Friday, June 17 2016
Join the Resistance – Do Not Succumb to the Dark Side of the Free Cookie!
I always feel great pride when I say goodbye at the end of the day to a child who has a big smile on their face. I know that GoPlay! has provided that child with a fun, educational, well-balanced day that the child is excited to tell their parents about. So I am greatly disappointed when I learn some of that joy I’m seeing is because the child is anticipating the next stop of the day – a trip to Publix for a free cookie.
As many parents are aware, Publix, as a promotion and as a supposed service for the harried parent, offers children free cookies to occupy themselves while their parents are shopping. While this may not compare to Lord Vader seducing a young Padawan to the dark side, I believe it does send some very dangerous messages.
One message concerns the concept of “free”. Every retailer uses it – “Buy One, Get One Free”, “Oil Changes are always Free at Our Dealership”, “After 10 Deliveries of our Famous Pizza, get a Free One-Topping Pizza” – and every adult knows that these are gimmicks to get you to purchase. Any smart shopper knows there is always a true cost to the free item. But children have no concept of that; to them, “free” equates to “deserved”. If Mom shops at Publix, I deserve to get a cookie. That thinking sets two unfortunate precedents – one, that a sugary sweet is a prize, and two, that through no action of the child, it is expected that he’ll receive that prize.
We all will say in response that a cookie is a treat, and once in a while won’t hurt, and I was going to Publix any way. All innocuous statements. And after all, who among us hasn’t succumbed to the thinking, “I’ve eaten salads every day this week, and ice cream is buy one pint/get one free and it’s been a rough week”. But who among us hasn’t regretted eating two pints of ice cream in one sitting? We all know in our heart of hearts that junk food should not be used as a reward and that we don’t deserve a prize for doing what we should already be doing.
The second message has to do with the supposed reasoning behind the free cookie – to keep a child occupied or entertained while the parent shops. Shopping with a child can be the ultimate frustration, especially when going down those Temptation Aisles. But why can’t shopping be a time when you engage your child in conversation, without the distractions of television or snacks? What a great time to learn about the fabulous day your child just had at GoPlay!, or to teach your child what is important to look for on an ingredient label!
The Dark Side of the Free Cookie is tempting. But it is no match for your Jedi parenting skills. May the force be with you.