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Should You Lock Up Your Sweets?

Should You Lock Up Your Sweets?

I read a most strange article this morning in my copy of The Boston Globe Magazine by Virginia A. Smith. The author talks about the fact that she and her spouse have a padlocked drawer in their kitchen in which they keep all of their sweets:

The lockbox is a large drawer with a padlock worthy of Gitmo in which I store anything loaded with sugar and fat — cookies, chocolate chips, Tostitos, marshmallows, frosting — all stuff I don’t mind my kids having in small quantities. But to John, my middle child, there’s no such thing as moderation. He has never met a grain of sugar, a gram of fat, or a chip of chocolate that he hasn’t wanted to consume immediately.

His two sisters keep reasonable control over their food-related cravings. My spouse, Kathy, cannot control herself in the presence of Oreos, so we keep them out of the house. My weakness is chocolate.

After reading this article, I couldn’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be a better lesson to teach your kids (and yourself) about doing all things in moderation? Especially in our culture, where we seem to have such food and body image issues?”

A locked drawer teaches kids nothing about eating in moderation — that while it may be fun to gorge on sweets once in awhile, our bodies were not built to eat them without limit. Instead, it provides them a clear example of the supernatural power we endow food with. We can’t control ourselves around these kinds of foods, so must lock them away!

Really? Unless eating is a serious concern for you — e.g., you grapple with an eating disorder like anorexia — then eating should be viewed for what it is: a way of sustaining your body through nutrients. Sweets are a treat we sometimes give ourselves and our children. And for centuries, children have been taught that they should consume sweets in moderation (and in many of my friends’ homes, only by permission of an adult). It’s all about engaging in a little self-control.

Self-control is a learned skill. We aren’t necessarily born with it, but it is something that nearly every one of us can and do learn. We learn some of it when we’re a child and taught we can’t spend all evening after school playing — our parents set limits and required homework to be done first. We learn more about it when we go off to college or have our first apartment on our own. We have access to anything money can buy — sweets, alcohol, etc. We keep learning about self-control all of our lives, especially when presented with endless opportunities to not use it.

If the author’s child John knows no moderation to eating sweets, that’s not a problem best remedied by a lock. It’s a problem best remedied through good parenting. It becomes a teaching moment early on in their life, and one they will appreciate for many years to come.

Read the full article: The padlock in the kitchen

Should You Lock Up Your Sweets?

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Should You Lock Up Your Sweets?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 24 Jan 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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