Monday, January 14, 2013

Monster Moms

Cookies can bring the best OR worst out in every mother.  I have been shocked to find that even the kindest, gentlest, and most timid Moms I know become "Monster Moms" when it comes to cookies.  I can see their demeanor change as I hand them their boxes, their upper lip curls out, our eyes lock and I see that instantaneous look of 'Game On'!  I am sure psychologists have psycho-analyzed and have some cognitive mumble-jumble to explain the phenomenon.  My personal take is that parents are big bears watching out for their cubs.  When your daughter comes home after a meeting, eager to sell cookies, and has a personal goal of 600 boxes to win the dolphin necklace, parents slip into this new, competitive alter-ego.  Girl Scouts feed on this competitive drive as well by insinuating a personal goal is important, personally I think a troop goal is sufficient and lightens the burden on the parents.  I understand the concept and learning experience behind a personal goal, but all too often I have seen tears when personal goals are not met.  However, when a troop goal is not met the guilt or disappointment does not rest on one.  A good leader insures that your troop will obtain a minimum goal at the very least.  I typically aim for the highest level goal, but I stress that our success relies on the troop's effort.  As a result, the girls develop a sense of pride and accomplishment when a goal is met.  I create a 3 tier level of reward based on our cookie selling.  The first level is a fun activity, donation to a charity or both that is easily attainable.  Quite simply, this a goal that is certain to be obtained.  The second level pushes the girls a bit and of course as a result the reward is greater.  The Final Goal is an 'Out of the Park Home Run'!  Something the girls really want to do as a troop that rewards them for a good cookie selling season, yet is still within our capability of obtaining with hard work.  In the past my troops have been fortunate enough to sleep over at the museum, go to the American Girl Doll cafe for lunch, stay in cabins at a local resort, and enjoy a night at Great Wolf Lodge.  This year my Brownies really want to go to Build a Bear and create a GS Brownie bear.  This is a very achievable goal and so with each level I have sweetened the pot.

Goal #1:  Build a Bear
Goal #2:  Build a Bear and lunch at Rain Forest Cafe
Goal #3:  Sleepover at a near by hotel and Build a Bear

Any remaining funds we use for our troop and/or donate to the charity we foster.

Some moms are just competitive in nature and you are simply unaware of this trait when you visit with them at PTO meetings or follow them on Facebook.  As a leader, I would hate to find any parents that view me as a Monster Mom.  I bend over backwards to accommodate other troops, girls and leaders.  I have even walked away from a booth sale where another troop was about to create a scene, it simply is not worth the confrontation.  Unfortunately I have created some stress for my service unit cookie manager and council.  Every year some issue usually presents itself where I feel council is putting undue pressure on my Cookie Moms.  I think all too often council has unrealistic expectations that they place on hard working moms that are doing the best job they can.  It becomes such a business to them, that council simply forgets Cookie Moms are working moms volunteering their 'precious' time.   We all know the Cookie Mom job is not for the faint of heart and requires a firm commitment to the cause.  The job by nature is time consuming, stressful and demanding.  In the end, Cookie Moms earn a mere pat on the back from council.  My complaints or concerns are never aimed at any one individual, sadly the SU Cookie Manager receives the brunt of every leader and Cookie Moms' frustrations because they are in essence our liaison to council.  These hard-working individuals are volunteers as well.

Despite the reasons moms and/or leaders become monsters, it is our responsibility as leaders to lead by example.  Anytime confrontation presents itself, this is a wonderful opportunity to show your girls how  to better manage stress and uncomfortable situations.  As leaders we should discourage competition.  We should set expectations that our parents are to be nothing, but cordial, gracious, friendly and professional at each and every booth.  I always explain to the parents the importance of  cookie booths with big businesses like Wal-Mart and grocery stores.  Many may not be aware that selling at these locations is not a right, but a privilege.  We should do everything in our power to make this relationship beneficial for both parties.  I always joke that my parents can call the Cookie Hotline at any time when they feel frustrated, upset or stressed with cookie sales and a counselor will assist them.  Of course the 1-800 number is mine and in all seriousness I am available 24/7 during cookie season to help make their selling experience as painless as possible.  Parents will be watching you as a leader and learning from you.  We are in a unique position to create a harmonious atmosphere for selling cookies.  I truly believe that if each and every leader expects courteous sales from their parents and explains to parents that they need to sell with the GS values in mind, we would cage the Monster Moms!


  1. I'm there with you. It seems like no matter how hard I try there is always atleast one parent that will get mad at me during cookie sales. I just try to keep positive and go above-and-beyond being nice and doing my best to help the parents and make things right.

    I like the idea of having a troop goal instead of personal goals. Also the cookie hotline is a great idea - I may use that at my parent's cookie meeting Tuesday night. Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. Thank you for the thoughtful comments. I find the disgruntled parents are typically the parents who just don't want to sell. I always give parents the option not to sell. In all my years of leading I have finally decided it is not fair to "force" parents to sell, ultimately they are not happy and it makes my job harder. Also I am afraid this might cause them not to sign up for Girl Scouts the following year. So at the beginning of cookie season before my Cookie Moms place Initial Orders on cookies I offer my parents the opportunity to graciously back out of sales. Rarely do parents "opt" out. Making your IO reasonable and your troop goal (or personal goal) easily obtainable say 36 boxes/girl really helps parents enjoy cookie sales. No parent wants to be expected to sell a 100 boxes. And surprisingly if IOs are reasonable, most girls sell far MORE boxes.