Lisa made her kids impervious to advertising by asking pointed questions that forced them to think about the source and truthfulness of ads. She knew action was needed when when her kids, who weren’t old enough to read, stopped in front of the bleach while shopping to ask the advertiser’s dream question: “Mom, aren’t we going to buy some Clorox?” Hit the jump to see how she responded.
What we decided to do was slightly unconventional, but it made sense to us. We inoculated our boys using a principle I had learned in a college communications course. Little by little, we taught them about basic economics and simple marketing techniques used by companies to encourage people to part with their hard-earned money. The theory was that if they could recognize the tactics companies used to market a product to people, then our children would become resistant to the claims presented in commercials and slowly learn to be discerning about their validity.
We didn’t sit the boys down for long lectures; rather, every time we noticed that a commercial or a print ad caught their attention, we asked them if they thought the product really did what the commercial claimed. This introduced the idea that sometimes people say things that aren’t true and that it was okay for them to question what they saw and heard. It also taught the boys that what they think is important and valuable.
At the same time, we explained to them how companies need money to pay their workers and themselves, and how those companies try to convince others to buy their products in order to make money. Slowly, we began to see a change in their behavior.
We knew our approach was working when, only a few months later, the boys asked me which paper towels we used. Soon after I answered them, I heard the sounds of running water and giggling coming from the downstairs bathroom. When I went to investigate, I saw Andy and Matt busily soaking paper towels and loading them with various toys. The explanation? They were testing the assertion that the towels were so strong they could carry heavy loads even when wet. The twins were so pleased the claims were true that Matt insisted we use nothing but this particular brand of towel in the future.
Aw, isn’t that cute? We still feel guilty for the time we asked our parents to order Pizza Hut after seeing an ad for their new (at the time) cheese stuffed crust conglomeration. We now hate Pizza Hut and miss our local pizzeria.
Have you taught your kids to turn a critical and distrusting eye towards advertisements? Tell us how you did it in the comments.
How to Inoculate Your Children Against Advertising [Get Rich Slowly]