a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Apr, 2009

Little rituals

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Ottawa for kids|Ottawa|Recipes and Food

Good grades Hard work deserves a reward. So we went to dinner at Dick’s Dairy Dip.

The beer was on sale. Is that even legal?

Dinner at Dick's Dairy

Sarah told us she was cold. So she kept her hat and scarf on the entire time.

I love this photo:

Sarah and Mark at Dick's Dairy

The dinner ended with a banana split, shared four ways.

Here’s the before shot:

Banana Split at Dick's Dairy - the before shot

And here’s the after:

Banana Split at Dick's Dairy - the after shot

If we hadn’t forbidden it, someone would have licked the bowl clean.

18 Responses to "Little rituals"

1 | Don

April 1st, 2009 at 9:07 am


Awww. Congrats to Sarah for earning a little treat.

It reminds me of my parents rewarding me by taking the family to Dairy Queen after I handed them a positive report card to sign.

I’m glad that the family decided to share the dessert.

One time, my parents ordered me a banana split, while they each had chocolate cover cones. Afterward, I questioned the benefit of hard work with my ensuing tummy ache. On the bright side, I quickly learned restraint when it comes to sweets…

2 | andrea

April 1st, 2009 at 9:12 am


The experts say parents shouldn’t reward their children with food … but sometimes it’s hard not to. What do you think?

3 | Ms. Porter

April 1st, 2009 at 9:54 am


I love that photo of Sarah and Mark too! Thank you for sharing so many pics of your family (and everyday life), I feel like I know them so well…odd no?

Congrats on good grades!!!! I don’t think there is anything wrong with rewarding kids with food…or anything else. Humans celebrate with food, it’s totally normal. But then again, I don’t have problems with people who reward their kids with money either. Last night could have just been a family night…time spent together having fun but instead you bumped up the ‘special factor’ by acknowledging good grades. Looks like it was a fun time.

4 | Mom On The Go

April 1st, 2009 at 10:03 am


I think that the experts are right – for the most part. I don’t think that it’s a good idea to “pay” your kids with food, or pay for hard work or good grades or most behaviours with anything – food, cash or otherwise. An occasional celebration of an achievement with a special experience that includes food doesn’t establish the sort of payment that I like to avoid.

5 | Don

April 1st, 2009 at 10:04 am


From my arm chair point of view (I have no children yet), rewarding children should be a question of appropriate reward for appropriate achievement. My parents rewarded the family for good report cards, not good marks on tests, assignments, or projects. Such taught us to set longer term goals. Eating out, Dairy Queen or otherwise, was a luxury during the recession of the 80s. It was more enjoying a trip out with my family that was the reward, not the ice cream.

6 | andrea

April 1st, 2009 at 10:24 am


We do make a big point of telling the girls we’re going out for dinner to celebrate their hard work, not for their scholastic achievement. The emphasis (for us) is special family time… during which we happen to share a sweet treat.

Would love to hear other opinions. Fact is I don’t want them to end up with eating disorders…. rewarding themselves with gallons of ice cream when they feel happy or sad. Still thinking on this.

7 | JoAnn

April 1st, 2009 at 11:37 am


Don’t overanalyze it! As a family you went out and enjoyed a meal together which builds on all the other good memories you and Mark create with your girls. No one wants to encourage their child to use food as an emotional crutch but it isn’t as if everytime your children accomplish something you reward them with food — I don’t know, sometimes I think we spend so much time worrying about the future that we forget to enjoy the present….
Speaking from a “grammie” point of view ;)

8 | Tali

April 1st, 2009 at 11:43 am


Personally, I don’t do food rewards, since I grew up in a family where everyone has some kind of a food issue.

Sometimes we go out for a treat, sometimes we have one at home, but it’s not because anyone behaved well (my kids are younger than yours), and we don’t take the treat away (if they know about it beforehand) if they behave badly.

From what I’ve read about rewards (I think the book often mentioned is Alfie Kohn’s “Unconditional Parenting”), the problem with them is when the external reward becomes the motivator, and the child never develops the internal motivation to, for example, work hard at school. In his book, Kohn goes so far as to say that even a verbal reward (like, “wow, you did a great job on that report card”) gives the child the idea that it’s what the parent thinks that is the most important thing, and that the implication is that the parent will show a little less “love” if the kid doesn’t do well. I’m not sure how I feel about this, and it would be really difficult to put into practice, but it’s definitely worth a read – he’s pretty controversial!

Thinking back to my childhood, my joy at school (and learning) lessened as my parents’ emotional reaction to my grades (good AND bad) deepened. It became less about me learning and more about me making them happy (and I was a really good student). In the long term, I think this made be afraid to try new things, since I was afraid of failing and letting them down.

Of course, I’m not saying that you’re doing any of this, and I’m sure you would never shame your girls for doing badly in school! It’s just something I think about alot, since I’m trying to avoid some of the mistakes I think my parents made (although, for the most part, they were pretty awesome for their generation).

