Updated on 04.01.08

Born to Buy: Introduction

Trent Hamm

This is the first discussion in a “book club” series on Born to Buy by Juliet Schor, which focuses on consumerism issues and young children. This discussion covers the first chapter, “Introduction,” which appears on pages 9 through 18.

born to buyWhen I look at the cover of Born to Buy, the first thing I see is that baby sitting in a gift bag, and I immediately make a mental substitution to place my six month old daughter in there, with her curly hair and big brown eyes peeking over the top. The symbolism of that whole scene – my wonderful baby daughter, full of laughs and baby squeals, already being subjected to consumerism and marketing – raises a deep feeling of concern inside of me.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my own life when it comes to consumerism and allowing marketing to influence me, and it was my infant son who convinced me to step back and look at the mess I was making.

He’s now two and particularly in love with Cars. He requests the movie all the time – we say no most of the time and severely limit his screen time – but that’s not what concerns me. What really gets me is when we go to the store and stop in the diaper aisle – he expresses a very strong preference for the diaper brand that depicts Cars characters on them. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that same logic growing into a flurry of spending and a lack of consumer control at an older age.

With that in mind – and with a strong sense of my own failings – I wanted to read through Born to Buy again in order to get a deeper understanding of how marketing is reaching out to children, even those as young as two. Hopefully, we’ll all learn something along the way.

Here are three interesting parts in the first chapter that stood out to me.

Do Responsible Parents Expose Their Children to Brands?

First, a quote from page 11 of Born to Buy (with my own emphasis):

Children have become conduits from the consumer marketplace into the household, the link between advertisers and the family purse. Young people are repositories of consumer knowledge and awareness. They are the first adopters and avid users of many of the new technologies. They are the household members with the most passionate consumer desires, and are most closely tethered to products, brands, and the latest trends. Children’s social worlds are increasingly constructed around consuming, as brands and products have com to determine who is “in” or “out,” who is hot or not, who deserves to have friends, or social status.

It’s pretty easy for me to remember such things from childhood and also to see it in children and teenagers today. When I was a teenager, the most fervent topics of conversation among the people I hung out with were video games (an incessantly costly consumer product) and basketball shoes (an overly expensive fashion statement). You were socially judged by the brand of basketball shoes you wear, and even the lowliest schlub could raise his social status by wearing a pair of Reebok Pumps or pulling out a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3.

The patterns repeat themselves today, with the teenagers I’m able to regularly observe using their cell phones incessantly and constantly talking about who has the best one – and drooling over one girl’s iPhone. Clothing with obvious brand insignias also are a part of the social hierarchy as well – the logo on your shirt can mean the difference between acceptance and ridicule.

It’s pretty challenging for a middle-class parent to avoid this social trap. On the one hand, encouraging your child to be a rampant consumer in order to get ahead in the social game is basically setting them up for a sense of “keeping up with the Joneses” later on. On the other, denying them any access to this puts them at a social disadvantage, something I don’t want to foist on my children, either. I remember quite well the feeling of being rejected because of some label on my clothing – and it took me a significant amount of later maturity to realize how stupid it all was. Just because it was stupid doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

What is the right balance for parents? Everyone’s going to have a different answer on this one. My feeling is that brand exposure is inevitable for children, so you have to ride the tide to a degree – just couple that exposure to consumerism with a healthy dose of constructive consumer education. I like the way one of my friends who is a parent of teenagers handles it – he just adds more relevant information to their decision, but abides by what they choose, letting consumer education be more like an ongoing laboratory.

As I heard more than a few times growing up: Teach your children well / Their father’s hell did slowly go by / And feed them on your dreams / The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by

Can Families Downsize?

Another quote, also from page 11 (again, with the emphasis my own):

One part of my research for the spending book was interviews with people toward the far end of the downshifting spectrum – those who were intentionally rejecting the consumer lifestyle rather than working less. I discovered that downshifters who were raising children were almost impossible to find. At the time, I reasoned that children are expensive or that most parents would not want to impose a regime of reduced consumption on their kids.

Eventually I realized that this dearth of downshifting among parents revealed a significant trend in consumer culture. […] how many parents opt to downshift or simplify? It’s a radical step many children don’t welcome.

Not too long ago, I discussed a book called Downshifting, which covered this concept well. It defined downshifting as reducing the amount of time you work (and the intensity of it) and reducing the complexity – and cost – of your life.

My natural instinct is to want to downshift, but I understand the inherent conflict with downshifting and children, particularly as described above. I see it this way: unless you’re committed to an active rejection of society, it’s hard to do a major downshifting with children in tow.

