Archive for the ‘Media & Marketing’ Category

It’s Just Background Noise

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

A new study proves what we may have suspected all along; just having the TV on distracts kids. You knew that already just as you noticed your own level of concentration increases when the TV is off.

A recent study reported in the journal Child Development suggested that parents who leave the television on all day are stunting the development of their infants. It goes on to say that even when babies appeared to pay no attention to adult programs, they spent less time focused on toys compared with when the program was turned off.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two should watch no television and older children should be limited to no more than two hours a day.

”Parents should limit their young children’s exposure to background television,” said Marie Evans Schmidt, who carried out the research at the University of Massachusetts. She said TV was a potentially ”chronic environmental risk factor” affecting most children.

Many studies have indicated that excessive TV in the early years of life can stunt language skills and contribute to behavioral problems.

The message is loud and clear. Expand the same limits to all forms of media and you will have a child with time to think, dream and play.

Dumbing Down America – Part II

Sunday, June 8th, 2008


You might read this wondering when part 1 happened, so let me fill you in.

Part 1 happened around 1900, when we moved to the Industrial Age. Prior to that, people were farmers and craftsman, completely responsible for production of their own products, meeting with their patrons and getting unfiltered feedback. This gave them complete control and pride in their work.

Then came the factories where the wealthy few decided that it was far more important that people knew only a tiny portion of work in assembly lines as a way to expedite production. They basically wanted us to be robotic – almost dumb so things could be done exactly as they wanted. In order for that to happen, the employee was born, and in the wake of the employee, the manager would soon to follow – just to make sure the employee was performing as expected.

Jump to over 100 years later and we are desperately trying to give people incentives to care about their work. It’s simple: show them the bigger picture and have them understand how their work affects the people they work with before and after the widget hits them on the production line. Ooops! I’m too late for this, we no longer do any manufacturing in the U.S.

So why am I writing about this in a so called parenting blog? Simply because the next wave of dumbing down America is upon us. It’s called product licensing and it’s robbing our kids of any creativity they have. Look at their clothes, shoes, books, anything! Try to find a plain t-shirt, sneakers, coloring books, backpacks, or note pads. Try to get the attention of an adolescent (in fairness, that is tough anytime) but the electronic gadgets rob us of any possibility of having a discussion with them, let alone for them to have anytime to think or dream.

The next wave of dumbing down America will rob our children of the next generation of creative thinkers. That is unless we have the courage not to succumb to the pressure of the next kids show.

Think about it.

Pee Pee Targets

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Pop quiz

Question: What do toilet training targets have to do with census data?

Answer: Everything.

We start early by giving our kids rewards for doing things they should do. We understood this sort of positive reinforcement encourages children to do the behaviors that we want them to do.

Ah! Therein lies the problem, the word behaviors. Are we raising children or seals?

Somewhere in this generation of parenting, we were told that giving children things to get them to do things was a good idea.

It is not. It is a terrible idea.

To make matters worse the concept of rewards for doing things you should do is creeping into all areas of our life.

School districts are rewarding children for grades by giving them monetary incentives. I was never in favor of giving kids money for good grades and now school districts are doing this.

I remember hosting a school clean up while PTO president as a way to have families connect with each other. A 4th grader, who had just swept the steps came over and told me, “I’m done, what do I get?” I replied, “The good feeling that comes with a job well done.” He was surprised that there wasn’t a ribbon or sticker or trophy.

Companies reward people for doing the job they are supposed to do. Isn’t a job an agreement to do certain tasks for a certain salary? If that is the case, then rewards only come into play when the job objectives are exceeded, not met.

More recently, the Census Bureau is looking at ways to increase the response rate, including the use of prizes as an incentive. The incentives can include winning an iPod, getting a Starbucks gift certificate or cash.

We have lost our minds. The reward for doing anything is intrinsic. The reward for your child getting good grades is about how he feels about working hard or even trying his best to get well deserved grades. The reward about peeing in the potty is that great feeling that comes with learning something new.

Whether the reward is stickers or candy or money please think about this. How and when will you wean them off the reward and simply get them to do the right thing?

After all, isn’t teaching our kids to do the right thing is a key objective of parenting?

You are beautiful!

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

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Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.
- Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC)

They called her Sunshine, the nickname given to Stephanie Kuleba, 18 because of her brightness, blond hair and personality. The South Florida teen died Saturday, about 24 hours after corrective breast plastic surgery. Gone are the hopes and dreams of a high school senior. All because of a reaction to anesthesia, proof that there’s no such thing as a simple procedure.

With all the things we need to tell our girls as they grow up, we need to let them know they are really beautiful.

Counter the myths of the beauty industry as few people can be a size 2. The beauty standards are too high for even the supermodels to follow, since most are photo-shopped.

Where does real beauty come from? Knowing who you are, and being happy with that.

Thank you Dove for reminding us of that. Please watch this [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaH4y6ZjSfE ].
Love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment.

Don’t you want to be an accountant?

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

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“Consider a career you may have never imagined,” and the discussion begins. Corporations such as Deloitte are reaching out to high schools to persuade students to join their ranks. Their objective is to convey the benefits of working with sponsor companies. They do this by drafting curricula, lesson plans and equipment with the hope of creating a pipeline of workers far into the future.

Businesses are now influencing schools in a way that is much different than when businesses simply wanted students to become customers. This is in response to a fearful shortage of workers from the coming labor force.

Some are worried about a commercial agenda influencing schools, and the potential loss of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

On the plus side, students that may not have any idea what to do with their life, may get on an ‘express line’ to a career. It can also finally answer the age old question kids have when learning math and science, “When will I ever use this?”

