DEAR ABBY: I want you to know how much I agree with your answer to "Paying for My Popcorn in Oregon" (Sept. 15), who complained about her niece sneaking food into the theater.
I used to teach a parenting class to parents who had kids in trouble with the law. I started out by asking, "How many of you teach your children to lie, cheat or steal?" Of course nobody admitted they did. I then had about 20 items I'd list, the movie food issue being one, driving over the speed limit, and so on. At least one of the 20 applied to everybody.
Then I'd say: "You taught your kids that it was OK to lie, cheat and steal -- it's only getting caught that's bad. That's why you are in my class today." This is what that niece is teaching her children. -- PAUL IN DENVER
DEAR PAUL: Thank you for agreeing. However, I'm sorry to say that many readers thought the issue was more about the cost and selection of snacks than that of cheating the theater owners. My newspaper readers comment:
DEAR ABBY: For a family of four to see a movie and get a drink and popcorn or candy costs about $80. This is highway robbery. The cost of a drink is about 5 or 10 cents to the theater, and they charge a whopping $5. The same goes for popcorn. Let's be serious. How much does popcorn cost? A tub of popcorn at a theater is $7.50.
My children want the whole theater experience, which includes a snack. How can a family afford to go to the movies at these prices? Theater owners should be able to make a reasonable profit on the snacks, but this is ridiculous. Sorry, I will continue to bring my snacks in. -- KIM IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR ABBY: While I agree that it is the theater operators' prerogative to set policy and make money, I have done what the niece is doing, but for different reasons. My children and I are allergic to corn products as well as artificial colors and flavorings -- ingredients in every product commonly sold at movie concession stands.
Recently my family has made a different choice. We either eat before we go, or we wait for the DVD and stay home. I would like companies to know that when they exclude outside food, they also exclude my family. -- ALLERGIC IN NEW YORK
DEAR ABBY: By teaching children that it's OK to cheat on this particular issue, they will generalize that it's OK to cheat anytime, if they don't agree with whoever sets the rules. Thus it may become OK to cheat in school because "he makes the tests too hard," or to engage in underage drinking because "the law is stupid, and besides, everyone does it."
Just wait until they decide it's OK to sneak out of the house when Mom says "no" because "her reasons are lame!" That mother had better be careful when she justifies, because what parents teach their kids will affect them sooner or later. -- SUSIE IN OLYMPIA, WASH.
DEAR ABBY: "Paying" could search for activities to help them see another way of looking at the world.
Instead of going to a movie, I suggest that the aunt arrange to take the children (with or without her niece) to an outing such as craft time at a library, a visit to a museum, or gather in the kitchen to share a family recipe and donate the food to a local shelter. They could spend an afternoon helping at the local food pantry, which would provide an opportunity for her to discuss values and priorities.
In this way she could interact with her niece and the children and build lasting memories. They could even go to the grocery store and make a game out of seeing how much food they could buy for the amount they would have spent at the movie. -- AN AWESOME AUNT IN HEBRON, OHIO
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)