I hear quite often from individuals who advocate this kind of rejection of consumer society. They tell me that any consumer exposure for children is inherently wrong, and I’m told in no uncertain terms that I am a bad parent for even allowing my son a Cars blanket. I absolutely reject that line of thinking. It’s my job as a parent to educate my children in the realities that life will throw at them. If I were to severely downshift and force them into rejecting consumer culture, I will have failed them as a parent.

I might personally want to downshift, but by doing so, I’m not doing my full job as a parent. My job is to participate in the education of my children, and a big part of that is how to interact with the consumer world. I’m my child’s primary consumer education teacher, and if I fully reject consumerism, I’m not doing my job as a parent.

The Usual Parent Reaction

From page 17:

Many adults respond to the critique of media and consumerism by shrugging it off, on the grounds that this culture is inescapable. Some are fatalistic; others contend that the critics exaggerate or are missing the true causes of kids’ distress. Many reason that they themselves grew up on television with no untoward effects.

There are times when I’m reading Born to Buy where I want to call Juliet Schor an anti-American Marxist who hates all corporations. I think this is a fairly typical reaction, actually.

I think part of the reason for that feeling is that many of us have come to accept a consumer-oriented society as completely normal and suggestions for living in other ways are strange. We live in a world where all of our friends, acquaintances, and peers are involved in this consumer culture as well, and when this culture is damningly criticized, it often comes off as something of a personal insult. How dare you criticize my way of life!

If I’ve learned one thing over the last two years, it’s that you can’t improve your life without criticizing it. If you genuinely believe everything you’re doing is right, then there’s no reason to work on improving things – the only way to get better is to realize where you’re at now is worse than were you could be.

So what’s the “better” that’s being strived for here? It’s a call to improve as parents – and as people. I like to believe I’m doing a good job as a parent, but I’m far from egotistical enough to believe I’m a great parent. One thing I know I want to do as a parent is equip my child with the intellectual tools they need to not fall into consumerism traps like the ones I fell into as a young adult. The best way to do that is to check my parental ego at the door and realize that I need to learn something, especially if that something is backed up by a lot of research, far beyond what I’m capable of doing as an individual.

Even if it means listening to the arguments of an anti-American Marxist who hates all corporations.

The next discussion, coming in two days, will cover the first half of the second chapter of Born to Buy (“The Changing World of Children’s Consumption”), covering pages 19 through 29 and ending at the subheading “Playing Less and Shopping More.”

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  1. Michael says:

    Smart shopping is hardly a virtue next to prudence, charity and humility. You, a parent, should teach those before lesser virtues, and living simply will help you. If your children learn those virtues, they will have a defense against greed, pride, and foolishness, of which consumerism’s a mixture.

  2. Becky@FamilyandFinances says:

    “I like the way one of my friends who is a parent of teenagers handles it – he just adds more relevant information to their decision, but abides by what they choose, letting consumer education be more like an ongoing laboratory.”

    I’d love to hear you expound on this, Trent. I need more details :)

  3. Zulu says:

    Having just a child, I’m very interested in the topic and decided to read along.

    I don’t think completely rejecting branded marketing and items is realistic or necesarily a good idea. I recognize that Disney is a money vacuum. But I also can see that there’s alot of goodness there that I want my kids to experience. My job, I feel, is to help strike the balance between stark rejection and mind-control. I agree that the best outcome is that my child be intellectually capable of recognizing and avoiding the traps set for them.

    I was struck by two things: the comment where on a day of fresh snow there were no kids outside playing in it, with the implication that the kids were likely inside watching TV. I can encourage my kids to spend more time outside, more time playing board-games etc. In other words, less opportunity for exposure to advertising. That’s such a simple thing to do, and would make such a great impact. Further, it’s advice that is applicable to myself as well.

    The other thing I felt was just very funny. It was the very end where the example of department stores in London catering to wives was brought up. I found the solution of husbands putting ads in the paper disavowing any debts their wives might incur hilarious. Even better, the courts ruling in their favour!

    High hopes for this book so far.

  4. Andy says:

    Dealing with branding and the “in” fashions/cellphones/whatever is very difficult during the pre-teen and teen years I think. I am 22, but I remember back in 8th and 9th grade when I wanted the brand name clothes. I agree you can’t completely deny your child’s preferences towards these (unless you can’t afford it, then you say too bad). I think getting past it is a combination of education (including introduction to other brands that are the same but much less expensive), making the child spend some of their own money, and the child’s friends.

    Certainly you can’t pick your kid’s friends when they are teenagers, but having a group of friends stops caring about the latest fashions would go a long way towards eliminating those desires. I think i got over it through a combination of finding other clothes that were cheaper but the same and my friends not caring what I wore.

