a trivia game? Or how about a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup just for showing up?
Nope. No more. At least not in one school district. KSTP news has reported that the Wayzata School District in Minnesota has decided to no longer allow teachers to use candy as an incentive for students. The district plans to end food rewards this fall, after it was awarded a $62,000 grand from the Minnesota Department of Health.
As youth leader of a senior and junior high school group at church, food rewards are something I encounter on a weekly basis. When I first started in the role, there was a half second where I thought about not doing it out of concern for calories. However, I have since decided to take what I like to call the “grandparent” approach to the situation. As in, I only see the kids for a short time each week, so I might as well spoil them when I do.
One Valentine’s Day party in particular stands out in my mind as the shinning example of this. I handed out Fun Dip Valentines to the students that year, and one girl had apparently never tried the treat before. She spent the last 20 minutes of group beaming and exclaiming “I LOVE FUN DIP! FUN DIP IS AWESOME! THIS IS SO DELICIOUS!” I then sent the very hyper child on her way and back to her parents, like any good grandparent would.
Plus, food has the added advantage of attracting students to come to the group. It’s an incentive I just cannot underestimate, especially among the male students. I have literally seen the teenage boys successfully invite their friends to group by exclaiming the awesomeness of the food offerings.
I admit that maybe the whole approach isn’t the ideal situation for the parents, but it works out great for me and the students. It’s a small cost for a sweet reward that actually does encourage students.
Also, realistically, I figure that at the end of the day, most kids (at least the ones in my youth group) already are being pushed to exhibit self control and make good choices during so much of their time, that once in a while, a sweet treat is in order. And so, candy wins out because a sticker just does not carry the same marvelous quality as a FUN SIZE Butterfinger. Never has. Never will.