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PSA: Attn Old Men: Don't Offer My Kids Candy at the Store


JumpyTheFrog
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As I turned into an aisle at the grocery store today, a man reached out to offer my 7 year-old two lollipops, one for him and one for Little Guy. He didn't ask my permission or even look at me. As we moved down the aisle, I told Tigger to give me the lollipops. I think maybe he found the whole thing a bit weird because Mr. Explosive didn't even argue with me about it. He just handed them over.

 

Five minutes later, as we were checking out, the man again approached my sons and offered them a lollipop. Then he asked if he had already given them one. Again, he didn't ask me, even though I was right next to him. After he walked away, I saw he had a whole pocketful of lollipops.

 

While I paid, I had Tigger go throw them out. I explained at the store that the man was either a bad guy, or a man trying to do something he thinks is nice, but not aware that it makes him look like a bad guy. When I got home, DH and I further explain bad guys luring kids into their cars with promises of candy (or needing help finding a "lost puppy"). As Gavin de Becker recommends, we again emphasized never leaving with anybody, no matter who they are or what they say. We said he doesn't have to be polite or answer people like that man. Instead, he should immediately run to us. If he can't find us, go "find a mommy."

 

ETA: The first time Tigger was offered candy, he was trailing behind me by about seven feet. I had already turned the corner when the man offered him the candy. He didn't ask when I was right with them, he waited until I had already walked by. That's the reason it seemed suspicious.

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*shrug*

 

It's a lollipop, not a bomb or porn.

 

I'd have just said thanks or no thanks for my kids or taken them to toss later and moved on.

 

I've had lots of people try to give my kids candy over the years. As long as they aren't being sneaky, I don't think it's bad at all. You were there. He wasn't trying to do something sneaky or trying to lure them. He was probably just trying to be nice.

 

Just not my thing bc I don't allow hard candy. *I* would ask before giving someone else's kid anything, but in my experience, most people don't. If they view it as harmless and nice, they don't think it is something they have to ask about. Mildly inconsiderate, but not all that unusual.

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As Gavin de Becker recommends, we again emphasized never leaving with anybody, no matter who they are or what they say. We said he doesn't have to be polite or answer people like that man. Instead, he should immediately run to us. If he can't find us, go "find a mommy."

 

Please be careful of this..... make sure your children know there are exceptions. I remember attending a fire house expo and having a fireman tell us that many children are scared of them for two reasons, sometimes causing death or major injuries: Their uniforms and being scared of strangers.

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I would and have said, no thank you. I have no problems being straight forward if I have to. I am a relatively normal 41 yr old woman, and even I wouldn't offer candy or things like that to kids I didn't know.

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Once, as my children and I were getting out of the car at the post office, a middle aged man called my children over to his truck. Much to my relief they stopped and looked at me instead of heading over. I asked the man if I could help him and he said that he was giving toys away. He said his elderly father (who was with him) enjoyed making kids happy and from the crammed-full back seat of his truck he pulled two oversized cheap plastic dolls (dressed like go-go dancers!!) and a plastic "army guy" set and offered them to my children. We thanked him and left quickly. I generally trust my gut, and this guy seemed genuine--but what a terrible idea! The toys were tossed right away and I did mention it to the postal worker, just in case.

 

What are people thinking?

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While I understand the concern, I do have to remind myself that that vast majority of people are not "bad" guys. So while I'd likely not accept the freebies because my boys don't need candy. I'd not worry overly much about it either since I was there and there was nothing secretive going on. We've done the safety talk via The Safe Side, my boys have an idea of how to behave when I am not right by them.

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*shrug*

 

It's a lollipop, not a bomb or porn.

 

I'd have just said thanks or no thanks for my kids or taken them to toss later and moved on.

 

I've had lots of people try to give my kids candy over the years. As long as they aren't being sneaky, I don't think it's bad at all. You were there. He wasn't trying to do something sneaky or trying to lure them. He was probably just trying to be nice.

 

Just not my thing bc I don't allow hard candy. *I* would ask before giving someone else's kid anything, but in my experience, most people don't. If they view it as harmless and nice, they don't think it is something they have to ask about. Mildly inconsiderate, but not all that unusual.

 

 

 

I couldn't agree more!

 

What *I* think is really scary is how so many people, who in trying to do something to bring a smile to someone else, are painted as "bad" or "scary."