  5. Deena says:

    My son is six, and he’s been receiving an allowance for the past year and a half. He puts some into a college fund, some into a medium term savings (for a bigger toy or expense), and some in quick change (which he can spend freely). Since then, we’ve had many, many discussions about money. He often wants strawberries, which are his favorite fruit. However, here in Hawaii, it’s extremely expensive. We wait for a SALE and make sure that the strawberries are ripe, but not overly so.

    When he asked for things he saw on commercials, we discussed commercials and their point.

    The coolest thing was when I overheard him telling his 3 year old sister, “Commercials are just to get you to buy stuff. Don’t fall for that.”

    Basically, I just think it’s important to talk about money openly and frequently as soon as children can understand the basics.

  6. Joshua says:

    Easiest way to avoid the consumerist culture? Kick the TV competely out of the house.

    Growing up without a TV–any TV–was the best thing my parents could ever have done for me. At 22, I’m far ahead of many of my peers.

    Starting with nothing (parents weren’t wealthy…7 children!), I put myself through a private university and graduated debt free. Now I have a 10-month emergency fund, invest 15% in retirement, and live on 50% of the rest of my income (saving 50% for house/starting a business).

    I fully expect my income to rise by 1000% in the coming ten years (currently it’s $45K). Why?

    Because, to this day, I still don’t have a TV. I read a book in my field every week. (While everyone else is watching TV.) I apply what I learn and I work harder than anyone else. Barring something unforseen, it’ll work.

    You’re a reader. Your kids will learn to read by watching your example. By reading, they’ll learn about real culture, not our current society. Chuck the TV and they won’t even know what “Cars” is…and they’ll be far better for it!

  7. michael says:

    I never liked brand names — I was too influenced by my grandfather, who always said (regarding name brands printed on clothing), “They don’t advertise for me; why should I advertise for them?”

    Teach kids to save early, and they’ll laugh at how commercials try to manipulate them. Watch commercials with them and talk about how those commercials make them feel, and then explain what marketing is and how they’re being manipulated. They’ll understand and learn to ignore it (or hate it!) Play “spot the product placement” in shows they like.

    My favorite teaching tool for kids: Have them search the newspapers for coupons for things you actually use in your house, and pay them 50-cents for every dollar they save you.

  8. Jonathan says:

    I don’t have the book yet but will be checking my library soon so that I can follow along.

    Therefore, I speak from a position of complete ignorance when I ask, what’s wrong with being completely wary and watchful of an unsleeping diametrically opposed enemy? Is it possible this is her viewpoint and you are painting her position in a harsher light than is necessary or fair?

    Corporations care only for their own short-term interests and couldn’t care less for the health and well-being of our children. Unless, of course, the health of your child some how directly negatively impacts their bottom line.

    However, if you characterize her stance correctly (minus a tiny bit of hyperbole) and all of her experience with corporations is extremely negative, maybe it speaks more to our culture’s ethics and morals than to something inherent in corporations.

    To be fair, it could also be a negative outlook on life.

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.

  9. Kris says:

    My mother used two ways to deal with brand name clothing for us when we were teenagers.
    1) She would only pay the price for a generic brand, and if you wanted ‘Silver’, ‘Nike’ etc. you paid the difference from your allowance, bbsiting, job money.

    2) She gave us complete control over our clothes budget. I realized pretty quickly that I preferred having lots of clothes to wear, rather then just a few namebrand pieces. My brother, on the other hand, would wear the same t-shirt every day so long as it said ‘mossimo’ on it.

    Helping us understand the tradeoffs for our consumerist lifestyle, giving us the choice… and making us live with it. Was a very valuable experience, that helped me battle consumerism and peer pressure well into my adulthood.

    I just hope I can keep that up when I become a parent…

  10. Harm says:

    I’d try to watch tv WITH my kids as much as
    possible, pointing out some of the ridiculousness
    of ads….not being a complete anti-consumer, but
    emphasizing the need to understand how the
    attempted manipulation works (kind of like
    “Mystery Science Theater 3000” for commercials,

  11. !wanda says:

    Man, I was expecting an April Fools.

  12. typome says:

    I believe the best thing parents can do to combat consumerism is to instill in their children a high level of self-esteem. I forget where I read it, but apparently there are studies that found that the lower a child or teen’s level of self-esteem is, the higher their need for material goods. I suppose it’s because kids and teens will low self-esteem will try to fill their self-confidence with materialism. I can definitely see a kid or teen who is very secure of who they are not giving in to peer pressure, materialism included.

