What??? The big M and a Happy Meal being a therapeutic tool? How could this be?
We use McD’s in our home, but where your family goes is up to you, the therapeutic use of a dinner out is in how you schedule it and make it a part of your weekly schedule. Most of our children struggle with begging for treats, and wanting a McD’s or other take out food. They may also struggle with the idea that they don’t deserve it and may sabotage each time you go.
So how do you deal with this? You schedule the time out and make it a guarantee, not dependent upon their behaviour. If you guarantee the treat then they learn that they are deserving of it, and also learn that they cannot sabotage their way out of it. It also becomes less scary as it is no longer a surprise and becomes a part of the regular routine.
Another thing it does is gives you an evening of no cooking or cleaning (self care 101 here). A treat every week? isn’t that unhealthy you ask? Once a week is not overwhelming, and it helps to take away from all those times they beg to go. When you pass a McDonalds on a trip and they are screaming to stop you can say “sorry, not McDonald’s Monday so we will have to eat our sandwiches”. If it is in the schedule they learn that they will get their treat, but that begging wont change how soon it happens.
This builds on their learning to trust you as well as their tolerance for waiting. Is this easy? No, at first it can be very frustrating because you may not want to go or the children may find waiting a struggle, but as part of the routine they learn to wait and they learn that you think they are worth a treat every single week.
The key for this to work is to choose something you can always afford, something the children do like, and that you are willing to do. If you detest McDonalds and refuse to go then it will not be successful. Maybe it is even just for an ice cream and not a full meal, the main thing is it needs to be every week on the same day and it has to happen (baring crazy emergencies of course).
Remember, if they are behaving badly you still do it, this is never ever supposed to be dependent upon their behaviour. If they got kicked out of school that day they still get the treat. Not safe in the car? You can still have the treat delivered. The idea is that you choose a treat given at the same time, ever week just because they are children that need to experience love and acceptance…that’s it…that is the reason and that is a wonderful reason to get a treat every week.