Thursday, May 26, 2011

Parental Common Sense

Lately, the media is paying way too much attention to stories about parents who are outraged at the so called negative influences on their children. For example, there is a group that wants McDonald's to retire Ronald McDonald because they believe he promotes eating unhealthy, and encourages obesity.

While I am all for experimenting with ways to raise healthy, happy, well adjusted kids, there comes a moment, when you have to step back and look at your method to check for common sense. Most of the extreme parenting folks, like the ones who want to retire Ronald McDonald, need a dose of common sense and a shot of personal responsibility.

If as a parent, you do not want to expose your precious spawn to horrible fast food chazzerai**, and if you cannot teach your children about eating in moderation, then do not take them to restaurants that serve the crap in the first place. It is the parents who control what and where their own children eat, so by all means, assert your parental instinct.

In fact, our friend, Barry Klein wrote the following article and he says it all much better than I can. I am cut and pasting an article he recently wrote on this exact topic. Barry Klein is right on the money here.

By Barry Klein

I'm the guy that started it -- the adman (not madman) who created the Ronald McDonald character long ago, and I'm proud of it...even now. Like Tony the Tiger, the Keebler Elves, Cap'n Crunch, the animated M&M's, Snap, Crackle & Pop, and many other such characters, the idea was to develop a spokesperson who would favorably represent the brand in communications, making it more interesting and helping the audience relate. It did not seem to be a dirty deed to sell products on television (or any other medium), even to kids whose parents show their love by buying some of what the kids requested.

It was not too long ago that most parents demonstrated their acceptance of responsibility by refraining from over-indulgence, limiting purchases and the amount of product consumed. A few parents did not, but not nearly so many as in recent years. Negativity about the messages that aired on TV programs for kids was almost non-existent then, except for the commercials that made false claims or showed magnified images of toys and games. The organization "Action for Children's Television" was quite vocal and effective in that area. But most of those people did not call for the elimination of all advertising on children's television shows. Healthy eating was what family meals were all about, and was not necessarily related to what kids saw on TV.

Today we listen to a cacophony of proclamations that television advertising is to blame for many children's problems. What is it that turned the situation around? Is it the ads...or is it the abandonment of parental responsibility? How did it come about that governmental action is necessary to substitute for a parent saying "No" to a child. And when did it become acceptable for the passage of legislation to block businesses from promoting products or services that are completely legitimate? Have the ranks of irresponsible parents grown to the point where they are happy with government taking over the parental role?

In a recent campaign, Ronald McDonald is encouraging kids to visit the website and upload pictures of themselves to be integrated into videos with Ronald. The videos can then be sent to the child's friends and relations to play recorded "Happy Birthday" or other pleasing messages. How can such an innocent, fun and pleasant social activity harm anything? That the mere connection to McDonald's will be harmful to the child simply stretches credibility, and panders to the belief that commercialism of any kind is to be avoided at all costs.

What's next? Banning McDonald's logos from merchandise that raises funds for Olympic athletes and teams? That's commercial, too. Should support for Ronald McDonald House be terminated because it's connected to McDonald's?

Products which are advertised on children's TV – movies, videos, amusement parks, toys, games, cookies, candies, peanut butter and other foods – are all at risk here, even if they do not employ a character as spokesperson. We need to understand that if any of those products are restricted to the point where the commercials have no effect on sales – or are banned completely – there will be no financial support for Kids TV, and that form of entertainment will be taken away all together.

Standing by and allowing restrictive organizations and governments to ban some of our children's pleasures is the same as (maybe the result of) stepping away from parental responsibility. Mom and Dad should be the ones to guide their children's behavior and enjoyment, drawing the lines between pleasure and potential over-indulgence.

No one ever said that raising kids is simple or easy. Making the task simpler or easier by avoiding the responsibilities involved is a cop-out...perhaps even a crime. How many "No-toys-in-kids-meals" laws will it take to make us vote the people who make them out of office? Some local legislative bodies are working on laws that protect legitimate products and categories of products from the passage of these invasive restrictions. Let's support those efforts.

Let our kids be kids, with normal parental supervision, and maybe they will grow up happily, just like us.

Thanks Barry, I really could not have said it better myself!

It all boils down to this- if you don't want your kids watching inappropriate programming on television, do not let your children have unsupervised access to your remote. If you believe fast food is the devil, don't eat fast food. Lastly, remember, Your Kids Are Your Own Fault, as in the aptly titled book by Larry Winget.

With friends like Barry Klein
and Larry Winget, there is a good chance I am surrounding myself with positive parenting role models. It is all really just common sense.

As for the Yiddish word of the day:
Chazzerai (HOZZ-ER-RYE)
Literally, it means Pig Slop, but more commonly it is used to describe junk or crap. "I went to Loehmann's looking for a dress but all they had was a bunch of chazzerai."

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