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Just Say No to Christmas Toy Advertisements

Under topic: holidays

The Christmas Season is upon us and parents are being overwhelmed with their children's wish lists. The lists seem to get longer and longer each year. Television advertising aimed at the younger generation has put the emphasis on getting rather than giving. As a result the season of peace and good-will has become one of conflict and dissension in many families.

Parents are caught in a dilemma because their children see things advertised on TV and beg and whine until they wear the parents out and eventually get what they want.

The sentence goes, "Everybody else's mother is buying it, why can't you?"

Christmas is the time when parents become most vulnerable to TV saturation advertising.

Of course, the answer to that one is, "I'm not responsible for what everybody else's mother does, but I am responsible for what I do."

I suggest that parents must learn to "Just Say No."

If that sentence sounds familiar, it should. It is what we urge children to say to drugs. We do better to model this behavior to children by our saying "No" to toys advertised on TV which are inappropriate for our children.

Christmas is the time when parents become most vulnerable to TV saturation advertising. Most children's wish list consists of toys they have seen advertised on TV. Many of these toys do not live up to the advertisement and children are disappointed. Also, since the toys most heavily advertised become very popular, parents are run ragged chasing from store to store trying to buy a sold-out item. Parents are caught up in the myth that if they do not get what the child wants, Christmas will be ruined.

Not only is this untrue, it demolishes the spirit of the season.

Parents of young children should take this opportunity to set up early some rules for what should be the "giving season" not the "getting season."

Once the rules are understood, parents need to act like adults and abide by them.

The first rule is to let the child know that he will not be getting everything on his wish list. I would set a number limit. If you do not approve of a toy on his list, make it clear that you will not buy it. This may be difficult to do, especially if your child is used to having his own way. But it is important to let the child know that you are acting responsibly and be sure to stick to it. The first time you do it, the child may cry, but he will get over it, especially if you have taken the time to chose more appropriate gifts. The next time is much easier because he knows you mean what you say.

As you moderate the emphasis on "getting", try to change the focus of this season more toward "giving" and "sharing."

Try selecting gifts that the whole family can enjoy rather than individual gifts. Encourage a family tradition that some gifts are made, not bought at the store. This is a gift of oneself - the most precious gift. Even young children can make pictures and cards. This also makes a nice alternative to TV watching. Older children can write stories and poems. Another idea is to give books which have been inscribed with a sentiment which personalizes the book.

Each family is unique and special. I encourage you to keep and add to the family traditions which enhance this season and change or discard those which do not.

First published in 2001