I have an almost 3 year-old boy. Of course, like any kid, he loves treats or candy. We try to limit them at home, but people are so nice in the world, and he's not afraid to talk to strangers, so he asks anyone and everyone for a treat or piece of candy. At church, he will go up to strangers and say, "can I have a piece of gum?". Of course, people are flattered and usually have a mint or something, so he gets what he wants wherever he goes. I try not to let this happen if I am around, but I always worry when I leave him at playgroup, nursery, or with a babysitter. Any advice for the mom of a "schmoozing" 3 year-old?
Send him to me - oh, wait, I'm probably the person giving your kid the treats. I have to admit, I'm a veritable Pied Piper of treats. But, I know what you mean - you need some tools - for the times its not ok.
So, here's my mantra. You can't simply eliminate behavior...but, you can replace it. So, instead of saying, "Stop!" or "Don't do that!" you'll want to think of another action - one that is acceptable to you. It sounds like you don't mind him being social - it's more the sweet consequences. So here are some things to keep the social behavior but alter it, for example...
You could bring stickers and see if your child could offer stickers to friends instead of asking for food.
You could teach him to use the "give me five" phrase. Really make it fun, have him go ask people to "give me five" and if its fun enough the adventure becomes the reward. In order for it really to work you would have to roll play at home. Set up a row of stuffed animals on the coach and have him go up to Mr. Paws and say, "Give me five!" And you of course, would help Mr. Paws with the follow-through. Then, when you are in a social situation, you can ask him to go up to a good friend, and say "Give me five!" If its a production it will be more fun than candy - you hope. (Oh, and if high fives are too loud, go with an "ET phone home finger touch" or some other cool handshake). And I am guessing your 3 year old probably knows "give me five" - but not for this purpose.
You could bring your own stock pile of treats - and set up a rule. If he doesn't ask anyone for treats he can have one from you. This helps you know exactly what he is getting. And if you do this for awhile he would get out of his treat asking habit - because its probably a habit above all.
If those don't work, just keep thinking about the idea of replacing the behavior - and just decide what is acceptable to you. Good luck!
Illustration: The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Kate Greenaway