Am I a bad parent if I give my kids candy?

A dentist offers points to consider about letting children binge on Halloween candy

CNN News Wire | 10/30/2013, 12:31 p.m.
Every Halloween, I get the same questions from parents: “Should I let my kids have candy?” “How much candy is ...
  • It’s an unhealthy message. All year long, we tell our children, “Don’t take candy from strangers.” But isn’t Halloween asking them to do just that, making an exception? What if that confusing and conflicting message were to jeopardize a child’s safety one day?
  • Halloween doesn’t teach moderation. The binge culture that Halloween promotes might be just as damaging as the sugar itself. The name of the Halloween game is, how much candy can you get in your bag before midnight? Or worse — how much can you eat in one sitting? Candy is no longer a treat for Saturdays from the candy shop — it now comes in big bags from warehouse stores.

It’s all about quantity, rather than an infrequent treat that is savored. Grandma was right when she said “everything in moderation.” Those who live the longest, healthiest lives cite moderation as key to their longevity.

  • Selling and marketing food to children is big business. The food industry spends nearly $2 billion annually to market and advertise food to children and adolescents. Children are vulnerable to messages from their favorite television character who is endorsing a candy.

So, how bad is candy? You’ll have to make the decision for yourself and for your family, but the important issue is that we’re aware of the physical and psychological costs of candy and can make an educated decision about it.

One solution I’ve found to all this madness to invoke the spirit of the Great Pumpkin, who collects candy left on doorsteps every Halloween night to replace the candy with a real treat — a book, new computer game, skateboard, etc.

So, are you a bad parent if you let your children eat Halloween candy? I’d encourage you to ask a different question: Am I empowering my children with healthy habits and knowledge before they go trick-or-treating this Halloween? Am I an enabler to all the candy madness, or am I modeling healthy habits and moderation?

One of the responsibilities of parenthood is educating our children and setting them up with healthy habits that they’ll carry through to adulthood and even on to the next generation. We likely aren’t going to bar our children from going trick-or-treating, but modeling and teaching them what happens afterward is what will determine their habits around candy for life.

If you can answer yes to all those questions, then you and your children are in the clear. Healthy habits are the real treat.

Dr. Mark Burhenne | CNN