Capitalizing on teachable moments

Monday, March 17th, 2008

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A good reputation is more valuable than money.
– Publilius Syrus 100 BC Maxims

In the midst of our incredibly busy days, parents search for something called quality time. But time is time, and each week we are given exactly 10,080 minutes; no more, no less. Time is the great equalizer – it doesn’t matter how much or how little money you have.

How we spend that time is what matters. Interestingly, we often spend time in things we can document, quantify or measure, such as activities like sports, school, chores, and work. But what matters more are the things you can’t measure, such as the impact of teachable moments. We need to look at those opportunities as gifts and capitalize on them.

Thank you Former Governor Spitzer. Thank you for giving us the opportunity the explain to our children the difference between little and big mistakes. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to ask our children a simple but very important question,

“What do you think your reputation is worth?”

Since we are surrounded by popular culture, what used to be considered infamous is now immediately considered famous. We are in the parenting fight of our lives and need to find opportunities to reinforce our values despite the world’s perceptions of values imploding around us.

The young woman in the Spitzer case stands to make millions from the publicity. Again, discuss with your children what her reputation is really worth? A new show called Moment of Truth offers large money prizes for true answers. Unless you’ve lead a Mother Teresa-like existence, I would suggest not trading your reputation and family embarrassment for dollars.

Despite your best attempts, you can’t be around your children all the time, so the next best thing is to make sure they are thinking before they act. No doubt they will make mistakes, but have discussions that reinforce the values you want to instill so you can at least minimize that possibility. I know you think children sometimes don’t listen, but they do. After all, if we didn’t listen, how could you explain that when we grow up we all sound just like our mothers or fathers.

As you end your discussion, put this seed in your child’s head;

“Before you do something – think, would you be proud or embarrassed for us to learn about it?”

That will tell them all they need to know.

Limiting Marketing to Kids

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

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A few years ago I asked my nephew what he wanted for Christmas. He didn’t know. I asked him if he watched Saturday morning cartoons, because I remember when my kids were little that’s where they saw the toys they might like.

He told me there were no toy commercials, only food commercials. He was right. And the commercials bombarding our children promoted foods and beverages that were high in fat, sugar and salt.

Finally, consumer organizations world-wide will pitch a proposal to limit the amount of food marketing to kids. The group is calling for a ban of radio or television advertising of these foods between the hours of 6am and 9pm, and a ban on marketing the same kinds of unhealthy foods on social networks and other new media. Additionally, they are calling on a ban of promotion through toys and gifts and the use of celebrities and cartoon characters.

If you would like to hear about the new reality parents face, and actionable ideas, visit Parental Wisdom® and listen to our Park Bench® broadcast entitled Feeding Our Children to Death.

Birthday party gifts – keeping expenses down

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

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As with any kind of change, someone has to start. People who were previously following the crowd will now be happy to line up behind you. The problem is they just can’t be first.

Take the out of control spending on kids birthday gifts. If your child goes to two parties a month, you have to allow for that non-trivial expense in your monthly budget.

What if you stopped spending what is ‘expected’ and started spending what you could afford to spend. Taking it a step further, even if you could afford the $25 spend per gift, don’t do it. These children simply don’t need all these gifts, nor do they even appreciate all these gifts.

Simple is better.

If the child likes to draw, get a blank sketchpad and some pencils or markers.
If they like taking pictures, then get them a book on photography and some nice photo quality paper.
If they to go the movies, then movie tickets with a few bags of candy tied with a ribbon will be just the ticket.

And for your own child’s party, you may want to bravely suggest – no gifts, and instead celebrate with friends.

Remind your child just how lucky he is to have friends.

There’s a reason for everything

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

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An outbreak of the flu is hardly good news, but there is a reason for everything. We find that we can clear our schedules, slow down and cuddle up. Why do we need to wait for the flu or a snowstorm to do something that makes so much sense?

Our generation of parents is so involved in our children’s lives that we have taken on the role of ‘Julie the Cruise Director.’

Let’s take a look at where that has gotten us:

• When they are very little, we register for mommy & me gym classes. Reality check, you can do that at home for no cost at all. Mommy, are you the one that needs the play date here?
• When they are toddlers, we’re registering them for soccer and pee-wee tee ball camps. Reality check again, this costs money and more importantly children actually get less time to play than if the parents played with their kids at the park or in the backyard. Also, the kids aren’t learning how to form their own teams.
• In grade school, we add music and tutoring to the sports schedule which leaves no time for play or family. The mini-van is well stocked with food and beverages as we have no time for dinner. And, by the way, no time for conversation since the mini-van has DVD’s playing in the head rests.
• We check our calendars to find free time for play dates that we’ve selected.
• High school comes around and by this time the kids are burned out by the politics of sports so they’ve stopped playing. Since they never started a game on their own, they don’t know how. Technology has taken the place of making real friends, again something they’ve never had to do.

Back to today’s lesson. Parents – do less and you’ll do more.

Stars You Can Look Up To

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

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A friend was over for dinner the other night and mentioned a web site, Fafarazzi, that combines two great American pastimes – celebrity watching and fantasy sports. She mentioned that anything celebrity related was evergreen. Sadly, she is correct.

I wish that our kids could look up to real heroes, but unfortunately real people, even if they might have done wonderful things, just don’t sell magazine covers, or hold our interest with late breaking news.

The next best thing might be reading a blog by Deborah Ng, a professional blogger who created Celebrity Role Model Blog where she writes about the good that celebrities do.

Might be a good way to counter the negative influence of Lindsay, Paris and Britney. You won’t need a telescope to watch these stars.