This evening, my children will be dressing up and running about in their neighborhood, knocking on doors and requesting candy. If they match last year’s performance, they’ll be bringing home multiple pounds of mini candy bars, Sweet Tarts, and other goodies.
Naturally, they’ll eat a few pieces while they’re out and about – I certainly did when I was their age.
When they get home, though, we put their bags of candy off to the side and get ready for bed.
The next night, things have changed a bit.
Sometime, during the day on November 1, we combine their Halloween hauls into a single large container.
From that day on, they’re allowed to pull one treat per night out of the treat container after dinner.
Why do we do it this way? There are several reasons, most of them tied into personal finance lessons for the kids.
First, spreading out the candy like this allows it to last longer. Our candy tub will last well past Christmas without any need for refills.
Second, it teaches our kids to control impulsiveness and spread out pleasure. Rather than simply gorging on a pile of candy all at once only to find themselves out by November 5, they’re learning that by not eating it all at once, they have candy left over for the rest of the year. This is, of course, reinforced by comments from Mom and Dad.
Third, it promotes healthy eating. It’s okay to have a small piece of candy after supper. It’s not healthy to down a pound of sugar in one sitting. This isn’t really a personal finance thing specifically However, it does encourage long-term healthy behaviors, which, over the course of their lives, should decrease health care costs.
Finally, it helps strengthen their decision-making process. As I’m getting the tub down, I usually encourage them to think about what kind of treat they want this evening. Do they want something chocolate-y? How about something a bit tart? I’ll even ask them each what kind of thing they want.
Amazingly, I’ve found that this little “pre-decision” helps them to find a treat much faster. Without doing it, they will often dig around in the tub for a minute or more and usually end up trying to talk me into letting them have two or three pieces. With the little trick, they usually find exactly what they’re looking for within ten seconds.
I truly think this is similar to why shopping lists work. In both cases, you already have in mind what you’re going to get, so it’s just a matter of finding it.
Of course, these aren’t perfect lessons, but what you find as a parent is that no lesson is the perfect one. Instead, you just try to teach principles over and over and encourage them to apply them as often as possible – things like making better eating choices and controlling impulsiveness.
Halloween candy can certainly help with those things.