Imagine telling a child that they can have all the candy from their sweetie jar they may want!
Are you getting visions of horror? Unruly kids on a sugar high?
Each of my kids has a sweetie jar. It is their prized possession and one that stores all their sweets, but is only opened one day a week.
A rather cool Swedish tradition we have adopted is Sweetie Saturday, Lördagsgodis.
Kids have candy all packed into one day, Saturdays: The rationale is that their teeth get exposed to all the sugar just once a week, instead of in small doses daily, making it easy to brush more vigorously and prevent cavities.
My kids have loved picking up this tradition, especially as Saturday’s our “lazy” day with no fixed agenda, besides the fun of what we make up or what the weather inspires. It can be anything from a stroll in the woods, to ice skating on the lake or just watching telly all day (while us parents do DIY projects.)
The day often starts with hagelslag, Dutch chocolate sprinkles, on their cereal or toast. It then continues with the kids choosing pieces from their prized and protected candy jars throughout the day. The only exception to unlimited sweetie jar access are the restrictions about half an hour to an hour before lunch and dinner.
Although we have adopted the Sweetie Saturday full-heartedly, the part we haven’t adopted is heading to the HUGE candy isle on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning with the kids and giving them free range with their pocket money.
The choices are overwhelming on some of these confectionery pick and mix isles!
Slightly unsurprising, seeing these candy section, that the Swedes eat the most candy of any country in the world – a whopping 17kg per person every year! Despite the reputation of leading relatively healthy lifestyles, Swedes ingest more than 50 kg of sugar each year, a quarter of which is confectionery. That’s 3 times the amount recommended by the World Health Organisation!
That’s not us though! Most of our kids’ sweets come from party bags, Halloween, Easter and gifts from visiting family and friends. I will occasional buy some for cake decoration and give them the left-overs as rewards for good deeds.
The rest of their candy, my kids will buy from money they get from recycling: they take the plastic and glass back to the shops’ recycling centre, and get to keep the “pant”, a recycling deposit to spend that small change on some candy. This helps them in a couple of ways:
- gives them a sense of achievement,
- teaches them about working towards a target,
- recycling becomes second nature
- they get the excitement of choosing and the indulgence
- but also have to make choices with their limited budget.
They work together remarkably well on this task.
No more parental guilt
There are a couple of surprising benefits of this tradition of Sweetie Saturday in that it can be used as a very effective parenting tool:
On one hand, I have no more parental guilt about giving them sweets as a reward, as I know they will, generally, self-regulate eating them to only on Saturdays.
And I don’t feel guilty for not allowing them sweets either for the rest of the week, because it’s actually not me making the “rule”.
The biggest benefit is that we only have to deal with one day of sugar-high and, if I’m well-organised, we actually need the sugar to fuel the outdoor activities of the day.
As for the original intention of Sweetie Saturday in reducing cavities, well it’s hard to judge as each child’s teeth are different. And we learnt this last year at a dental check up … to our shock, the boys both had cavities.
On Saturdays we brush the boys teeth with particular attention and have threatened to do it for Angelina (11, almost 12 years old) too.
Parenting and big consequences of behaviour
The sweetie jar has actually become a really effective parenting tool: as a big consequence to an action, i.e. doing something bad that needs to be nipped in the bud very quickly, my kids may loose the sweetie jar for a Saturday.
I know some parenting gurus say that we should reward good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour, so as not to fuel it. However, there are times, I feel, when actions need to have consequences, beyond stopping the behaviour and rationalising it. The sweetie jar has proved a powerful motivator and demotivator.
The unexpected- happy- consequence of the candy jar
The sweetie marketplace
Over the past 2 years, since we have adopted the Swedish Sweetie Saturday, my kids have shown some ingenuity on using their sweetie jar and it’s content among themselves: they have become very good at bargaining among themselves for sweets and swapping treats.
We have had to intervene only a few times, when the youngest was being duped and getting a rather unfair deal.
Somehow sibling rivalry also subsides a little on Sweetie Saturdays: if only one of the three have lost their sweetie jar for the week, I often find the others offering a treat or two from their own stash to the sibling. They are showing compassion!
This is totally allowed and is up to them to do. My heart was bursting with pride when we first saw it happen!
It’s a life lesson, I reckon, that whatever the actions and the punishment, we should still look at the humanity of the person and show compassion, as long as they are showing remorse. This doesn’t mean that they are pardoned from their punishment though.
Would love to hear your thoughts on Sweetie Saturday in general and as a parenting tool. Would you adopt it?
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