A few years back we introduced the kids to Funniest Home Videos. The chance to laugh at people doing stupid things and dancing cats was too good to pass up. During the break there was an ad for a product that I can’t even remember. What I do remember though, was Hannah saying “We should get that”. We told Hannah that it isn’t as good as the ad says, to which she replied “but why do they say it is then?”
It was a good question.
Our kids are subjected to so much advertising, and they don’t have the mental or emotional maturity to discern what is true and what is not. So it is really up to us, as parents, to teach kids these skills. We need to actively teach our kids that happiness will not come from more stuff.
In the farm house, we have ongoing conversations with our kids about advertisements they see. We talk about what they are trying to sell and the tricks they are using to try and convince us to buy their product.
We talk with them about how advertisers want us to buy their products so they tell us all the good things about the product, but not the bad things. That advertisers show people having a great time while they are using the product to make it look fun and exciting, and they even try to make us feel that we have to have those products if we want to feel good about ourselves. We teach our kids that we don’t have accept what these advertisements are saying.
One of my proudest moments as a parent was when Hannah made a comment to the TV about an advertisement along the lines of “yeah, you might say that it is good, but you didn’t say how the food tastes boring, and is bad for you – No Thanks!” It felt like a win (and often as a parent, you don’t feel those!).
When our kids understand that a cheap toy from a dubious international hamburger chain won’t make their meal any more exciting, and that it won’t be that much fun to play with either, suddenly they don’t really want the toy (or even the meal). And they don’t pester us for it either. There is no bit of plastic cluttering up the house. I would even go as far as to say our kids are happier too because they are free from the pull of stuff.
The second thing we can do for our kids is to limit the amount of commercials they are exposed to. This means being selective about the television they watch. If you have already begun the conversation about the ways advertisers try to lure us in, then limiting the ads becomes a lot easier, because they understand why you are doing it. Try muting the ads, choosing programs and channels with fewer ads, using DVD’s instead, or turning the TV off.
Despite our best efforts, it is near impossible to completely avoid advertisements, and the insidious message that more is better. If we value living simply, then we actively must teach our kids to do the same, it won’t just happen.
Do you talk to your kids about advertisements? What do you say? Got any more ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts!