Monday, May 25, 2009

Why Boys Love Candy

My boys love candy. They love Halloween, with loaded down plastic pumpkins. They love softball games, with concession stands full of treats and mad money jingling in their pockets. And they love parades, with the promise of candy littering the streets. (Yes, my children shoved Wal-Mart bags into their pockets before heading down the Memorial Day parade today, "just in case.")

Boy #3, in fact, can't wait for tomorrow to get here because he plan to call the Oriental Trading company and order 145 pieces of Warheads, an extremely sour candy.

Given that I have a sweet tooth myself, I can't entirely condemn their love of all things sweet (or sour). I've also made a conscious decision to let go, to not regulate their intake of cookies and cake and ice cream, because I believe that forbidding a food or artificially limiting it makes it more attractive. (For more, see Sandra Dodd's writings.)

Now a new study finds a biological basis to my sons' predilection for sweets. A study of 9000 children revealed that boys need 10 percent more sweetness and 20 percent more sourness than girls do to register "sweet" or "sour."

Interesting. We parents often comment about boys being "more" -- more active, more noisy, more intense. But consider the biology:
  • Boys' hearing is less acute than girls' from day one
  • Boys eyes are targeted to register movement, not subtle differences in color
  • Boys have more dopamine in their bloodstream, which can increase impulsive behavior
  • And now -- boys' taste buds are less refined than girls'

Is it any wonder our boys need More? Or even that their need for More sometimes, um, bugs their mothers just a tiny little bit? Boys NEED more noise, more taste and more action just to register the same sensations we might have felt, oh, 65 decibels ago.

It's a constant balancing act for me -- balancing my sons' need for stimulation with my need for peace and quiet. But at least now, I understand their need for More.


  1. The positive in all this is that their candy choices and my sweet treats are so different that we never accidently get in to each others candy! My dark chocolate is safe, and all their sour gummy stuff is ALL THEIRS!

  2. Unfortunately for my waistline, the love of candy is not something that a boy grows out of.

    I have three boys: aged 10,10 and 2 as well as a beautiful daughter: age 7.

    The poor girl, unfortunately, doesn't always get the attention she deserves because her brothers demand more.

    I'm glad I "stumbled" upon your blog through Facebook.

  3. Nate,
    I'm glad you found us too! I hear your concern about the quieter or less demanding child not getting her/his share of attention. I worry about that too. And it's hard, b/c even though you're aware of it and try to make it a point to spend time with that child, with a bunch of kids, it's just hard sometimes.

    Do you think your daughter feels lacking in attention? Or do you think it's mostly something you feel?


  4. I think she misses being the baby. Mostly, I think it's something I feel.

  5. I've heard wonderful things about regularly scheduled Daddy/daughter dates, Nate. One Dad I know carves out every Sat. morning for his kids. He has 4 kids, so each kid gets one Sat. morning to be alone with Dad. Generally they go out to breakfast and then do something else together. Maybe scheduling something with your daughter will help you both feel better?