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I fear my goddaughter has weaponized cuteness to become a professional moocher. She knows I won't buy things for her myself (I donate most of my income to charity and feel that's more important then getting her a toy she will forget about in an hour, I repeatedly remind her I take her to do fun things but don't buy things and she does seem to mostly get this). So when I refuse to buy her something she will find ways to beg or manipulate others around her into offering her the desired goodies free of charge. This isn't accidental, there is a clear deliberate and intentional methodology, to the point I can tell ahead of time when she has set her sights on a new victim to mooch from.

I don't like her mooching off of others like this. I realize others are freely offering her the gifts, but her deliberately baiting them to do so still makes me uncomfortable. It's mostly harmless now, but it would be a bad pattern of behavior if she kept it up when older, assuming she could once she lost the current cuteness factor.

I have before told her, when I knew she was plotting an attack, that she could go to look at a cake or fancy balloon real fast, but she wasn't allowed to ask for it. She merely found ways to bait someone into making an offer to her without technically asking for it, and then looking at me with a gloating look like "hey, I technically followed your rules". She is very good at this. Last time she even managed to get someone selling fancy light up balloons to give her one free of charge when she was forbidden from asking for it, I figured if anyone would be immune to her it would be the people who make their living dealing with kids begging for stuff from them; I still don't know how she pulled that one off and I was there to witness it...

I'm tempted to simply tell her she can't have anything even if it is offered to her, but I'm not sure if I should. I mean she isn't really harming anyone, they are offering her the gifts and I'm not sure it's worth stepping in and saying no belatedly after she gets an offer. Mostly I fear she won't understand why I want to prevent her from conning people into giving her goodies and so I'll just seem like a mean godfather without her actually learning a useful lesson. And frankly in the grand scheme of things being intentionally super cute is hardly the worst crime a child could commit.

So, should I be stepping in to more actively discourage this pattern of behavior? If so how do I explain why I'm preventing it?

Her mother trusts me and gives me full permission to handle her as I see fit when I'm watching them. All the instances I witness are when I have her and her sister out somewhere without her mother present, likely because her mother is more likely to just buy her what she wants while she needs to resort to more creative methods when stuck with her terrible cheap godfather who refuses to buy her all those goodies she knows she rightfully deserves.

No just buying her the toys myself isn't an option. I'm the terrible cheap godfather after all.

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    So what is the mother like? With who did she see this behavior?
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 15, 2022 at 10:26
  • I think the rule "do not accept presents from strangers" is valid and useful. Consider nasty situations little kids can get into... in some cases a present is bait...
    – Pablo H
    Jan 5, 2023 at 14:09
  • @PabloH I'm afraid I disagree. The whole stranger danger nonsense is mostly a result of the spotlight fallacy, extremely rare stories of terrible things being picked up by the news and broadcast to all until they assume these cases are common instead of realizing the news just likes to sensationalize the rare and scary. The odds of a person giving a gift to a child right in front of me that is part of some evil plot to kidnap her away is so absurdly low based off of real statistics I will not encourage her to fear those that are different by implying they are all plotting and evil.
    – dsollen
    Jan 5, 2023 at 14:22
  • Spotlight fallacy agreed. Stranger danger... that depends on where you live. :-) The point of the rule is precisely that it be applied when you (or responsible adult) are not present. Also the rule is more general: "timeo Danaos et dona ferentes", "there's no free lunch" and so on. Whether you want to teach her to be a priori trusting or wary or something more complicated about strangers is your choice, of course. That's why I wrote "valid and useful": it is a tool. There are many tools.
    – Pablo H
    Jan 5, 2023 at 15:08

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Your god-daughter has some amazing skills, which are not good or bad, but can be used for good or bad.

Cuteness and skills at manipulating adults does not give your god-daughter a right to take items for free from someone that is earning a living by selling those items.

As the adult that is caring for her, you have a right to set rules and boundaries around how she uses her skills, like "we don't ask too be given things for free."

She will test the rule and you'll have to state the rule in front of the charmed adult and make your god-daughter give back whatever she was given, and the charmed adult will likely think you're being too hard on her, but they don't know the whole story.

You could also channel your god-daughter's skills into asking for something that doesn't cost the charmed adult anything, like asking them to sing her happy birthday. In this way she gets to interact with the charmed adult but is not taking away from their income.

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