  13. No Debt Plan says:

    Just like the rest of personal finance, education is key here. Marketing and consumerism are only going to get worse over time. I don’t expect them to get better.

    But spending time with your kids and teaching them about money, spending, quality, etc. can help avoid the traps.

  14. Brian says:

    I’m not a parent (not even married) and I haven’t read the book so I am admitting up front I am probably the least qualified to make a relevant point here. But I must say I am somewhat disturbed reading this first post.

    Trent, I can’t help but think that you’re panicking a little bit. If you ask most people what their earliest memory is, most won’t be able to name something before age five or six. Sure, early years are important to developing a child’s life skills, but you can only instill so much knowledge into a two-year-old. What’s wrong with letting kids be kids and teaching them values and right from wrong when they’re old enough to understand the difference?

    Am I the only one that thinks it’s natural for kids to be obsessed with something like “Cars” or Superman? Would you prefer if he had no interest in anything at all?

  15. KoryO says:

    Have you thought about how you might be able to start using his interests to back up what you are trying to teach him about money? Like getting him a “Cars” bank (or making one up with stickers on a coffee can if you think the ones around you are stupid and/or too expensive)?

    Look, you already know that the marketing “works”. He wants stuff with Lightning McQueen. Try and turn him into an ally. Be a little bit subversive….show him how “happy” the cars are when he puts money in the bank by jingling the coins.

    And one other suggestion for the future. When your kids are old enough, instead of buying them their clothes and “toys”, give them an allowance and let them decide how to spend it. For example, they get $350 for clothes and shoes for the school year. That’s it. Not enough? Go work for it.

    They might decide they prefer more clothes for less money, or they might be willing to give up something else for the “right” label. You will give them a lesson in budgeting, saving, getting value for their bucks, and more without dealing with rolled eyes and whining (ok, there might be *some* whining, but not as much as there would be otherwise).

  16. !wanda says:

    “Children’s social worlds are increasingly constructed around consuming, as brands and products have com to determine who is “in” or “out,” who is hot or not, who deserves to have friends, or social status.”

    I’m pretty sure children will define “in” and “out” groups regardless of what else is going on around them. Children have been forming cliques and excluding each other long before there were brands. I’ve heard that in Catholic schools where everyone wears identical uniforms, girls still judge each other by their hair barrettes. If consumerism went away, there would be some other criterion to exclude other children. If your children are excluded, it may not have anything to do with their possessions. Either get them into a group where they will not be excluded, or tell them to buck up and wait until else everyone grows up.

    @Brian: It is very easy to implant fake memories in children. By repeating a story to a child repeatedly, children begin to “remember” the incident, sometimes quite vividly. Actually, it works pretty well for adults too. My earliest memory is when I was around 3, and I’m pretty sure it’s not fake because there are no photos of it and my mom never talked about it until I asked her about it, when I was in college.

  17. eaufraiche says:

    Even if kids just LOVE Sesame… Barney… PrettyPonies… Cars, it doesn’t equate that you’d indulge that interest excessively. Heck, buy ’em the pencils and get on w/ life. Your preschooler isn’t setting the standard here.
    Teenagers and brand blindness? My very brilliant mother left acquisition to us – so we spent babysitting and grass-cutting money on stuff we just HAD to have. With my own kids I went 50/50 on trendy things they couldn’t live without.

    You really, really, really can’t avoid the influence of current culture altogether. (You don’t want your kid’s pants hoisted on the flagpole cause they are totally outre.*) Find a happy mid point, and rest assured that they’ll regain a sense of balance soon enough. They will. Trust moi. Just keep preachin’ the important stuff.

    *hey… i teach middle school. being honest here.

  18. When I read this post, I immediately thought of my own 18 month old daughter who absolutely loves Finding Nemo. Just last week we were in the grocery store and I was letting her walk around a little bit when she spotted some Finding Nemo branded gummi-snack. She grabbed the box and carried it around the store. I can’t begin to tell you the number of grounds upon which I am opposed to her having such a product, but let’s stick with she has no ability to properly chew them and they are going to be a choking hazard. But I am stealthy and patient and eventually she set is aside for something else, and I hustled it out of her view and directed her attention to something else further away. Still, I can see the potential consumerism coming. My solution is to generify (of or having the quality of generic). The truth is she like Nemo because she recognizes him, but she also recognizes ANY FISH! I figure she knows a lot of words, but most of them just don’t come up that often in daily life (we don’t pass many lions, monkeys, airplanes, ladders, or yo-yos). So all she really gets is “car” and “clock” and occasionally “balloon.” By getting her generic sea-life things instead, she gets fun stuff that she recognizes without having to sell-out to a specific brand. I figure I’m headed in the right direction. We have dozens of books and toys, but not a single Wiggles, Dora the Explorer, Elmo, or any other “premium” characters. She has a Winnie the Pooh, but doesn’t know the difference between him and any other teddy bear (except he has a shirt). Face it, your child will want things (just like you do) the key is to help them be intelligent enough to understand the difference between better quality, and just stupidly paying more for the same thing with a “better” name on the label.