 

THAT is sad, and such a shame.

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I had a guy approach us in a parking lot and offer my boys a dollar coin. I was kind of weirded out at first but i could tell he was just trying to be nice. He told them he was giving them the coins because they were good boys and helpful to me. He didn't know who we were, but maybe he was just trying to do random acts of kindness.

 

My first reaction is always to assume people have bad intentions, but I think it is sad not to allow people to be nice to you. I understand trusting your gut, but if you don't feel you are in danger, I don't see the harm in being nice for a minute. You can explain to your children that it might not be safe to keep stuff given to them by strangers. JMO

 

 

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An old man? As in elderly? Who upon seeing your kids the second time couldn't even remember that he'd already given them some? With the parent right there? Totally innocent imo. I'm picturing my kids' great-grandfather doing that and it's sweet. He really wouldn't have a clue that anyone would have a bad perception if it. From his perspective, why shouldn't he give a kid a lollipop? Kids like lollipops. I'm not saying I agree, I'd much prefer people ask the parent first, but I don't find it creepy or anything.

 

Trying to lure a kid with candy? Now that's definitely creepy, and kids need to be taught the difference.

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Was this an elderly gentleman? I ask as you said he asked them again later and didn't remember if he had already given them one or not. My first thought was that he was a nice elderly gentleman with maybe some slight dementia (hence the asking twice as he wasn't sure he had asked the first time). I want kids to be careful and safe but yet I hate that almost any act of kindness now is viewed as predatory or "weird".

 

Yes, strangers can be dangerous to kids but this guy asked right in front of you and wasn't trying to lure the kids away. honestly, the most dangerous person to a child is mom's boyfriend (who is not the biological father of the child).

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As someone who has tried to do random acts of kindness and has been trounced for it, I am saddened by the suspicions and even rudeness of some. (Not necessarily here but in society in general). My kids were given tons of stuff by well-meaning people. It taught them that overall, people are nice and kind and it pays to be friendly. We actually ate or kept very little of it. To tell you the truth, we eat or keep very little that MIL gives us because it doesn't fit our lifestyle, allergy requirements etc. but we never let on to her. We just quietly donate it if we can and toss it if we can't.

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Another thought---was he maybe a "greeter" type person from the grocery store who was hired to hand these out? I know one local store that hires elderly or mildly disabled people part time to hand out balloons, etc. to kids, fill bags of popcorn, etc.

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The guy was in a public place handing out candy to kids who were with their parents....I hardly think he was a bad guy. We have tons of old people around here that do things like that... I just remind my kids to say thank you and let them accept it. If its wrapped I even let them eat it ..shock..horror..bad mum me. It isn't hard to tell if someone is just being nice.

 

Old people are lonely and love kids. When I take my kids to McDonald's during the day there are always elderly people sitting by the playground windows and watching them play and chatting with them.

 

I let my kids talk to whoever they want with two rules.... You never leave with anyone and you don't accept gifts or candy unless I'm there and say its alright.

 

When I was a kid there used to be an older guy in our neighbourhood that would go on walks and bring a bag of candy with him. He used to give it out to kids he saw playing in their yards and stop and chat with them...he always stayed outside the fence. We called him the candy man and when we saw him coming we would bolt for the yard lol. He was just a nice man being friendly.

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You would think people would know not to do this. We were told as children not to take candy or cookies or food from strangers and I am 48 years old. We even threw out any candy or food we got trick or treating that wasn't in a wrapper. It is just common sense.

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My grandfather would hand out candy to everyone -- young, old, everyone in between. Ironically I didn't usually get to eat it as my parents didn't want me eating candy. But he was known in the area as The Candy Man. At his funeral there was a giant bowl of candy and everyone was encouraged to take a handful in his memory. Most people made it through the service without crying, but got misty when they approached that candy bowl.

 

Since this man approached while you were there I would just assume he was a sweet elderly man that likes being friendly. The situation provides great teachable moments. You can definitely use this to talk about personal safety. But you can also teach politely saying "no, thank you" when offered anything, that saying a friendly hello to strangers is ok (whereas going somewhere with them is not), and about compassion (maybe the elderly man is lonely and just wants to interact with people).