9 | Loukia

April 1st, 2009 at 12:37 pm


I think there is nothing at all wrong with rewarding or celebrating your children’s achievements with something special – dessert, a new gift, a new book, etc… I probably ‘reward’ my children more then I should, though. My children eat healthy (mostly Greek!) meals and I don’t have any restrictions on food items. Like, we always have a big bowl of some type of chocolates in the living room and whenever they want one, they can eat one. This way they really do not eat a lot… because it’s not something that is restricted from them.
What about bribing your children? “Please son/daughter, do what I say/stop yelling/go to bed/etc. and tomorrow I’ll buy you something, etc.? I know this is really frowned upon but I have had to do this at times.

10 | Annie @ PhD in Parenting

April 1st, 2009 at 1:02 pm


I think it is all in the framing. If you’ve all been working hard and haven’t had time to spend together and just enjoy each other, then you can position it that way – i.e. a time to reconnect and enjoy some great food together!

It is hard not to do the food reward though. I have trouble not doing it and my husband does it incessantly. I’m trying to be better at not doing it and trying to slowly bring him around to a different way of doing things.

But I agree that outright bribes are not good. I had a friend that used to get cash on a sliding scale depending on what the letter was on her report card. I always wished my parents did that, but in retrospect I’m glad they didn’t!

11 | Tali

April 1st, 2009 at 1:59 pm


What drives me absolutely nuts is rewarding kids for eating the “yucky” food by giving them something “good”. Way to interfere with their natural hunger signals at the same time as de-valuing the nutritious food.

12 | Canadian Lawyerista

April 1st, 2009 at 2:13 pm


Hmm, I read the post and thought it was a great family night and a celebration for all the hard work your child had done. I get a bonus at work, why shouldn’t my child have incentive to work hard too? And I did not see the night as about food, even though I don’t think there is anything wrong with showing your children that you can enjoy “sometimes foods” some of the time. That is what we tell my children and they enjoy a treat occasionally partly because it is special and partly because it tastes good.

I also had a social worker suggest that I reward my son with candy (he has ADHD and we do a sticker chart thing often). I said NO to that.

13 | LO

April 1st, 2009 at 2:39 pm


I am writing before reading all other comments. REWARD and CELEBRATION are two different concepts. That is all I will say as I am on deadline over here…sigh:)
Okay will just add that CELEBRATION is an important and oft overlooked part of life!
Like the song says, “Celebrate good times…” You define the good times!

14 | LO

April 1st, 2009 at 2:44 pm


Okay,now I have read all and all have great perspectives. We don’t reward monetarily for grades (we would go broke:). We belief in working on deferred gratification as that is truly what gets one to their goals sometimes and is so much a part of real life as opposed to the artificial scenarios one is often put into at school, clubs etc. This is one reason why we support a lot of the Montessori philosophy that children are beings that learn to do things (and learn things) because THEY want to and for the reward they themselves feel when something is achieved and not when a facilitator/teacher or parent is impressed.

15 | Rebecca

April 1st, 2009 at 3:34 pm


I think it’s great to celebrate together as a family, especially if the focus is on the hard work and effort, and if a fun restaurant is the celebration spot, why not?

However, I don’t believe in rewards for good behaviour. Good behaviour is just the norm, not the exception. I don’t bribe with toys or treats, but a special treat once and a while isn’t a bad thing right? I treat myself when I’ve been good!

I also don’t reward for potty training – only positive reinforcement. No treats, stickers etc. We’ll see if I have to change that, but the reward of doing something on his own seems to be working well for other things he learns! His pride is a very influential reward!

16 | Shannon

April 2nd, 2009 at 6:19 am


I think going out as a family to have a fun dinner is a great idea, what ever the reason behind it is!! And I LOVE that place . . .we haven’t been there in ages and I’m drooling looking at your pictures :-)

17 | plastikgyrl

April 2nd, 2009 at 6:53 am


It might be important to mention that one of your kids attends a school where the report cards are sent home without grades, Andrea. In this situation, it genuinely is a reward (or, as Lo stated, a celebration) of effort.
Before I was a parent, and when mine were a lot younger, I was leery of rewarding appropriate behaviour, worried that I’d be setting myself up to have to deal with kids who would regularly ask, “But what’s in it for me” instead of them learning about personal responsibility and pride in a job well done. Ideologically, I’m still there, and am a big believer in fostering intrinsic rewards over extrinsic ones.

Then I got two kids on the autism spectrum, neither of whom *get* nuanced social norms without a lot of support. In order to get them to even notice some of these norms (let alone care about them), I have had to re-evaluate how I approach things a bit, and yeah, “First we do this, then we do that,” with the favoured activity following the less favoured one, is in regular use chez plastikgyrl.

18 | Erin

April 2nd, 2009 at 7:57 am


I’m really worried about my girls developing food issues – I had a terrible bout with an eating disorder in University and I still need to keep an eye on bad habits – especially when I am under stress. I thought your family celebration looked like a lovely time – food, family and celebrating are certainly things that I want my girls to appreciate. I am a bit wary about using food as rewards and treats. I try to balance the sweet treats with food treats of other varieties – having the celebrant choose an exotic fruit to try, choosing a new spice, special napkins or cute dishes – often found at St. Vincent de Paul.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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