Christ­mas, ad­ver­tis­ing and ex­po­sure to the world

The Compass - - PORTHTE -

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.

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