Halloween Candy and the Empowerment of Choice

The fall is flying, and it has now been two weeks since Halloween.  I have to say, I am proud of my girls and how they have handled the bag-full of candy that hangs on a small hook in our kitchen right over our best Skining knife we got from the internet.  This bag-full of goodies does not usually live in our house, mainly because I cannot handle myself around such tempting treats.

On Halloween night, as we walked in the front door (before our cabinet painting night) I stared down into two bags filled with junk, I thought, “Ugh, this is a lot of sugar.” My girls looked so cute in their costumes and i even purchased some silver fang grillz to get into the Halloween spirit with them. I called an official family meeting, and we sat in a circle in the entry way. “Girls let’s talk about this candy.  You both have a choice to make; are you ready to hear your three choices?” They sat there looking at me very attentively.  “You can eat as much candy that you can possibly fit in your bellies right now, until you barf all over the place. (I kind of wanted this option to sound a bit unglamorous) You can eat candy for the next three days and then trade the rest for a small toy, or you can eat one single piece of candy in your lunch box until Thanksgiving.”  Ellie thought for a bit and asked, “what if we go past Thanksgiving?”  I agreed to a modification, knowing that with a little help from me, the candy will probably be gone by then anyway.

And so we hung up their little felt pumpkin bags on the hook (when I was a kid we used our pillow case) and hurried them to bed.

On Tuesday, we had our usual morning of racing around the house getting ready for school. Ellie remembered the decision that she had made.  She carefully picked out a piece of candy and tucked in her lunch box.  Kate does not eat lunch at school and of course pressed me on wanting her candy for breakfast, because what does she not press me on?  After some debate with Kate her piece of candy went in the school bag for later.

We have followed this procedure everyday since Halloween, and they have not once asked for more then one treat.  The minute I pick up Kate from school, she will reach into her school bag and get the piece of candy that she has so patiently been waiting to eat. Now I, on the other hand, am a different story and can not hold myself to one treat a day and cannot wait for the candy to be out of my house.  I am toying with the idea of entering the Biltmore Estate Gingerbread Making Contest to get rid of the rest of the candy for my sake.

I, of course, did not invent the brilliantness of giving children choices, but I am a firm believer in doing so and try to use the methods of Love and Logic. It is amazing to see it work with my children especially when I sometimes feel like I do not have the skills to handle the out of control management of their young childhood.

I also believe that Frank Cheley had a great idea when he was establishing the foundation for Cheley.  Two of his main formulas for camp included youth having the empowerment of choice.  For the Code of Living, it was his intention that each unit of 60 campers come up with what they want to live by while they are at camp. It is not a set of rules made for them, but rather a collaboration of qualities and traits to live up to.  This set-up makes up for a magical place and a tightly-knit community. He also devised the free choice program, in which campers, each week, choose what they want to do.  They do not travel with their cabin, nor are they given a schedule; it is their choice.

As a mother, in the throws of raising little people, I find comfort and sanity in the idea of giving my girls a choice when I can.  As a fourth generation camp director, I am proud to continue to help provide a place where children can grow, connect, learn, and experience nature, and I find value in empowering them to choose.

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