Sarah Ditum (freelance writer) on the recent study of ‘toddler tantrums’:
A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health has recently turned its attention to the phenomenon of the supermarket tantrum – a phenomenon so soul-piercing that, even if you have cannily avoided taking responsibility for a junior member of our species, you’ll still no doubt have been touched by it at some point.
Oh, I hear that..!
Many’s the time I’ve itched to slap the squalling little troll attached to some shopping mummy’s legs in Sainsbury or Tesco…
It’s not the children’s fault, exactly. Most of the 3- to 5-year-olds in the small Johns Hopkins study had been corrupted by a food industry that knows just what to offer tiny consumers in order to recruit them as wailing, shin-kicking brand ambassadors on the inside of otherwise hostile families.
Yes, it’s the evil food companies, plotting market domination from their undersea volcano hideouts, no doubt.
Can’t parents just say no? Well, Sarah agrees, they can.
And yet for parents to act on it, they have to accept a fairly sinister scenario as the truth: the media that offer to entertain your children with whizzy, witty cartoons and beaming presenters are acting as a willing gateway to an even more malevolent entity – a food industry that promises to nourish your children while actually setting them up for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Or perhaps, Sarah, they’re just out to sell a product? Perhaps their goal is a few thousand more sales, and not the collapse of Western civilisation?
That’s at least possible, isn’t it?
However much you rationally accept that TV channels and sweetie manufacturers are profit-driven entities, it’s still tough to break the emotional conviction that they couldn’t possibly be invested in anything that might cause harm to your child.
It’ll only cause ‘harm to your child’ if you allow them to eat nothing else, surely?
The researchers conclude that: “To address childhood obesity, it may be necessary to limit the amount of food and beverage advertising shown on commercial television and other media, as this may lessen children’s nagging for unhealthy items.”
Translation: ‘Our adults are little more than children, unable to either say ‘No’ or to say ‘Just one, after you’ve eaten your dinner’ and mean it, and so we’d better remove all temptation from them’.
The only people who have a genuine interest in a child’s dietary wellbeing are its parents. For mums and dads, the only option is to stand firm, turn off the telly, and try to persuade your issue that what they really want is a nice bit of cheddar, and not a spreadable cheese product flogged by a flirtatious cartoon farm animal.
Why not simply let them try both? How are they ever to realise that the cheddar is nicer, if they never taste the spreadable muck? If they regard it as some awful drug, the mere taste of which will hold them captive forever?
Seriously, does this sound like a healthy relationship to have with food? There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with so-called ‘junk food’, provided it isn’t all you ever eat.
The sensible thing to do is to eat everything in moderation, rather than develop a pathological fear of any one type of food.