It’s true that we live in a super hyper commercial culture. It’s also true (IMO) that commercialism makes it more difficult to raise green kids. BUT not impossible. As I noted previously, many health and child-advocacy organizations feel that we should avoid commercialism at all costs. Turn the TV off, skip junk food, never buy toys related to TV shows and so on. There are even two national “Turn off your TV” weeks annually.
Commercials and marketing is bad, no doubt. Personally, all this stuff and the insane “More” attitude here in the U.S. drives me bonkers. But here’s the real deal. Even if you’re crazy diligent about keeping commercial products out of your kid’s hot little hands and you smash your television with bricks; guess what? Your child will still be exposed to commercialism and marketing efforts.
Kids are exposed to commercial products and marketing plans via:
- Other family members
- Every single grocery store in the free world (that I’ve seen)
- Theme parks
- And so on…
Unless you plan on sending your child off to live in a cave, your child will encounter commercialism and marketing efforts. As I said before, turning off the TV and limiting junk food, while healthier sure, are not actually great ways to make a point about commercialism. They’re band-aid methods for dealing with commercialism. That’s why I never participate in things like turn off the TV week or earth hour and mainly why I’m not entirely on board for Earth Day.
I think we need a better whole life approach to these issues. Also, I think people need to think for themselves more. For example, while I don’t agree with everything posted at the Technology Liberation Front, I do agree with their header motto, “The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.” The same can be said for anything we think is bad, including commercials and marketers.
I think that as green parents we owe it to our kids to do two things…
- Be less consumer driven ourselves.
- Believe that kids can think for themselves.
Be less consumer driven ourselves:
In many families parents can’t manage to free themselves from commercialism, which makes it hard to expect kids to avoid commercialism. Parents buy a lot of junk, not just kids. That influence does rub off on kids. Before we can expect to grow green and consumer savvy kids we need to learn to knock off our own consumer issues.
I’ve personally know many families (both eco-friendly and not) with a home and stuff beyond their needs.
I know people with kids who work two and three jobs, when really, one of the parents would rather be home with the kids. These parents say they can’t afford to be home with the kids. However, if you bring up stuff they could drop like cable TV, the extra car, new CDs and books, extra gardening equipment no one has time to use and dinners out, they’ll usually say that’s just normal stuff that everyone has. Then the argument just kicks back to, “They can’t afford to stay home with the kids.”
These families have kids who are in before school care, after school care and weekend activities. There’s rarely any substantial family time and no environmental family activities happening because the family needs to work more to be able to afford all that extra stuff. With all the commercialism and the drive to get MORE out there, our kids look to us (their parents) first when making decisions about the importance of stuff. If you’re already putting stuff ahead of time with your kids, why shouldn’t they also want the extra gear and gadgets.
Of course there are families who make less money and who have to work two jobs to afford just the necessities, but in many cases, I see families who could drop a lot of stuff, and score more family time. Much like the argument that it’s too expensive to live green, the argument for needed stuff is just a matter of where your priorities sit.
You can learn to make changes:
The New American Dream sums up the major components of how to live with less stuff. Three main points I like include…
- Live consciously: be more aware of what really matters in life.
- Buy wisely: make each purchase, or decision not to purchase stand out.
- Make a difference: use your actions and words to deal with commercialism.
If you haven’t considered just how much stuff can control your life, and in turn your child’s life I suggest you check out one or both of the following books from your local library:
Your Money or Your Life: This book is all about transforming your relationship with money, stuff, and time. It covers how all three interconnect, and pushes for a more authentic, more people based, less materialistic life. Not only does this book discuss the issue, but it gives you solid tools for creating change.
The Circle of Simplicity: This book has a financial component but is heavy on the behind the scenes need for stuff. How to get rid of it, how to buy less, finding and living your passion, forming community groups that focus on togetherness and clearing space, both in your mind and literally.
Later we’ll look at what it means to believe that kids can think for themselves and be smart consumers.
How are you dealing with the issue of stuff – limiting it, working on limiting it?