I have found that it is an inevitable (albeit somewhat unconscious) part of mainstream Western culture today to teach our children to be greedy. We teach them to crave brands, media images, jingles and cartoon characters from a frighteningly young age. If it's not a Disney Pixar Cars crayon set, it's Thomas the Tank underwear or Dora the Explorer Cheese snacks. But what are these products, really?
We want them, we buy them cheap, they come cheap, they give nothing and they're thrown away.
It's perverse. It's wasteful. It's greedy.
We are teaching children, babies really, that they need to "have" in order to be happy. They need to "have" in order to fit in. They need to "have" in order to feel cool.
I realise most of the time this is unintentional or at least somewhat innocent on the parent's part. If a child sees a T-shirt with Go, Diego, Go! on it and he clings to it like a magnet, we might think, "What's the harm? Diego is an educational show, he's a great kids character...". My own son is virtually TV-free (minus a few shows at his grandparent's house and some plane movies), and he's still drawn to branded books, clothing and toys if given half the chance.
But I urge us all to look beyond this surface impression. What are we really teaching our children when we satisfy their consumer cravings for brands and logos? Are we not setting them up for a lifetime of wanting to fit in, of needing to have the latest "thing", of identifying their own self-worth and sense of self with cartoon characters? A lifetime of disappointment in realising that they will never have enough.
Here are some ideas to start off a No-Logo Spring Clean in your home:
* stop buying branded food altogether- prepackaged snacks, branded kids yoghurts (which also contain revolting additives, thickeners and preservatives by the way), and cheeses.
* replace branded bowls, cups, and cutlery with plain or patterned metal, enamel or melamine versions.
* stop buying branded clothing and shoes- go for plain coloured or printed clothing. If you want to spice up their wardrobe and give them a special something then only give in to branded underwear- at least it's not out-there all day for other children to see, recognise and make comments on.
* stay away from cheap plastic toys- less is more- wooden and handmade toys are rarely branded, are more aesthetically pleasing, more durable and last longer and above all else give your child the imaginative power instead of his memory of a TV episode.
* make your own toys- all you need is felt and thread or wood, sandpaper and a saw or other basic household items (think toilet paper roll and beans= musical instrument)
* limit all media exposure and if you are comfortable showing your child some media at the very least pre-record it so that you can fast forward through any commercials or advertisements
* present gifts and toys in the most sacred manner. Don't just buy something and throw it at your child in the car. Keep it precious, bring it out at a thoughtful time, show that toy respect and reverence and show the gift-giver respect and reverence.
* make sure every toy has a specific place or 'home', that they are tidied up every day and that they are treated well. Remove them if they are being abused. Teach your child that his/her things are beautiful privileges that are to be treated with utmost care.
Imagine- we could free them from it.