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I am the most paranoid person I know, however this incident sounds pretty innocent to me. As long as you are pretty sure the suckers had not been tampered with then I'd probably let the kids have them. Later I would probably explain to the kids that the nice old man that gave them to them was kind but it was only okay because they were with mom. If not they should always find mom and ask if it is okay. She wants to meet the nice man. ;) You get the point across without instilling fear.

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Personally, I think you overreacted. An elderly gentleman is from the generation where giving kids candy was a kindness, not a something that made people suspect you were a pervert. Plenty of people offered me candy as a young child in the late 1960s...none of them tried to molest me.

 

My children were always allowed to accept candy or a gift as long as I was present. And they did it with a thank you and a smile on their face. I'm sure handing out lollipops to small kids made that elderly man's day. He sounds like he may have a bit of dementia and he's probably lonely. I would have taken the opportunity to explain to my kids how we can extend kindness to others by allowing a simple gesture like that to be accepted with love and friendliness on our part. If my kids are within a few feet of me, I honest to gosh do not see any danger. And most people are NOT out to kidnap or molest your children. I really feel we are doing our children a huge disservice by painting everyone with the "potential pervert" brush.

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Some lady in church gave my kids an entire bag of candy last week, commending them for how good they are in church. It is pretty common here for older people to give out candy or such, especially when you have cute little kids who mind, which of course I do :) Often we cannot eat candy to due to food issues but generally we accept it anyway. The kids know never to take anything without okaying it with me and quite often I think it is a kindness to let someone be generous, even if it does end up being thrown away. Most elderly people I know love to give things to little kids and they are not insane or such but just trying to be nice.

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Another thought---was he maybe a "greeter" type person from the grocery store who was hired to hand these out?

 

 

Nope, he was not a greeter. When the store hands out samples, they are always wearing employee shirts and at a table. We go there 3-5 times per week, so we recognize most of the employees and know the setup.

 

The first time he offered them candy, I had already turned the corner. Tigger was about seven feet behind me. The man made no attempt to look at me or ask me. He called Tigger over after I had turned the corner. There is a difference between smiling at me and then offering and calling Tigger over when I am not looking or right next to him.

 

The second time he offered, he walked right up behind me and started talking to my kids without trying to involve me in the conversation. I realize he may have just forgotten, but still, that's not once, but twice he acted as if I weren't there. That's why I thought the situation was possibly suspicious.

 

And no, we aren't teaching our kids to be afraid of all strangers. I have Tigger check out his own books at the library and buy his own things at the store. (I am watching from about 10-20 feet away.) We also have Little Guy (age 4) check out books at the library on his own, too. We want to encourage gradual, supervised, independence (although we aren't free-range). So they have experience talking to people in public. The whole situation was just weird.

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I am definitely not an over protective parent, but there is a lot more to giving them a treat than being an innocent person. What if said child has allergies? Maybe they react badly to food dyes. I don't assume that these are NOT the case, so I would always ask a parent first. Not to mention that not every child reacts positively when the treat they think they are getting is suddenly taken away by the parent who doesn't want them to have it. A dollar for being a big helper to momma is one thing...food is totally different.

 

My reaction wasn't because I thought he was a dirty old man...it was because of the above.

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That sounds harmless to me. Public place, parent right there. Not wanting kids to eat sweets in another matter, of course, But the offering in front of a parent wouldn't worry me.

 

PS You can never go to Italy while your children are young. Seems everyone, everywhere, gives sweets to kids in that country. lol

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I think it’s a generational difference. I could see my grandfather doing something similar when he was alive. I think those generations didn’t think about allergies or food dyes and didn’t get as worried about little treats as we do. It’s not necessarily ok but I think it’s just a different mindset.

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Please be careful of this..... make sure your children know there are exceptions. I remember attending a fire house expo and having a fireman tell us that many children are scared of them for two reasons, sometimes causing death or major injuries: Their uniforms and being scared of strangers.

 

 

The Gavin de Becker info is "anti" stranger danger.

 

And the uniform thing is tricky. There are ploys that some twisteds will use. That said, most kids will understand "emergency like fire".

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We moved from a big suburb to a tiny town in a farming community. In the suburb no one ever approached us. Here, we get people stopping to talk and offering dollar coins10 times a day! Well, it's more like once a month. We were pretty freaked out at first, but now we realize it's a slightly different culture when you move 50 miles out of the suburbs.

 

Still, I wouldn't have let them eat it either, and if it's not the norm where you are, I'd teach the kids how to handle a stranger who appraoches them.

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You know, I agree that sometimes we are overwhelmed by the worst and tend to leap to bad conclusions. The world got scarier when I had a child, and is not improved by my daily news consumption. I should cut back. However, the OP said she felt the incident was weird, not ok. Is that not the point of Gavin de Becker's books, to trust those gut instincts? You might be wrong. You might assume the worst about a perfectly nice old man. You might throw away delicious candy. You might make somebody feel bad (and I'm a want-everyone-to-like-me girl!). If it felt strange to the person who was there at the time, that's good enough reason to take precautions, I think.

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What *I* think is really scary is how so many people, who in trying to do something to bring a smile to someone else, are painted as "bad" or "scary."

 

THAT is sad, and such a shame.

 

I'm another one who thinks this wasn't such a big deal, assuming the giver wasn't being sneaky. My children have been given lollipops many times over the years, although usually by store keepers. They've also been kissed, picked up and photographed by strangers. We've always appreciated the kindness or gesture of community (for want of a better phrase). The only time I have sensed something 'unsettling' was once when some young men took a photo without asking me first, and I kept dd close to me until we left the store. De Becker also talks about trusting ones instincts.

 

It's a perennial argument, though, about how to view the world. I choose not to see acts of kindness as threatening gestures just because they come from strangers. I can't raise children in the type of world that implies.

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You know, I agree that sometimes we are overwhelmed by the worst and tend to leap to bad conclusions. The world got scarier when I had a child, and is not improved by my daily news consumption. I should cut back. However, the OP said she felt the incident was weird, not ok. Is that not the point of Gavin de Becker's books, to trust those gut instincts? You might be wrong. You might assume the worst about a perfectly nice old man. You might throw away delicious candy. You might make somebody feel bad (and I'm a want-everyone-to-like-me girl!). If it felt strange to the person who was there at the time, that's good enough reason to take precautions, I think.

 

So she should tell the boys not to go off alone with them. Or she could talk to the man and ask him to please give any gifts he wants for the kids to her directly. She can do this in a friendly upbeat way. Or she could report him to store security if he proved to be strange after she spoke to him.

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From another angle, not the "danger" one.........

 

I got less, um, vigilant and hyper about media, junk food, screen time, etc as my kids got older (and I had more of them.) I'd like to see some of it as softening, "chilling", and becoming less intense in general. In an earlier incarnation of this board, I likely ranted about some perceived permissive sin my (ex) MIL committed about TV, food, or diapering.

 

I do think I would have been upset at a random candy giver when my oldest was a toddler. Later, though, I intentionally began assigning positive intent (while still honoring heebie jeebies). I think that the culture/tone has changed, and people can have some hiccups when trying simply to connect.

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I would not have told my kids that an old man offering a kindness was a "bad guy" or whatever. I would have told my kids to give me the candy and said "how kind of him to offer, we wouldn't want to hurt his feelings, but we need to do what is healthy and safe for us." Separately I teach my kids to never go with anyone or accept anything given to them without my express permission, because while most people are nice and would only help children, a few people are mean and would try to hurt them. ... I wonder how kids nowadays integrate the mixed messages that *they* are supposed to be helpful / charitable, but they are supposed to assume the worst when random kindnesses are offered by others. I know that I myself have sometimes been hesitant to do something for someone because those with a suspicious mindset could react badly.

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I have never had anyone offer my child something without checking with me first.

 

Although there is the food allergy thing I don't think many old people understand that. I was a child in the seventies and I never heard of any serious allergies to anything except bees.

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The Gavin de Becker info is "anti" stranger danger.

 

And the uniform thing is tricky. There are ploys that some twisteds will use. That said, most kids will understand "emergency like fire".

 

 

I agree on de Becker.... I was surprised that the firefighter said it was an issue with some kids, putting them in extreme danger, as they would hide from the stranger, perceiving them as the greater danger.

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I agree on de Becker.... I was surprised that the firefighter said it was an issue with some kids, putting them in extreme danger, as they would hide from the stranger, perceiving them as the greater danger.

 

 

In our area, firefighters do visits at school at least once a year for this expressed reason -- to make sure the kids know firefighters are safe. The police often visit area kid events, too. At one carnival, our 3 year old son was encouraged by a very nice police office to sit in the car, honk the horn, play with the radio, etc.

