Q. I like to spoil my granddaughter with treats when she is with me. Am I doing any harm?
A. Robin Kanarek, PhD, professor emeritus in Tufts’ Department of Psychology, answers: “One of the ‘rights’ of grandparents is to spoil their grandchildren! From a nutritional standpoint, if the food treats are not consumed on a frequent basis, it should not do any harm. If you see your granddaughter on a regular basis (once a week, for example) you may want to reconsider. The habits we learn as children stay with us as we grow up. If food is used as a reward for good behavior, or children learn to view treats as a regular thing rather than—well—a treat, they may have a hard time sticking to a healthy dietary pattern in the long run.
“Consider talking with the child’s parents to make sure you understand their thoughts for instilling good eating habits in their children, then figure out how you can fit treats in without turning the issue into a major point of contention.
“Sweet treats, in reasonable quantities, are fine for special occasions. Food treats can also take the form of a homecooked meal of their favorite foods, cooking together, or growing some vegetables or berries together and enjoying the harvest. To really spoil your granddaughter, give the sweetest treat of all—your undivided attention!”