M&M’s Are the Answer to Everything

Dr. Oz says using food as a reward is a great way to screw up your kid for life. But I say, listening to Dr. Oz is a great way to screw you up forever. It’s not that I don’t agree with Dr. Oz, it’s just I think he’s smarmy and bossy.


“You think you are better than me, Dr. Oz!” I yell at my TV while I eat cheerios out of the couch cushions.

“You’re not better than me!”

Regardless of our personal differences, for most of my parenthood I’ve tried to avoid using food as a reward. I reward good behavior with stickers, hugs and high fives.

But at 18 months old, none of that was getting Ellis to walk. So, with the threat of physical therapy and visits to the pediatric neurologist hanging over our heads, I got serious. Dead serious. A 5-pound-bag-of-M&Ms kind of serious. I also spent $50 in new shoes—Ones that sparkle and another pair that squeaked, also some gold glitter boots from Target, because they were more practical than the leather suede boots so popular with the under two crowd these days.

While I personally don’t think that my perfect-ray-of-sunshine-golden-baby-angel-princess is spoiled. But the idea she had to work for a treat came as a cold, cold shock to her. It’s going to be a rough day when she goes to kindergarten and some kid pours glue on her and smacks her in the butt, just because he can. Consequently, our first let’s-get-this-kid-walking session didn’t go well. Ellis spent most of our training time sitting on the floor with an outstretched hand.

“Em ems!” She demanded like we were the ones who needed training.

“You have to stand up,” I said.


And so it went. Until we got her to stand, handed her an M&M and the light flickered on. You know that light that will have to be extinguished years later in therapy when she tries to understand why she feels the need to reward herself with brownies when she mops the floor. That light. It is my deepest and most heartfelt prayer that when that moment comes, and she stands before me accusingly and says, “YOU DID THIS TO ME!”

That I will say, “Yes, but did you notice how you were able to stand up and walk over to me and say that?”

Two days ago and after three sessions of M&M assisted walking, Ellis took twelve unassisted steps toward my husband and toddled twelve more in an effort to chase mama. Yesterday, at the park, all on her own and without prompting, she boldly took three steps to get to the slide.

So, I’m not saying every parent should use food as a reward. But I am saying M&Ms may be the best thing that ever happened to us. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to eat some of the Fritos that I hid in the pocket of this hoodie.

It’s my reward.


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