In our modern society the ritual offering of food to the child of our acquaintances, friends or even that of a stranger has become obligatory gesture of civility and good manners. How many times you were in the situation to kindly decline the offers of other benevolent strangers in the park, who are insisting on pushing a treat (usually some candies) in the hands of your child, although you have already explained that she does not eat sweets .. . And each of us has fallen in this situation – when our child eats and is approached by another child we instinctively offer the other child the same food, regardless of the context of the event or whether we knew that the other child or not.
On the other hand, any conscientious parent with the same perseverance, by which offers treats to other children, instructs his own child to NEVER take food from strangers – an advice inherently controversial to his own behavior to other children.
Interestingly where are the roots in what these conflicting behaviors. Here’s my paleo-anthropological theory on the subject:
During the Paleolithic, when food was generally scarce, and especially carbohydrates (this is when our brain has begun to perceive sweet things like supreme delight) it was probably a gesture of extreme kindness to offer to others the few carbohydrates which you have succeeded to collect in the form of blueberries or other berries. Supply and exchange of food are established models which demonstrate peaceful intentions among primitive tribes today and probably have remained since these ancient inhospitable conditions from the Ice Age. The youngest members of the tribal group has always been the most open-minded and trusting of strangers, so it is probably normal to be the first to approach the foreign group and to accept the offered food. Probably this childish feature has built in us the habit to offer food to every approaching child as subconscious sign of non aggressive behavior and attitude.
At the same time we should not forget that times were tough. Vulnerable children who have strayed from the group were probably victims of hostile foreign nations and served as food or were adopted by other tribes against their will. And is it not the easiest way to lure one trusting child with a treat. Hence the behavior to constantly advice children not to take food from strangers.