Parents wear many hats, from therapist to nutritionist, this job is not for the faint of heart. Keeping another human being safe both physically and psychologically takes work and an endless number of sleepless nights. It’s our job to lift their self-esteem and present the world around them realistically, without scarring them permanently. There aren’t enough books on the planet to help make this process anything less than an intense stroll through hot coals with only the briefest moments of reprieve. Parenting is tough, the toughest, am I making my point clear enough?
On top of the work that comes with just filling immediate needs, is a whole other host of challenges. The media at large is trying to talk your kid out of the basic lessons you’ve been trying to teach them since birth. And they’ve got major production values on their side. Every commercial, song, video, movie, and TV show has become that cool kid enticing my kid to drop me and join in on their fun. I’ve begun feeling like an old reliable friend who gets left on the play ground whenever the cool kid comes around.
“I know your mom said oatmeal is great but marshmallows and sugary oat like pebbles are way more awesome, right?” and that’s the daily battle that every parent faces. The cool kids in class are trying to convince your kids that the perfectly cool sneakers you bought on sale are not as brilliant as the ones with that guy and his basketball, the ones they saw in that music video on that one guy on YouTube.
The struggle is real and I am working really hard to prevent my kids from believing all the media hype being thrown their way. Below are five ways I’ve tried to keep my kids grounded in the endless sea of marketing madness.
Introduce them to the man behind the curtain:
My son came home from school the other day and a commercial came on for one pizza chain or another. In response my son says “Mmmm that looks tasty,” to which I immediately reply, “that’s just good lighting and camera tricks” and then I went on to explain that commercials are made to make the product look as best as possible and they use lots of tricks to help them do that. The United States doesn’t really have very strict rules about false advertising, so they can add Elmer’s glue to milk to form the perfect milk mustache. You can also get away with wearing false eye lashes in mascara commercials and airbrush wrinkles away in night cream commercials. My son was blown away by this bit of information, the same as Dorothy was shocked when Toto pulled the curtain back to reveal the man who was the wizard of Oz. He asked “How can you tell if something you see in a commercial is something worth buying?” Great question kid! You do the homework, read industry reviews, talk to people who’ve used the product you are interested in and sometimes you take a chance.
There’s a difference between fashion and style:
My eldest daughter is heading toward her 14th year of life on earth. Branding has its influence on her and her peers, she cares about what she’s wearing and to a small degree, who she is wearing. We live in a label saturated society and the youth take that shit seriously, I hate every second of it but I’m a realist, I held fast to trends in my youth too. I get that sameness and oneness is important to developing teens. Teaching her the difference between fashion and style is key. We can be stylish without breaking the bank. A name brand does not necessarily equate to quality and teaching her what to look for in terms of style and quality was an important lesson. Knowing what is worth the investment and what is just razzle dazzle will help her find her individuality without feeling like she is missing out on style.
Teach your kids their buying power:
As consumers we have much more power than we think. Do the brands you invest in support your values, the environment and provide livable wages to their employees? If they don’t you have the power to spend your money elsewhere. Corporations should be held responsible for their contributions or lack their of to the greater good. As a consumer you have the right to raise awareness and then boycott those companies who just aren’t cutting it. Teach your children their power in the supply and demand chain. Teach them that with their money they can make a statement to every brand who is not inline with their ideals. Teach them to stand up for what they believe with the dollars they spend and where they spend them. It’s empowering.
Lead by example and be vocal about your buying choices:
When we take our kids shopping, whether for food or school supplies we make it a point to show them how many choices are out there. We teach them to seek out the best quality for the price and not to settle for what one brand or shop might think something is worth. It might be a challenge to drag them through the process of picking, choosing and buying but I really believe it is worth it. When they grow up and move out they will have a realistic idea of what things are worth and where they can get them for less.
Teach them the power of their voice:
Teach your kids not to settle or be fooled by advertising but to try, test and have an opinion on the products they buy. As a consumer you are a valuable commodity to every brand. Brands want your loyalty and they want you to champion their products and services. If you purchase something that doesn’t work as advertised, reach out to the company and ask them to make it right. Make the effort to review the products you do purchase so other consumers can gather perspective. Social media is a powerful tool for the consumer – you can get a company’s attention easily by tweeting or posting your pleasure or disappointment. It’s up to the brand to make it right and up to you to continue to patronize them whether they do or don’t. Your voice has power to make brands accountable for both their quality and prices. Use it to gain an advantage in the market and get as much worth within your budget as possible.