Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Connections between P4P speakers

I continue to chew on AK's talk, and to wish for more opportunities for reflection and processing and connecting of dots -- definitely something P4P should build in next year.

I attended a conference put on by the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood, and the keynote speaker said "It used to be the job of a good parent to socialize their child to participate in the culture; now a good parent must protect their child from dominant culture."  I don't know to what extent that is true - but the heavy commercialism that children are exposed to definitely complicates AK's message of providing kids with a lot of opportunity for self-determinism and decision making.  That is, there are adult forces, other than direct adults, who are using extremely sophisticated means to influence kids decision making and sense of self.   Children younger than age 7 or so really can't use critical thinking to deconstruct advertising - so how do we keep from letting corporations shape their development without being slightly hyper-controlling, at least some of the time?

This came up around food, in my house, yesterday.  With Alfie's reproachment about not counting string-beans in my mind, I said yes to the crap-pretzels with the caveat of adding a banana.  Now, maybe they weren't hungry enough for both pretzels and bananas and ate more than their bodies really wanted because that was the gateway. On the other hand, we talked about how the pretzel company has the upper hand because they've done tons of research on exactly how salty, crunchy and cheesy the pretzels should be to encourage a complete override of sensible eating and hunger-driven choices. The food industrial-complex is not just letting kids guide their choices based on some biological drive - they have billions of dollars of R&D invested in branding, and yumminess.  Now, it's true, if I could create the bubble of my dreams my children may never know such pretzels exist - except I like them too, and I like other people's families and being in the world.  (I really liked the adult book 'The End Of Overeating" for this take, and Grace read Michael Pollan's book for kids with interest).

It is tricky to provide the right amount of protection, without over controlling, and to provide the right amount of space without abdicating our adult responsibility to provide children with a safe and healthy environment within which they can flourish and make mistakes that are not too high-stakes.