Battling Commercialism From the Parent Side

Commercialism is everywhere making it very hard for parents to control. Visit your nearest theater and you are bombarded by commercials for the first 20 minutes of the show. Large companies “buy” placement in the movies and television shows to make their products look cool. I suspect cigarette companies do this. Commercialism is also in our schools and in “sponsored” educational materials sometimes given to our kids. I recently read about one school system that had McDonald’s coupons on the report cards. But what if you don’t want your children to accept blindly that these institutions and products are beneficial to us? How do we keep these values from infiltrating our households?

While this may seem monumental parents can play a significant and role in keeping commercialism at bay for their kids. Here are some ideas:

Corporate Babysitter » Blog Archive » Helping kids see past commercialism

The Corporate Babysitter has a great list of parent-to-kid conversations & approaches to speaking about commercialism & marketing.

My favorite from this list are:

Encourage your kids to get involved in creative play. Introduce them to great outdoor games like hopscotch, four-square, hide and seek, double-dutch skipping, jumping rope, dodge ball, soccer and a host of other neighborhood games that will keep your kids busy and “physically active” for hours. The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls are good places to start looking for ideas.

My sister and I grew up in Bull Valley, Illinois. Rolling hills and ex-farm land. The neighborhood we lived in did not have kids our own age, and therefore the television filled a certain void for me (lol). Fearing for my mental health (and my eyes – remember that old tv threat?), my beloved mother would force me and my sister outside to play. Can’t plug anything into electrical sockets outside (at least we couldn’t). We never had those crazy kid-jeeps or nerf guns or slip’n’slides. A day of joy consisted of pogo balls, swing sets, water hoses, and the sideyard fort where we made perfume from local tree blossoms and fished for invisible fish in the deep ditch with willow branches. Granted – such outside play never cooled the love for television, but it did force me into equally loving other play patterns. Ranger Rick & Mr. Rogers & The Electric Company were big influences in dreaming up other play patterns (again, like making perfume, etc).

Expose kids to other media – like art/surrealist films, art exhibits, public lectures on topics that might interest them. We are BIG on art in my house. We have all the supplies I could need for just about any project. This week my oldest painted a half dozen beautiful landscapes, he made several 3-D pictures, a Mardi Gras style mask for me, and a Pinata for his Dad for father’s day. All I did was supply him with the means. I have had to cover his bedroom floor in cheap scrap carpets because the paint gets EVERYWHERE!

My parents were small business owners (and still are), and it was tight here and there during my youth (as it was for everyone in the 80’s). I only say this because – despite the careful book keeping and tight spending of my parents, they did make a HUGE point to expose my sister and myself to culture. For about 5 years we went to as many plays as possible (Matinees at the playhouse in the Marriot in Schamburg, IL) – Do Black Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? and 1776 and West Side Story and Brigadoon… My dad (in the beginning) wasn’t so hot on plays, but even he began loving the musicals. Mom bought me pastels (and I adored them), my sister learned the piano, we both took Ballet (for 8 grueling years), and we listened solely to oldies & classical & Broadway music, and we took trips to the museum with our fairy godmother neighbor whenever the woman had a day off.

It’s funny… if you meet me, you might think I’m filled to the brim with energy & brands & cartoons & silly pop culture knowledge, but if you REALLY get to know me, you’d know I listen to classical on the way to work every morning, Phantom of the Opera has been my favorite since I was 7 years old (but Les Mis and Miss Saigon always makes me cry), sometimes I privately wish I had stuck with ballet (but don’t tell my mom), I’ve seen Mamma Mia 7 times (Chicago, St. Louis, New York, and London), milling around the Getty or the National Museum in Edinburgh are my favorite places to spend spare time, I love choirs singing and Gothic halls, and there is nothing I’d rather do on a Sunday than curl up with a good book in front of the fireplace at my parents house in Northern Illinois.

My point to is: there is a whole lot of life out there. Choices, balance, and opportunity. Help build your child by offering balances. Give your child the tools to sort it out themselves. Reading & musicals & art – ugh, hell yeah I was annoyed by such things in teenhood. But when I turned twenty? MAN was I grateful that I had such building blocks in my soul. Every experience becomes a part of you – in one way or another. Give all experiences the credit they deserve for the opportunities and knowledge they present. The best thing a parent can do is to make sure there is a wide range.

There is a whole lot of commercialism out there, and honestly – it is very, VERY hard to avoid. To win such a war you have to bring the battle home, where YOU have the upper hand, YOU have the advantage. Your children may not “jump for joy” when you suggest going to a local art museum, or watching an outdoor play in the park, or even feel particularly grateful when you exchange their Nintendo DS for paint brushes and pastels – but do it. Do it anyway. Do it for their own good.

Anyway, enough of preachy preachy Izzy today. I do think the list at Corporate Babysitter is important for everyone (whether you have children or not). Why? Because maybe it’s time to question how much balance you are giving YOURSELF these days, yeah? 😉

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