Trick-or-Treating: Mom’s Way!

HalloweenYou can almost smell the sugar in the air. Halloween is fast approaching and for most of us that brings to mind one thing: CANDY. Pretty soon parents all over the country intend to willingly allow their children to go door-to-door collecting as much candy as possible. It’s a child’s fantasy and a parents nightmare all wrapped up into one little sugar-filled package. So how can we level the playing field? Below are some tips and “tricks” to ensure a fun-filled but sugar-coma-free time is had by all.

Think “pre-party” instead of “after-party”. If you are like most moms, you don’t enjoy the idea of your child consuming copious amounts of sugar directly before bedtime. So soften the blow a bit by telling your child that in lieu of a late night candy binge you have arranged for an extra-special “pre-party” (sugary-treat mandatory) before they head out to collect their loot.

Get them excited about less candy. Ok, maybe excited is asking a bit too much. Start by discussing how some kids aren’t able to collect ANY candy (e.g., kids in the hospital, etc) and ask them how that would make them feel. Then attempt to get them excited about donating a portion of the candy they collect to those less fortunate. If they still object to the idea, just pull out your “sorry I make the rules card” and make a mental note to work on empathy. For some ideas on where to donate your candy check out or

Get 4 buckets. No seriously, get 4 buckets. Actually 4 buckets of different sizes to be exact. It may sound a bit complicated at first, but this just might be the “trick” you need to manage your child’s behavior while trick-or-treating. Because let’s face it, you might be able to dress them like an angel, but that’s certainly no guarantee they will act like one. Note: this should ideally be done a day or two in advance of trick-or-treating for maximum effect. Here’s the plan:

First, collect your buckets or containers of various sizes. The largest bucket should be able to hold the maximum amount of candy you are willing to let you child keep (remember we are donating the rest). The other 3 should be progressively smaller in size. Now hide the 2 largest containers close by and keep the 2 smallest on the table. Next, call your child into the room and tell them you are trying to decide how much candy you are going to let them keep after they have gone trick-or-treating. Ask them which container they think would be best. Of course they will select the larger one, so go ahead and be the cool mom that you are and agree with them. Here comes the money shot… Pull out the second-largest container and tell them you would be willing to let them keep even more candy provided they have good behavior while out on their candy-hunt. Bonus! Last but not least, pull out the largest container and say “And if you are really REALLY good you can keep this much candy!” Double bonus!!  Now leave all three containers within eyesight (you can get rid of the smallest one) and over the next few days make several comments about how you really hope they plan to have good behavior so they can earn the largest bucket. Yup, I said earn. Nothing in life is free, right?

Lay down the law. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. So don’t forget to include important safety rules when going over what constitutes “good behavior”. Some biggies for trick-or-treating include no running, stopping at street corners, looking both ways, never entering a home and never eating candy before it’s inspected by a parent. For additional information on trick-or-treating safety, check out

No matter what your list of rules includes, don’t forget your 3 best friends: the 3 buckets! Rules should be discussed right before heading out the door and the 3 buckets should be front and center on the table so your child can literally see what’s at stake. Be very specific when discussing the rules, use examples if needed, and have your child repeat the rules back to you. Simply telling your child to “behave” is not going to cut it. Most importantly, don’t forget to discuss how the 3 buckets come into play. This will depend on how strict of a parent you are and what types of problem behavior you anticipate from your child. Serious behavior, such as running into traffic or pushing another child, may warrant an immediate “demotion” to the medium or small bucket. Whereas the use of multiple warnings/strikes may be more appropriate for minor behavior, such as forgetting to walk. You determine the exact details, just remember the punishment should fit the crime so to speak. Reminder: the actual buckets stay at home and simply represent the amount of candy your child gets to keep when they return (any size container can be used during actual trick-or-treating).

On a final note: Just remember that if all else fails, at least you have your late-night candy raid to look forward to 🙂

Luanne is a Florida native and Gator girl who moved to Jacksonville for her first job and never left. She has a Masters degree in Behavior Analysis from the University of Florida and has provided parent training and behavioral services for children of all ages. Luanne’s “hands-on” parent training began in 2010 when she became a mother herself. She now has two daughters, ages 2 and 4. With a newfound respect for what parenting around the clock actually feels like, she now spends her time trying to practice what she’s been preaching about for so many years. When not busy being mom, she takes a “break” to help parents experiencing behavioral challenges. Her company Blueprints for Change , offers behavior management trainings and comprehensive behavioral services.



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