The M&M Incentive

There’s two very relevant pieces of information that relates to this post. The first being that Clara HATES having her toe and finger nails clipped. Hates as in kicking and screaming, and acting like I’m going to clip off her actual fingers and toes rather than her nails.

The second, is that I got it in my head to buy her a white duvet cover for her big girl bed. And while it’s wasn’t overly expensive comparatively, (I looked at Bed Bath and Beyond, Home Outfitters and Winners), by Ikea standards it was one of their pricier ones.


The white duvet cover hasn’t been an issue for the most part. Most of the toys in her room are either stuffed animals or books and the only food she consumes in her room is the milk she has before falling asleep. So in theory, I should have been able to avoid this:


Except I got it into my head that Clara might respond better to having her toenails trimmed if she had an incentive. So I decided to do this:


And it worked. She received an M&M for each finger or toe nail that she allowed me to trim, and over two different sessions she “earned” a candy for each digit, which I placed in an M&M tube with a lid that she’s able to open and close on her own. I gave the tube to her and of course the result was jamming 4 or 5 candies in her mouth at once. And then, because we clipped her nails in her bedroom, she ended up wiping her chocolate-coated mouth on her nice, white duvet cover.

The old me would have had a hard time with this because treating and laundering her duvet cover would have been just one more thing to do on an never-ending to do list. And, if I’m being honest, the stain might never have gotten treated and might have not come out in the wash and we likely might have had to replace her duvet as a result.

But the new me? The me that’s getting things done? That me told me to do it now (everything is do it now these days) and so I briskly whipped the cover off the duvet, sprayed it and left it to soak while Clara and I had our nap. No harm done.

As an aside, I’ve read various articles with varying opinions about rewarding kids with candy. I understand the risk of kids developing a positive association with candy as a result, I’m aware of the growing percentage of overweight and obese children in both the US and Canada. I’m also aware that research has shown that kids deprived of sweets because it’s unhealthy are also more likely to grow up wanting sweets (and abusing it) than the kids that have been exposed to candy.

We had very limited access to candy and soda as kids, as well as fast food and whether or not I’m recognizing it as a correlation, today, despite being an adult, I’m a glutton for junk food. The worst the better. I’m also a cheese junkie, and cheese was something we never got a lot of as kids as well (unless it was in a spread or a processed cheese slice – and I get it, cheese, especially for 5 kids is freaking expensive). Taylor, on the other hand, grew up with things like soda and chips readily available and he’s less of a glutton for those things. He can take them or leave them. I would say that his attitude towards junk food is a far healthier attitude than mind and, coincidence or not, he has less of a struggle with his weight than I do.

I don’t want Clara to grow up and be unhealthy or overweight. Nor do I want her growing up with an unhealthy attitude about food. But I don’t want her growing up deprived of things either, the occasional treat that gives her so much joy. And when she gets older, and is able to appreciate rewards that are not candy (like stickers, or marbles, or beads for a jewelry kit, or furniture for a doll house or whatever she enjoys) then we’ll switch to a sustainable reward. One that will have lasting gratification rather than something that’s short-lived, like a few M&Ms.

In the meantime, her nails are trimmed and and it wasn’t major warfare to accomplish it. She learned how there’s sometimes a reward to doing things we don’t want to do, even if it scares us. And she got a few candy out of it, which to me, is part of what being a kid is all about.

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One Response to The M&M Incentive

  1. Jods says:

    Tawn…. Andy grew up with easy access to it all, especially sweets, and is still totally addicted to them, whereas I can take them or leave them. The same can be said for his kids…. they love fast food, too much so.

    Try not to over think it too much; u know ur instincts as her mom are better than anything else 🙂 U are doing a fine job with Clara… And personally, I think we had just the right exposure to that crap. It was a treat, as fast food should be. It makes me sick how many kids are being raised on it, as I fear Alex`s baby will be.

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