Can’t say no

Parents are writing letters to toy companies asking them to stop targeting ads at kids. According to the AP story (link here to the USA today version),

The letter-writing initiative was launched by the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which says roughly 1,400 of its members and supporters have contacted 24 leading toy companies and retailers to express concern about ads aimed at kids.

“Unfortunately, I will not be able to purchase many of the toys that my sons have asked for; we simply don’t have the money,” wrote Todd Helmkamp of Hudson, Ind. “By bombarding them with advertisements … you are placing parents like me in the unenviable position of having to tell our children that we can’t afford the toys you promote.”

This is absurd on so many levels, I almost don’t know where to start. First, toy companies have to sell toys, and to do that, they have to advertise. I ask you, who else besides kids are toy ad supposed to target? Personally, I don’t know a lot of adults who play with Barbies and Legos.

Second, since when do parents have to buy their kids every toy the kids see advertised? My mom told me no plenty of times when I was a kid and wanted some toy or other. Sometimes it was, “No, we can’t afford it,” and sometimes it was just plain old “No.” Imagine, telling your child no. What a concept. Apparently, it’s more than some parents these days can handle. According to the AP story:

“Parents have trouble saying no,” said Allison Pugh, a University of Virginia sociology professor. She says parents often buy toys to avoid guilt and ensure their children feel in sync with school classmates.

“Even under circumstances of dire financial straits, that’s the last thing parents give up,” said Pugh. “They’ll contain their own buying for themselves before they’ll make their child feel different at school.”

Amanda Almodovar says she encounters such families in her work as an elementary school social worker in Alamance County, N.C., where homelessness and unemployment are rising.

“I had one parent who said she’d prostitute herself to get what her child wants,” Almodovar said. “It’s heartbreaking. They feel inadequate as parents.

Heartbreaking isn’t the word that came immediately to my mind.

“I want an American Girl doll now, Mommy!”

“All right, dear. Mommy’ll just give this nice man a BJ and I’ll have the money in a jif.”

I really hope I wake up tomorrow and find that I dreamed this article.

Comments 8

  1. N wrote:

    It is toy companies fault when they market toys that cost so much money. For example, that Biscuit I keep hearing about but not sure exactly what it is. It’s like $150 (or more, I don’t really know or care). It’s one thing to advertise $10 or $20 toys but another when everything is $50 or $100 or $400 (PS3 anyone?). I don’t feel bad telling my kids they can’t get everything but nothing is affordable anymore!

    Posted 01 Dec 2008 at 11:37 pm
  2. Brigette Russell wrote:

    But if most parents would just say, “That’s ridiculous!” and refuse to pay $150 for a toy, they’d stop advertising them. They sell them for what the market will bear. You can’t expect a company to price something at $30 when market research shows (and sales prove) that people will pay $150. That’s business. There is absolutely NO way to stop it except for parents collectively to stop buying overpriced toys. When all the other parents seem to be doing it and you don’t want to or can’t, it’s hard. But it’s the “I’d prostitute myself to give my child what she wants” parents that are making it hard for you; the toy companies are just doing what companies do.

    Posted 03 Dec 2008 at 12:14 am
  3. N wrote:

    I think most parents don’t buy the overpriced toys but there are enough wealthy people out there that do. You are right, there is nothing we can do about it except not buy it. But maybe if toy companies marketed cheaper toys, they would sell more of them because more people can afford them. Just a thought.

    Posted 03 Dec 2008 at 12:13 pm
  4. Julie wrote:

    I have been fighting this battle for years. When I first had kids I wanted my kids to have a few quality toys and appreciate what they have, but it didn’t turn out that way. They have so much junk from birthday parties, relatives, and yes, from my husband and me because what are we going to do, not buy them anything? Their rooms are a sea of junk they coud care less about but they still ask for more more more constantly, every new thing they see on TV or at their friend’s house.

    Posted 03 Dec 2008 at 3:48 pm
  5. N wrote:

    My kids get 1 or 2 toys (not totaling more than $40-50) for their birthday and that is it. The Grandma’s buy savings bonds. However, with eight kids, we have accumulated loads of toys through the years. Unless they are broke, I can’t bring myself to throw them out or donate them. I just rotate them so they DO appreciate what they have. It has cut down on the “I want’s” a lot. Or they just know Mom and Dad do not buy toys during the year and they don’t ask. Ha ha. Their Christmas wish lists only had 4 or 5 items each and I know some kids who have pages long. BTW we purchased only 1-3 of those items for each child, depending on cost.

    Posted 03 Dec 2008 at 4:22 pm
  6. Steve wrote:

    “All right, dear. Mommy’ll just give this nice man a BJ and I’ll have the money in a jif.”

    I just about spit coffee all over the computer when I read this. You are one funny mama.

    Posted 03 Dec 2008 at 5:33 pm
  7. Rob wrote:

    People who cannot say “no” to their children are not teaching them to be fiscally responsible. Are they teaching them financial irresponsibility? It seems that people and companies have “borrowed” themselves out of the ability to outright own anything….
    I think that parents should teach their children to go without some toys that they want now, so that they may appreciate what they already have a little more.

    Posted 04 Dec 2008 at 11:24 pm
  8. Brigette Russell wrote:

    You couldn’t be more right, Rob. I know that doing without everything I ever asked for when I was young really helped me. These families are indeed a microcosm of the hideous economic mess in our society at large.

    Posted 05 Dec 2008 at 8:58 pm

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