It’s here. Girl Scout cookie season.
Sales in Central Texas begin on Wednesday and continue through Feb. 23. You’ll start seeing girls in front of stores ready to sell you cookies starting on Saturday.
Want to know where to find the cookies? Go to the cookie finder, gsctx.org/en/cookies/find-cookies.html.
This year, the cookies are the same as last year, and sell for $4 a box, except the Caramel Chocolate Chip, which are gluten free and $5.
What are the other flavors? The classic Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwich, and Shortbread. as well as Caramel deLites (coconut, chocolate and caramel), Peanut Butter Patties (chocolate and peanut butter), Lemonades (lemon iced cookies), S’mores (chocolate covered graham cracker with marshmallow), and Thanks-A-Lot (a shortbread cookie with chocolate on the bottom). If you love the Thanks-A-Lot, it’s the last year for this cookie, so stock up.
What does selling Girl Scout cookies teach the girls? As a troop leader since 2009 (yes this is my 11th cookie season), I can tell you it’s not just about the cookies. It’s the lessons they learn.
Here are 10 things, I’ve seen girls learn from selling cookies:
1. How to talk to strangers. It takes a lot of courage to ask someone you don’t know: "Would you like to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies?" They often start out very shy and don’t want to do it, but they learn to get over that anxiety and become more comfortable.
2. How to take rejection. They really are fine if you say no. Where they get upset is when you fake ignore them. (Yes, they can see you pick up your phone, not dial, and pretend to have a conversation with no one on the other end.) Just say no if you don’t want the cookies, or buy a box for the girls to send to military stationed overseas.
3. The value of money. Yes, at one point we figured out that at some booths we weren’t making minimum wage, but at some booths we are and then some. Girls get to see progress $4 at a time. And they learn to count money. That’s not a skill that is learned confidently until practiced.
4. Perseverance. It’s not easy standing in one place asking the same question for two hours at a time. Some girls do one or two booths a weekend, others do back-to-back-to-back booths as well as booths on the weekdays. That’s a lot. You can’t quit a booth halfway through unless you’re sick. There’s also no breaks once a booth starts until your slot is over. And this goes on for six weeks.
5. How to be ready for a first job. They are running their own business, which means taking inventory, controlling ordering, doing displays, etc. If I had a business that hired teens, I would hire a Girl Scout over another teen. She’s already run a business and worked a job.
6. How to budget. My girls are saving for a trip to Europe in a year and a half. Each girl knows how much she needs to sell to be able to pay for her trip, as well as what other fundraising opportunities she might need to do. We’ve been teaching them budgeting since they were in kindergarten, and we took a first trip to Sea World after cookie season. We’ve been to all kinds of museums and sites all over Texas. We’ve been to Jamaica, Mexico and Grand Cayman on a cruise. Some went to Italy and Greece last summer. None of it would be possible without cookies.
7. How to be safe. Safety is always first. They learn to trust their gut if something seems creepy. They learn to stick to lighted areas, not to sell to people in cars, to always have an adult with them, and how to keep their money safe and not get stolen, and to wear good, sturdy shoes in case a box gets dropped on your toe.
8. How to work together. As younger girls, it’s always at least two girls and two adults. Those girls have to work together to figure out who is bringing the cookies, who’s bringing the money, whose bringing the table, whose bringing the sign. They work out the timing of asking potential customers so that they both aren’t asking the same person. They also learn how to work with other adults that aren’t their parents.
9. How to be generous. Every year, we are approached by someone at a booth who might not have a home or might not have a secure food source. On their own, they almost always ask their mom or dad if they can give a box to that person. This year, my troop voted to put together care packages with toiletries, a blanket, and protein-rich snacks to give out as well.
10. How to handle criticism, especially from peers. As they get older, sometimes they get mocked for being a Girl Scout. Yet, they still happily sell cookies to their peers. The jokes on them when our girls have an amazing experience in Europe and the Instagram feed to go with it.
What has being a troop leader taught me? So many things, but here are 10:
1. It's not about the cookies. There's much more behind when a girl asks you to buy a box of cookies. She learns how to set goals, speak in public, practice good manners and use math skills. She also has to have the grit to make it through the almost six weeks of cookie season.
2. There's a mother bear in all of us. I've seen seemingly mild-mannered moms go bananas when it came to their daughters. Each of us has family rules that we're sticking to even though it might seem illogical to another mother. We have to respect our parenting differences.
3. Girls are amazing. They are funny, smart, compassionate, empathetic and sometimes a little wild. They have a lot to teach adults about enjoying life and caring for the world. My troop makes me proud almost every time we gather because they come up with amazing ideas. I see glimpses of who they will become, and I have no fear of our future.
4. Sometimes when members of the same sex get together, instead of supporting one another, they cut each other down. That's true for girls and women. There's not a meeting that goes by that we don't talk about how to be "a sister to every Girl Scout."
5. As much as the girls have changed, they’ve also stayed true to themselves. Yes, over 10 1/2 years, I have watched girls come into their own, but who they were in kindergarten, first and second grade is still there. The quiet one is still quiet, she just talks more. The argumentative one (she’s all mine), still likes to argue. The group mother hen is still the sensible one. The kid who was always looking for a thrill is still looking for a thrill, it’s just that the thrills are scarier to the adults around her. And the one who always loses her stuff, still leaves behind something at every event.
6. You can learn a lot about your troop and your daughter at a meeting, but you learn even more chaperoning a trip. They think the driver is invisible (until they have to go to the bathroom or are hungry). I learn what music is cool, what music is lame, what boys or girls in their classes are "hot," who the mean girls are, how they relate to other girls and what their friends think of them. I also know many of the texting abbreviations because of these girls.
7. As parents, we don't really know our kids. They are completely different people when we are not around. I've seen girls who supposedly would not get their feet wet or ride roller coasters, hop onto a water ride at an amusement park when Mom wasn't around. I've seen girls who are obedient for their parents go wild away from home, and I've seen the opposite happen.
8. Every girl has issues. Some of my scouts have anxiety. Some are dyslexic. Some have short fuses. I just act as if I don't know any of that and they often will rise to the occasion, but if they need help, I give it to them. I don't judge them; I just take them where they are and try to move them forward.
9. Mothers and daughters fight. Everyone in my troop knows that my daughter is going to act impossible for me but delightful for another mother. At one point, we had a rule that no mom could chaperone her own daughter. We took a troop to Houston, and my daughter was not allowed in my car or in my hotel room. She needed her own experience. The beauty of Girl Scouts is having time with your daughter building memories, but it's also time for her to develop other female role models.
10. Building confident children means letting go. It means allowing children to be away from home without us either at camp or on a Girl Scout trip. That child who would never get dressed by herself or take a shower by herself at home will do it away from home when she doesn't have her parents to do it for her. Never underestimate what your child is capable of (both good and bad). As much as we think we know our children, they will surprise us —especially the "quiet" ones.
Enjoy your Girl Scout cookies and know that there’s so much more that went into bringing them to you than just butter, sugar, flour, etc.