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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Kids and Commercialism

Tonight I spoke at our local chapter of Holistic Moms Network about "Parenting in a Commerical Culture". We had a great turnout and a lively discussion about the challenges facing parents in a culture where advertisers are actively fighting for your child's mind. Much of the conversation centered around television viewing and the merchandising of cartoon characters. It was clear that everyone felt the pressure to conform to mainstream culture, but that they were taking steps to push against it. I am very fortunate to have such mindful and intelligent mamas to bounce ideas off of and turn to for support.

Here are some action tips on this topic from the New American Dream*:
  • Get rid of the TV.
  • Expose kids to other media - surrealist films, conceptual art exhibits (carefully selected), gatherings of interesting adult friends with non-mainstream stories to tell.
  • Remove the logos from clothes, theirs and yours. Talk with kids about why you're doing this. Suggest to kids to design their own, personal logos.
  • See a wonderful passage on commercialism and consumerism by Brian Swimme
  • Parents who resist consumerism for themselves are the ones who teach their children to resist it.
  • Teach children to be doers and creators rather than shoppers and buyers.
  • Supply them with sidewalk chalk, old cardboard boxes and other makings of creative play.
  • Grow your own food. Involve the kids. Teach your child of the connections within the natural world. Experience their beauty together. Talk about where things come from, who made them, what they are made of.
  • Teach by example and conviction a set of values that allow kids to make their own choices.
  • Teach kids empathy for others. Instead of buying toys, suggest they spend the money bringing some groceries to the local food bank.
*I used a handout from New American Dream that was full of great resources, websites, etc. They are a really neat grassroots organiziation on a mission. Check them out!


Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Homeschooling, when possible, is not a bad idea either... I think some of the fight for the child's mind is made easier when the child's mind is not as independent or engaged...

... of course, homeschooling isn't an option for everyone, nor desirable to everyone... so, I'm interested in how people address this part of the issue for public school kids (the independent & engaged piece)

10/19/2006 5:01 AM  
Anonymous Kim in IN said...

My 2 youngest are in public school in our small town. My 14 yr. old has always been homeschooled. I don't see too much desire for conformity. We have always been a simple living kind of family so it hasnt been too difficult yet for the two in school,but I can see little things that I have to talk about with them. I think it will be much harder as they get older if they are in government school. I guess what I am trying to say in a VERY roundabout way is children that are brought up caring about the things that Sara and the other women who read this wonderful blog care about it becomes very natural to go to a thrift shop and buy a new outfit,to recycle,to not own a t.v.,to pick up trash in your neighborhood,etc. Most importantly we talk with our children about why these things are so important.

10/19/2006 7:26 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

We are planning on homeschoooling/unschooling I am less concerned about this than if I was sending her to public schools. However, I do agree with Kim in that it's not always where they go to starts in the home. It's critical that we TEACH our children about advertiser tactics and how they can be responsible consumers. We can't just assume they are learning by watching needs to be an active teaching process.

10/19/2006 8:19 AM  
Blogger EricaO said...

Thanks for posting a blog on this. I just got finished reading that book you recommended "Live Simply with Children"... and I'm glad I did... the section on this topic was great and I went to the websites it recommeneded, I never really thought of it that way...I'm sure most parents don't..Knowledge is the key

10/19/2006 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: homeschooling.

We were able to pick a great one-room-schoolhouse that focuses on art, music, drama and creative expression for our 5 year old. The best part about this school is that it is a public school. I think a lot of people forget to really look into the options for public education. The media (another reason to toss the TV) would have us believe that public education is terrible and dangerous, when there are many teachers and schools that approach education in a more holistic fashion.
I think it is most important that we teach our children that they can/should stand apart from the crowd. We should teach them with our words and actions that standing apart is difficult but rewarding. This is a difficult lesson to learn in relative isolation. The struggle they will face to live apart in the public will go a long way to preparing them to stand apart in life.

10/19/2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger Gavrielah said...

What a terrific post! This is one of the things I've become passionate about lately. Unfortunately, my children do attend school (2 in private, 1 in public) and the consumer mentality is so prevalent! Homeschooling is not an option for me right now, so I need to do the best I can at home to counter that mentality.

And Sara, thanks for the Holistic Moms link. There's a chapter about 1/2 hour from me so I might check it out. My only concern is that my kids are all older (8, 10, 12) and I'm just at the beginning of this lifestyle, so I don't know if I'd fit in there.

10/19/2006 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another great post, with great suggestions!

We too are planning on homeschooling/unschooling, but so much begins in the home whether or not one's children are homeschooled, unschooled or public schooled.

10/20/2006 11:24 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

When I moved to be closer to my job this past year, I couldn't contain my excitement when i found out that the New American Dream office was right down my street!! :-D

I've been reading your blog for a while, and it's a wonderful reminder every day to help keep me on track. I'm finding Kermit was right...but the little tricks & info you post really make it easier being green!

I don't know if you've ever read this book. It is a how-to:

10/20/2006 12:04 PM  

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