As soon as the children walk in the door, he offers the treats. Again, on the way out the door, the same treats are offered. And he makes it really hard to say NO. I’ve seen some of the children say NO THANK YOU, only to be pressured to take the cookies.
Maybe this behavior seems harmless to you and you are thinking, cut the guy a break, he is just trying to be nice.
I think he is trying to be nice.
However, I sit on a community coalition that works hard at changing eating habits in children. With record rates of childhood obesity, we don’t want children associating exercise at the Y with unhealthy snacks as rewards. Those children then grow up to be adults who reward themselves with empty calorie food. The seemingly harmless behavior is teaching children the wrong eating habits. And some of the parents do not want the cookies offered by a stranger.
People have complained. I’ve suggested a compromise. How about if he brings small oranges, grapes, bananas or nuts and seeds instead. Or the money he spends on cookies and candy could be spent on stickers, sugar-free gum or something else if he is wants to engage the children. Or make a policy that junk food is not offered when you walk in the door.
Nothing has changed.
You might think, what is the big deal? Aren’t there more important issues to face in life?
The big deal is that so many people I work with have to change their relationship with food and stop rewarding themselves with treats every time they do something that requires physical discipline. This “food as reward” habit is often learned in childhood and carries over to adult life. Praise, activities, stickers, high five, anything else can be used to reward behavior without teaching bad eating habits.
Being nice to kids doesn’t have to include giving them daily cookies and candy at a place trying to promote healthy habits in kids and adults.
If we change these small unhealthy habits, they lead to bigger changes.