Two generations ago most families lived on working farms. All family members participated in the work and had responsibilities. School was designed to give the children the summer off primarily because they were needed on the farm to help with the planting and harvest of crops. Children had responsibilities and a role in the family.

Fast forward to the present. Most families no longer live in the country and in too many homes children have no real work to do. With the advent of TV in the 50's, an amazing change happened to the role of children in this country: their primary role became "a consumer."

This change began gradually with Saturday morning cartoons and cereal commercials. These cereal ads were really the first attempt to market directly to kids. Perhaps you remember them? Cereal with submarines and other toys in the box so the kids beg, cried, and screamed until their parents bought it.

Now children are inundated with pitches from TV, billboards, internet, radio and friends. They are told they MUST have electronics, toys, clothes, CDs, and expensive athletic shoes. Even if a wise parent attempts to protect them from these ravages of excess, they'll find that peer pressure and a desire to fit into the group can drive wild spending.

So what is a parent to do? Here are some ideas:

  • Keep it simple. The old standard toys like bikes, blocks, and sand still work wonders. Kids will play all day in a large cardboard box that can turn into a spaceship or store. Send them outside to play with friends and get out of the way.

  • Limit the electronics. Don't let kids watch a lot of TV, especially unsupervised. Pick out programs the whole family can watch together and then turn it off. Reduce or eliminate video games

  • Schedule music lessons. At our house, everyone had to learn at least one instrument. It not only is fun but research shows that it helps to develop your brain. Push the kids to try different instruments and learn to read music.

For more great tips to protect your kids from becoming consumers, see these tips from Tamara Wilhite.

Barbara Bartlein is The People Pro. She offers keynotes, seminars and consulting to help your build your business and balance your life. She is the author of Why Did I Marry You Anyway? Overcoming the Myths That Hinder a Happy Marriage. For more relationship tips, please visit: Marriage Tips. For Barb's FREE e-mail newsletter, visit: The People Pro.


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