And so are the cupboards and the food left on the countertop in our kitchen if you are a child, a pre-teen or a teenager and don't ask for permission. So don't even think about helping yourself, especially if I am not around, especially if you had been offered food less than three hours ago, especially if you are going to have lunch/dinner in less than one hour. But, obviously, if you ask for permission, I'll give you something! Enfin peut-être, depending on your excuse!
As I have watched my children (and some of their friends!!) helping themselves in our kitchen, I have come to set strict rules about what acceptable and what's not for my children (and their friends), in our kitchen. If they start opening the fridge, I ask them to close it and to ask me for permission to pick up something from it. If I think that it's OK for them to do it, I let them do it and remind them that they have to ask. When I cook and they are in the kitchen, I ask them to take things out to help me. When my kids pull something out of the fridge, I can see that they are really proud of it, feeling like grown-ups : you see, grown-ups open the fridge a lot (have you ever tried to count?) Don't get me wrong, I put my bad cop hat, not because I don't want my children to be independent and happy when they fixed themselves something: I actually LOVE to watch them gain confidence when they butter and spread jam on their toasts in the morning. I just think that I am avoiding unnecessary snacking habits and teaching them what I consider basic règles de vie. I also hope that by being used to asking for food/drink politely (s'il-te/vous-plait, merci), they won't open the fridge at someone's else place either (what a dreadful thought!!)
Letting children open the fridge without asking for permission is not something French people do a lot. I have never seen my friends' children or my nephews/nieces do it ; I never open the fridge at my French friends' place unless I have been granted the authorization and it took a a while to feel comfortable opening my in-laws' fridge without asking for permission!! But then again, I don't want to generalize. And if I remember well, there were times, at my parents' place, when my brothers would dive for the chocolate mousse desserts without really asking my mother whether it was OK or not... but they were in their teen-age years and coming back from a long day at school or from playing sports. Not because they were bored or hungry because they had not eaten a proper lunch. It also happened that my mother was not home when we came home from school, which meant that we could fix ourselves our snack. And yes, back then, we'll have more than what my mother would have authorized had she been home. Normal, non?
I think that if you teach your children, early enough, that the fridge, the cupboards and any in-between-meals food is off-limits unless they ask for permission, they'll remember and develop better habits as they grow older. At least, that's what I hope. Time will tell for my own family. For the time being, I'll keep my bad cop hat handy!