Sweet tokens

How our family avoids 700 fights a year

Extreme close-up image of chocolate chips cookies

“I want a cookie”
“No. Not before lunch.”
Now louder, and whining, “I WANT A COOKIE!”

Our family used to fight about sweets at least a couple times a day. Liping and I would fight about it, too, since she was more likely than me to give in. (I can’t believe you gave him ice cream before dinner)

After one of these sweets squabbles, Kubla sits alone. He sulks, joylessly eating the cookie he whined out of us. I walk up to him and sit down.

“Kubla, wouldn’t it be great if you could decide by yourself when you could have a sweet?”


“I have an idea”

I pick up an old cardboard box, some crayons, and a pair of scissors. I cut 2 cookie-sized circles. Together we decorate them with the crayons. I write “Good for 1 sweet” on the front and back of each.

I hand them to him.

“Kubla, what does it say on this sweet token?”

“Good for 1 sweet!”

“What am I going to do the next time you hand me a sweet token?”

“Give me a sweet!”

“That’s right. Anytime except before breakfast. What happens after you use both of them?”

“When they’re gone, they’re gone.”

“What happens tomorrow?”

“I get 2 more sweet tokens!”

Now, instead of having to say yes or no to sweets, I simply say “Do you have a sweet token? … Then what’s the answer?” What’s more, instead of sucking all the fun out by grudgingly giving him a sweet, I can be excited with him so he gets full pleasure from the sweet deliciousness.

Best of all, these days we only fight about sweets a once or twice a week, instead of every day. Sweet.

What are examples in your family of routine conflict ripe for a rethink?

In two weeks I’ll give a $20 Kidorable gift certificate to whoever makes my favorite comment.

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