Halloween Advance Strategy

Christopher's Halloween Candy

Anyone who hasn’t yet heard enough about Halloween is in the right place, because Childhood Obesity News has plenty more on tap. Parents, think back to previous Halloweens, especially last year. Did you make any notes to yourself about doing things differently?

Because individuals and families vary greatly, nothing works for everybody, but it is definitely worth trying some ideas to ameliorate the holiday stress. And of course the family situation is very different, depending on whether there is one child or more, and their various ages, and so on. Older siblings will “blow the gaff.” Obviously, the easiest case to deal with is an only child. With any luck, parents can keep a singleton from finding out about Halloween at a precocious age, and win a grace period of a year or two.

When children are accustomed to “doing” Halloween a certain way, it may require some audacious originality to jolt them out of the rut. But don’t give up on trying to establish a new pattern. As we mentioned last time, a consumer survey showed that an older child might be willing to trade pounds of candy for a new video game. An older sister or brother might also be persuaded to downplay the sugar-festival aspect of Halloween and encourage or participate in different kinds of fun.

Advance Strategy

If it’s a two-parent household or other adults are on the scene, it helps to make sure everybody is on board and understands how Halloween will be handled. The thing to avoid is conflict between authority figures. The grownups need to hash out a policy in advance and wind up on the same page.

If the kids are doing the traditional trick-or-treat rounds in the neighborhood, work out an agreement with some boundaries. It could be a time limit of 30 minutes or an hour. Parents and children can conspire beforehand to map out a route with the most promise of reward, and then stick to it.

See if kids can be coaxed into setting arbitrary rules that increase the challenge. For instance, just to make things interesting, they’re only allowed to go to a house where somebody is already on the porch. Or only allowed to go to a house that is handing out treats, but where nobody is currently asking. Or even-numbered addresses, or odd-numbered ones.

It doesn’t really matter, as long as the rule originates with the kid or kids, and will ultimately advance the parent’s hidden agenda of bringing less sugar home at the end. A decision might be made to eat no sweets while traipsing door-to-door. Other agreements can be made ahead of time, about what happens to the candy that night — only two pieces can be eaten, plus two held out for school tomorrow, with the rest put away for later.

If all the collected items are to be kept, get the child’s cooperation in working out a rationing scheme — two pieces a day, and only in the school lunch. Or only at home, after the evening meal. The idea is to persuade the child to collaborate in setting some kind of limit, just for practice in limit-setting.

Another opinion

In the interest of fairness, we mention an opposing view from Samira Kawash, who wrote for Time.com a piece called “Controlling Your Kids’ Candy Stash Is Bad Parenting.” Kawash learned from a recent survey that almost three-fourths of American parents plan to control their kids’ Halloween candy consumption, and wrote:

When you take away your child’s candy, you are saying that the candy is too dangerous for him or her to handle. That she needs adult protection from her own desire to eat it. That she can’t be trusted to figure out on her own how to manage her candy. These messages aren’t just about candy. These messages are about who your child is as a person.

The job of parents is to help their children become responsible people. And we have to let them make those mistakes for themselves. Let your kids be in control, and show them you trust them to follow through.

But Childhood Obesity News does not advocate dictatorial control. That’s why we emphasize such terms as persuade, coax, cooperate and collaborate. When parents and kids negotiate and reach an agreement ahead of time, everybody wins.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Controlling Your Kids’ Candy Stash Is Bad Parenting,” Time.com, 10/31/13
Image by Jim, the Photographer

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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