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“Free Cookies For Kids” in Grocery Stores: Good or Evil?

Scenario 1: Take Toddler to SuperTarget. Toddler wants to “help” push cart, in reality crash it into other shoppers and large thanksgiving display. Toddler refuses to sit in cart. Toddler runs away and starts collecting random items to throw into the cart (cereal that I know he doesn’t like, moth balls, on-sale Halloween merchandise, valiant but ultimately frustrating effort to pick up bag of kitty litter. We don’t have a cat. Or moths.) Toddler nears tantrum when I try to prevent him destroying a bunch of sunflowers. Toddler detonates when I refuse to let him roll grapes across the floor. I forget what we needed to buy.

Scenario 2: Take Toddler to SuperTarget. Head immediately to bakery, where bakers dispense free cookies to children. Get cookie. Fank ooo! says Toddler to baker. Is it good manners, or has he learned the drill off by heart? Toddler sits in cart and eats cookie and sings a song about frogs while I shop. I buy a week’s worth of groceries.

As well as SuperTarget, a couple of other grocery stores near me, hand out free cookies to children, which is a genius marketing plan since I spend $100 more in Scenario 1 than in Scenario 2.

So what do you think about bribing children to shop? No, it’s not ideal. Yes, in a perfect world, children would learn patience, and parents would be able to invent impromptu games for them to play in the store to keep the child delighted and occupied, while simultaneously remembering to get everything on the list.

Trader Joe’s, which is spreading across the US, gives out balloons to children, and their stores have tasting stations which almost always have something more healthy (but less bribe-worth) than cookies. I can manage to shop at TJ’s with the promise of a balloon but I also can’t afford to do all my shopping at Trader Joe’s.

So right now, we have one cookie a week at SuperTarget and get the shopping done with the minimum of fuss. The cookie has all gone by the time we get to the tempting displays of Nemo-shaped candy, USB sticks, celebrity magazines and matchbox cars at the checkout, so we have to deal with that but that’s usually manageable. Usually by wiping the chocolate off his sweet chubby cheeks and having him help me get my card out of my purse and give it to the cashier. I swear he knows my PIN number. That’s got to be a portent of doom….

So is one cookie harmless, or am I teaching him bad habits?

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