Christmas, advertising and exposure to the world
I have most of my Christmas shopping done. No, really. I can’t believe it myself. Last night in a few hours online I completed a lot of shopping. And I was able to buy from local sellers, artisans, and those corporate toys my kids love.
Not only that, but I came in slightly under budget. Depending on how much the remainder of the items I need to get costs, I just might be under budget for Christmas. That is an amazing feeling!
Of course, as Christmas gets nearer, I’m sure I’ll wind up just “dashing out” for those “one or two small items” and winding up leaving Walmart three hours and $300 later. But I’m really trying to avoid that.
This year we worked hard on keeping it simple. We started reading a few Christmas stories to the kids in September. Ones that concentrate on ideas like not asking for too much and being content with a few items you really want rather than a bunch of things you think you might want.
We got cable this year and I worried that all the advertising would turn them into gimme zombies, but because I was so worried about this, we talked a lot about advertising and how it makes you feel like you want something. They’re also getting a clearer idea of what we don’t approve of, because we will often shut off the TV or explain our disapproval to them if ads for those items come on.
I can’t believe that I’m saying that the television has been a positive tool in educating my children about advertising, but there it is. In years past there were many things I didn’t approve of, but because they had never been exposed to them, they were abstract ideas at best.
Now they know outright that ads for Monster High Dolls make mommy start sputtering. And commercials that make toys look like they can do a lot more than they actually can are lying and that makes Mommy mad!
As with many things in life, I sought for a long time to “protect” my children from adver- tising and mass media. And I think, then, that I was doing the right thing. A couple of years ago, even last year, they were too young to have developed the critical thinking skills to question advertising.
This year, they’re doing fine. My daughter asked for a Monster High Doll and when I said no, that I felt they were inappropriate, she replied “like Bratz dolls Mommy?” Exactly. She then, of course, pushed to be allowed to have “just one,” but quickly accepted my refusal. I believe that this is, in large part, based on the fact that she had actually seen the ads for Monster High dolls and seen that they were like Bratz dolls, thus knew that I wouldn’t approve of them.
Similarly, my son asked for a Harry Potter Lego set. When I explained that the set isn’t really magic, he said, “They lied in that ad, Mommy.” And to him, they did. Then he continued, “they just want our money and that’s not fair.” Which is exactly what I’ve been telling him for years, but he’s just getting now.
So what’s the moral of this story? What it comes down to is that we can’t protect our children from everything in the world that we don’t approve of. It’s just not possible, try and wish as we might. But if we try too hard to protect them, as I had earlier in denying cable TV and most forms of advertising, we also deprive them of the ability to develop the critical thinking skills to handle the world. They can’t just integrate our beliefs because we tell them too. They need to see why and how our beliefs work in the world out there.
It’s scary and strange letting them see and hear the things you don’t approve of. But it’s incredibly validating to see them disapprove of them as well. Hopefully, by gently easing them into exposure of those things, with lots of discussion around them, we’re teaching them how to handle the scarier things coming as they get older.