Selling candy for school fund-raiser should be voluntary

PARENT Q&A

March 19, 2000|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES FEATURES SERVICE

Q. I am concerned about the field-trip fund-raising policy at my grandson's school. He was given a slip of paper which informed him that to help the class go on a riverboat ride, he was required to sell boxes of a name-brand candy bar. To partially defray the cost of the trip, each child must sell at least one box of candy.

I feel that children 8 and 9 years old should not be exposed to soliciting, especially door-to-door selling. The dangers involved are obvious.

When my grandson did not sign the slip of paper, he was told by the school that he was one of two children who were not participating. At this point, I gave in and bought $40 worth of candy.

I would like to write the school board to object to the policy of subjecting children to soliciting monies for school-level "projects." But I need your expert advice. Is it safe?

A. Safety is probably an issue in certain communities, and you can surely raise your concerns. The more serious issue is that a child who can't or won't sell $40 worth of candy may be ostracized.

Selling candy for the school should be something children volunteer to do, not something they are pressured to do. I think you are right to speak up.

Q. I am a single mother of an intelligent 3-year-old boy. I'm concerned because he seems obsessed with guns and shooting. I fought this for a long time, then thought that if I got him a "cowboy set" -- with boots, hat, etc. -- he'd get over the whole bit.

He's not interested in the hat and boots, but he loves the gun. He also uses sticks, stuffed animals, shoes and other objects as guns.We have rules about gun play: No pointing the gun at people, at the cat or at himself -- only at the sky, trees or ground. He is not a hostile child, but this scares me. Should I ignore it?

A. You are likely to lose any battle that concerns little boys and gun play. They all seem to find a way to turn fingers, sticks and other objects into guns. The more you object to this type of play, the more you are emphasizing it.

You are certainly doing the right thing by teaching him the limits of gun play. The recent use of a gun by a 6-year-old is surely related to this kind of play.

The difference in his case is that his "family" provided him with a real gun and, in all likelihood, he was not nurtured enough to learn to care about others or to understand that play is not reality. This was a family at fault. Yours is not.

Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Dr. Brazelton regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

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