 

During our firefighter visit, the firefighters showed the kids how they put on the entire uniform, step by step, and he spent quite a bit of time talking to the kids with his uniform on, but no helmet, so they could see it was a nice man inside. Our county fire department has an office where people in the community can schedule these demonstrations at the firehouse for preschool groups, birthday parties, groups of moms, Scout groups (our den did this), etc.

 

The firefighter we spoke with told the adults that sometimes they have found children in fires hiding in closets because they were frightened of the firefighters. He impressed upon us the importance of making sure our kids understand firefighters and police are good people, and they should run to them not away from them.

 

GA Girl 160

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I live in a small town and it is not uncommon for us to be out somewhere and an old man give my kiddos a piece of candy each (think eating out at Bob Evans). Every time, my kids were a bit hesitant to take the candy as we have spent a lot of time talking about not taking things from people they don't know. The way I've handled it is to allow the kids to take the candy by quietly telling them that it is okay since I am there with them. I then encourage them to thank the gentleman and we go on our way. Later, we would have a discussion about how a "bad man" may use candy to lure them away from me, but that since I was there watching and I gave permission, it was good to be polite and accept the candy.

 

I do agree that the messages can get a bit mixed up, but honestly, I am concerned to be living in a world where my children are terrified of everything around them. Most people out there are good...and I don't want my children to miss out on experiencing the goodness in people due to fear. It can sometimes be a fine line to walk though.

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With my first ds, I taught him "stranger danger". I was vigilent to instill in him fear. It worked. He REFUSED to talk to strangers. At a restaurant once the waitress addressed him and he screamed "NO!!!" at the top of his lungs as we had instructed him to do when an adult stranger tried to talk to him. I realized what I had done. Although I have lightened up a lot, he still has social issues(at age 17.)

 

My dad LOVED to talk to young kids(and give gum, etc...) before he died. He lived in FL and we lived 1000 miles away. He was lonely. It breaks my heart that someone may have thought he was a "bad" guy.

 

Caution should be taught. Not fear. Take the candy. Throw it away later. I try now to teach my kids to be gracious.

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Really?

I'm ranked highly in my group as "helicopter mom", but this wouldn't have even been on my radar as an issue.

I can't tell you how many old men have offered my children candy (old women too, if that matters). Once or twice they would slip my younger children a dollar bill (while we were in check out) and tell them to pick a candy, lol.

I think it's sweet.

*shrug* Maybe it's a southern thing.

It isn't uncommon for people around her to just... step in. I remember once at Barnes and Noble I couldn't lift my then 3 year old son into the high chair at the cafe with my infant in a sling. A random older man swooped in, scooped up my 3 year old, sat him in the high chair, laughing and talking with him, and buckled him in safely, lol.

Another time (at the same bookstore), I needed to take my infant to the restroom (I don't remember if he needed a change or I needed to use the restroom, lol) and my older son didn't want to leave the trains; another woman who was there with her grandchild just shooed me away and promised (with a wink) that she was sure she could watch him for me while I used the restroom. Lol.

 

Things are just a bit more laid back here, I guess.

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I'm in the South, and no one has tried to give my kids anything without asking me first. I do live in a big city. I don't remember any random old people giving me candy growing up. There was a guy at church who always had a pocket full of Werther's, but it was a small church and we knew him well. He would give it to parents of little kids. A 65-70 year old man who hasn't been living in a bubble for the past 40 years should know that it's off-putting to call kids over and give them candy without their parents' permission.

 

Not saying the guy was a creep, but there's no age limit on creep. DH was, briefly, a prosecutor in a rural area and his caseload was split between old man child molesters and meth/crack heads. I don't make a sweet old man exception with my kids. Random stranger offers you something, ignore if you feel creeped out or say no thank you then hightail it in the other direction/back to me.

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Eh. My husband does hobbies that seem full of lots of 'old men' - tractors and metal work and messy stuff. Several get such joy from seeing our children and candy always seems close at hand too. These aren't always even folk we know, just social events that attract an older male population. We say thank you and the kids are happy - we don't have allergies or anything, so that is a concern I know others have, but I also recognize that it's a small act that makes them happy and the idea a kid shouldn't have or get or be given candy just doesn't really make sense with them either. We smile and move on and yes the kid usually happily eat the candy too - though many times I've wished they didn't have it, more because I hate sticky messy fingers. :)

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