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Am I being a bad parent... by asking the grandparents not to give my child sugar?

Our reader is trying to keep her toddler away from sugar – despite the best efforts of her in-laws.

WHEN YOUR LITTLE one is young, they’re something of a blank slate. Eating habits start early on, so it’s natural you might want to keep your child away from sugar for a while.

That said, not everyone will feel the same – particularly relatives who are keen to show their affection with treats and gifts. So what do you do when the in-laws won’t listen to your requests to keep sugar off the table? That’s what one reader is wondering this week. 

Each week in our series, Am I Being A Bad Parent?, we hear from a reader who can’t figure out if they’re on the right track with a parenting decision, or if they’ve gotten something 100% wrong. To get a balanced view of the situation, we put the dilemma to a group of Irish parents, keeping things anonymous to encourage honest answers.

This week’s dilemma

Am I being a bad parent… by asking my in-laws not to give my child sugar? My daughter is almost one. She’s a huge eater, we’ve never had a problem getting her to finish her food. I try to keep her away from refined sugar of any sort. Every so often she might get some sweets, but 99% of the time her treats are fruit or veggies. She doesn’t really know sugar exists yet and I want to keep it that way for another year or two. BUT any time I mention this to my in-laws they start making ‘jokes’ about us depriving her – and they proceed to offer her treats anyways. Am I being unreasonable to ask them to stop giving her sugar?

Our anonymous readers’ responses

No, you’re not being unreasonable. They are in the wrong. My daughter hasn’t been near sugar yet and loves fruit as a result. It’s great. I’d be very annoyed if someone went out of their way to disrupt that after being specifically asked not to.

Maybe you’re being unreasonable. It depends on the situation. If these are relatives that you depend on for regular childcare, put up with the sweets. If you don’t depend on them for childcare, they probably have more invested in seeing the kid than you do. If reasonable discussion doesn’t work, it’s probably time for some level of ‘follow our rules or we will need to be very specific about the contexts in which you engage with our child.’

You’re definitely not being unreasonable. Kids have no autonomy over their diet, so it’s great to instill healthy eating habits whilst you can. Grandparents understandably live for the beautiful look on a child’s face when they lights up from a present/treat, but sweets shouldn’t be the sole source of that look.

You’re being a bit unreasonable. It’s been my experience that people buy in to the no-sugar thing or they don’t. Buy-in tends to go along generational lines. So for grandparents – forget it. On one memorable occasion I was in a supermarket with my screaming toddler who wanted a lolly she wasn’t getting. An elderly woman came over and handed her one with a “for God’s sake, will you give the poor child a lollipop?” type of attitude.  I went mad. I did feel bad after… but really?!

So what’s the final tally? Is our reader being unreasonable?

No – 2

Yes – 1

Maybe – 1

Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

More: Am I being a bad parent… by telling my childminder what she should be doing?>

Help! Am I being unreasonable? We’re looking for parenting dilemmas from our readers for our Am I Being A Bad Parent? feature. Drop us a line with your reader dilemma on

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