Dear Girl Scout Mom: Step Back and Let Your Daughter Shine
Samoas, Tagalongs, Trefoils, Do-si-dos . . . Is your mouth watering yet?
February kicked off Girl Scout cookie season. It’s the annual event that sees sales of about 200 million boxes of cookies totaling around $800 million. With the recent announcement of their new Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie as part of the 2019 lineup, the business has Americans all over the country eagerly waiting to find a Girl Scout selling cookies.
For nearly 12 years of my life, I was that girl. I was decked out in brown, green, or blue uniforms with hundreds of hard-earned patches and hiking up the country road where most of my family lived to sell my boxes. It was a rite of passage, a part of my childhood that made me who I am today.
While I had my own issues with doing well in the program, the ultimate purpose of it is to teach girls five essential skills at an early age: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. Two out of three girls reported developing all five skills over the course of the program, according to a 2016 report by the organization, which represents 40,000 Girl Scouts at 82 different locations.
So this brings me to an important question: If you’ve bought Girl Scout cookies before, did you really buy them from an actual Girl Scout? Or did you perhaps buy them from your adult co-worker or friend?
Welcome to the world of Cookie Moms, as Girl Scout moms call themselves on blogs and social media.
These parents essentially do the legwork for their daughters.
They plan the routes, contact stores for booths, and even make the sales. While this practice is done with the best of intentions to help troops raise much-needed funds, it skirts the whole purpose of the program itself, and the girls themselves are the ones who lose out on an enriching experience.
Luckily, there is a better way. Here’s how you can make your Girl Scout cookie sales season more educational as a parent, troop leader, or even buyer.
Ways to Take Back the Cookie Sale Season
1. Own the Sales Pitch
“Hi! My name is Michelle, and I’m selling Girl Scout cookies today. The proceeds go to sending our troop to Camp Pokanoka for a retreat. Would you like to support us?”
I still remember every word of that spiel from start to finish. My mom, herself a salesperson, refused to take the lead. Instead, she made me do the groundwork. She had me write down and then rehearse what I planned to say when making cookie calls. She taught me to be a salesperson, which, in turn, gave me the experience Girl Scout founder and cookie innovator Juliette Gordon Low intended.
2. Focus on the Larger Goal
One of the best things my troop did when I was in Girl Scouts was to end the “incentive” part of sales.
Competitive rewards meant to motivate girls actually left those who didn’t (or couldn’t) sell enough crying and begging their parents for help.
Instead, troop leaders and parents should focus on the bigger picture. Seventy-five percent of sales go to local councils, who then divvy up the proceeds to individual troops. That could mean paying a speaker to come in. It could also mean funding a camping trip to learn badass skills like how to start a fire, tie knots, or track animal prints.
3. Treat It Like an Actual Business
Here’s another way Girl Scout parents and troop leaders can make a difference: Instead of having individual salespeople on the ground, create a sales team. Put each girl in charge of some part of the process. For example, have a strong writer take over the sales website. Another girl with great organizational skills can manage the inventory list.
A competitive Girl Scout troop can be great for sales, but it’s horrible for bonding and friendship, as it pits the girls against one another. It’s important that young girls get used to building relationships with other girls in business situations, as these are values and skills they can carry into adulthood.
In addition, many younger girls simply can’t understand why Jenny’s mom can sell 100 boxes in a week while her mom is lucky to sell five. Being pitted against another just makes a bad situation worse. Challenge your troop to change the perspective and message toward collaboration.
4. Let Her Lead
Finally, if you’re still in it for the incentives, let your daughter lead. Let her pick the routes, the clients, and the pitch. Let her make mistakes. Supervise and double-check (especially when it comes to the handling of money), but don’t diminish her spirit by steamrolling her.
You can even take this mindset into other aspects of life by letting your daughter use money apps for kids. For example, FamZoo offers both a family finance app and prepaid debit cards that you and your kids can use.
So What Should the Role of a Girl Scout Mom Be?
Girl Scout cookie sales can be a great time to teach basic personal finances and business skills. But with Cookie Moms taking over, it’s time to shift back the narrative one box at a time. Encourage your girl, your troop, or the person selling the cookies to you to change the script. Ban the parents from pitching the sale. After all, a cookie sale that’s well deserved always tastes a bit sweeter.