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The gimmies — Good Parenting

Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Headshot2011The gimmies — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

It’s getting to be that time of year when my boys, ages 4 and 6, are bombarding me with “I want this” and “I want that” from all the advertising they’re exposed to. I don’t think I can take it for another month and a half. How do get them to stop?

Holding My Ears and My Wallet

Don’t miss last week’s column on Age Appropriate Foodball

Dear Holding,

Stop the advertisers or stop your children? Just kidding. The advertisers, I’m afraid, are here to stay. There’s actually an advertising term, “the whine factor” which you can read about at Commercial Alert. I’ll admit I could only read about halfway through. It upsets me to think that there are adults who intentionally take advantage of the trust of a child. For their own profit. And think it’s the right thing to do.

Back to your role as a parent. Limit, as best you can, your children’s exposure to all the advertising. “Turn Off Your TV Week” was started as an organized way to challenge families to do other things with their time than watch the tube. Get outside. Be creative. Play with others. Discover books. Now known as “Screen-Free Week” the annual observation (May 5-11 in 2014) is endorsed by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood  as a way to counteract th consumerism and materialism being pushed on our children. The products themselves are often the opposite of what we would want our children to have – encouraging violence, promiscuity, and the consumption of goods masquerading as food.

Besides the television, advertisers use the Internet, billboards on highways, signs on buses, in malls and stores. Products even advertise their own brand names as well as other products. Take note of all the ways that the tentacles of advertising try to reach your children and do your best to avoid them. Take back control of who has access to your children. CommonSense.org has more tips to ad-proof children of all ages.

To protect your little ones from greed, find ways to help them express kindness and generosity to others. This doesn’t come naturally to most children, so you will model and guide them. Use niceties when you speak with them — “I’m so glad you . . .” “It made me happy that you . . .” Let them decide which clothes and toys they could donate to other children. Make cards to send to friends and relatives just to say, “Hi, we’re thinking about you.” Make bird feeders to help our feathered friends through the winter. Help the brothers to be fair and considerate with each other.

We all like to dream of having things we don’t have. This is a fine thing to encourage, and a way to shape some of their wants in a more positive direction. Window shopping is a fun way to walk past store windows, flip through catalogues, or even surf the web. Playing restaurant or store is another way to pretend you are buying something you can’t really have. When you’re pretending, you can eat ALL the pretend birthday cake you want. Help your children imagine what they might do with toys and other products they’d like to have — maybe even ones that don’t yet exist. This builds creative thinking skills. A gift you can give your children any time, with no ill effects.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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