Nobody Can Brainwash Your Toddler Without Your Permission

toddler remote controlDoes it ever feel like your main job as the parent of a toddler is to protect your little one from the big, bad world? Between germs and sharp objects and kidnappers and natural disasters, the list of potential hazards can seem endless. Oh, and that's not even counting one of the scariest threats to your toddler's well-being ...

The marketing industry! You know, those nefarious agents of mind-control seeking to fill your child's brain with licensed images like Elmo and Snow White? They're getting worse, too. No more subtle brainwashing: Apparently, marketers are now "aggressively" pursuing the birth to 3 years demographic. Like the saying goes, get 'em while they're young ...

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Okay, I get that intentionally targeting pre-verbal human beings as consumers is a creepy move on the part of these "ad wizards," to borrow a term from Jerry Seinfeld. But it's not actually that big of a deal. What I mean is, we don't have to freak out and smash the TV or toss a black shroud over the laptop in order to save our kids from brand-enslavement. We don't have to limit ourselves to non-denominational wooden toys or generic breakfast cereals to keep our children from growing into label junkies.

The one thing we have to do is teach our kids to think for themselves.

Revolutionary concept, I know.

Instead of throwing the TV out the window, why not get into the habit of talking back to ridiculous commercials? "Yuck, I don't think that candy looks good, do you? I bet that kid's teeth are all going to fall out!" Instead of avoiding character-emblazoned toys and clothes, why not expose your kids to art so they can begin to understand how we communicate visually?

Sometimes, too, simply letting them learn the hard way will do the trick. When my daughter was about 3, she was obsessed -- OBSESSED -- with a commercial for Moon Sand, which was sort of like Play-Doh, but sand. Or at least that's how it looked on TV.

I'll never forget her reaction to the reality of Moon Sand, once I finally caved and bought it.

"They said on TV that Moon Sand was hours of fun and it is," she said, staring dejectedly at the uncooperative pile of multicolored sand on the table. We remember the experience as her first official attempt at sarcasm.

The lesson really stuck with her, though. She's been a marketing cynic ever since.

Do you worry about your toddler being "brainwashed" to like certain brands or characters?

 

Image via Mark and Allegra/Flickr

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