Published May 28, 2013
She’s known in the modeling world as “the body”, but supermodel Heidi Klum admits to paying her kids to eating healthy.
Klum ignited discussions in the parenting and health-care worlds when she admitted to paying her children to drink their fruit smoothies for breakfast every day. Klum has four children who she shares custody with ex-husband and singer Seal.
"Some of my kids don't love it so I decided I would pay them a dollar if they finish their drink," Klum said in an article in the UK’s Daily Mail. "All of the money goes into their piggy banks; they have collected a bunch of money since January 1. What's good for them is good for me as well."
But some experts caution parents against bribing children to encourage healthy habits.
“Anytime a parent tells me they are using money as a reward, I say, ‘You will get poor,’” says Denise Kilway, pediatric nurse practitioner at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. “If you want your child to do something healthy every day, several times a day, not all of us have the financial resources to do that. You want them to have healthy behaviors because they want to have them.”
Explaining to children why a certain behavior is beneficial for them is more productive, she says. For example, telling them that milk helps their body and bones to be strong thanks to its calcium content. If that fails, try connecting points to certain behaviors and have them keep track of their points and cash them in at week’s end.
“Maybe they get special time with mom or dad at the end of the week, or do something like read a favorite book with them,” she says. “A positive rewards system is a good thing, but we don’t want them to expect food or money as a reward.”
Dr. Elaine Heffner, author of “Good Enough Mothering,” says that children shouldn’t become dependent on rewards to execute healthy lifestyles.
“If you want responsible, independent, functioning children, they should develop an interest in doing [healthy habits] themselves. They develop self esteem for doing it on their own.”
For parents to have their children develop and continue healthy eating habits throughout the course of their lives, it’s important to have a long-term plan and according to Heffner, offering cash or rewards may only be a short-term fix.
“I can sympathize and identify with the feelings Klum is having, but I wouldn’t use it as a prescription,” she says.