  19. ha'apai says:

    I guess I’ll have to read the book if I want to find out the context in which this quote appears.

    “Eventually I realized that this dearth of downshifting among parents revealed a significant trend in consumer culture. […] how many parents opt to downshift or simplify? It’s a radical step many children don’t welcome.”

    Oh really? I’d love to see how she reaches this conclusion. I’m not entirely convinced that parents of young children resist downshifting because the kids won’t get on board or because it’s somehow bad for the kids socially. I think parents don’t downshift because they are terrified about their ability to provide (health insurance, not cartoon characters) for their family.

    Tomorrow it’s off to the library.

  20. deRuiter says:

    Don’t let small children watch tv or videos, NEVER. This is really simple. It keeps the children from being exposed to commercials and placement. This keeps your children physically fit, it encourages imagination, keeps them from being fat, It’s more work for the parents, which is why so many children are plunked in front of the tv for hours ands fed snacks to keep them quiet, or filled with Rittalin. With older children, one hour of tv is enough. Limited TV teaches them to choose and priortize. As to to other techniques, there are lots of good posts here about teaching values, character, and how to judge needs vs wants. The occasional pair of designer sneakers or a great cell phone is a reward for being a good consumer and helps your child fit in happily.

  21. Dan says:

    As a parent of 3 children I have to agree with Brian (#10).

    2 year olds express preferences – it’s their personality developing. My kids all had favorite books, movies, songs, foods, activities, colors, etc.

    I don’t see any value to withholding their preferred things consistantly.

    Sure – there is a lesson to be taught about advertising, but at the same time I wonder if by consistantly not including your children’s preferances into decision-making (particularly where the outcome doesn’t matter at all) doesn’t teach the lesson that their opinions do not matter.

  22. JE says:

    Re: Brian and Dan (comments #10 and #15)…

    Of course kids express preferences, but I think you underestimate their capacity to understand that things have value and value is not always in the commercial/social representation of it. I also think you missed the part where Trent said it’s about BALANCE.

    Case in point: My three-year-old was given a Barbie as a Christmas gift, and I let her keep it (despite the fact that I hate all things Barbie). A few weeks ago, she saw an ad on TV for some fairy princess Barbie thing that was much pinker, much more sparkly, and could have been received as much, much cooler than the Barbie that she already owns. Completely unprompted, she said, “I don’t need that Barbie. I already have a good Barbie.”

    So child though she may be, she has clearly grasped some aspect of value versus quantity. Balance at its best.

  23. janewilk says:

    Many great points above in the comments. In our house, we don’t completely ban TV, but we do monitor and limit it pretty closely. I don’t think our daughter (now 11) saw a Disney movie till she was six or seven, more because of the potty humor and scary moments than anything else. It did (and does) bother me that the typical parent response in America is, “Oh, look, a G movie is out! Let’s take the kids!” It’s kind of an “open wide and swallow whatever is offered” attitude where people abdicate their rights and responsibilities to think for themselves and make decisions for their kids. We have never had branded things in our house – no Elmo, Blue’s Clues, Disney clothing, bedding, backpacks, NOTHING. What has helped us and will help you tremendously is to find a pack of like-minded parents who are on board with this line of thinking. You will hear very little of, “But so-and-so has that!” because so-and-so doesn’t have that, and the child knows that you know it. My daughter now attends a Waldorf school, where the expectation (from the school and the parent community) is that the child will have no (or very limited) media, and the dress code allows for no images of any kind on clothing or backpacks. Yup, that’s right – just solid colors, stripes, polka dots – but no pictures, logos, and definitely no Disney characters. Let me tell you, a whole school full of kids like that is a pretty fantastic community for my daughter to grow up in. Not “real world”, you say? She is being educated every step of the way on what advertisements and commercials want us to buy and how they get us to buy it. She has her own clothing allowance to make her own purchasing decisions (she could wear brand-name logos or “character” shirts on the weekends – but she doesn’t choose those). My husband and I still joke about the time when she, at age 10, overheard another conversation and asked us, “What’s a Twinkie?” LOL. Raising a kid in today’s “mainstream” culture with an “oh, well, that’s just life these days” attitude is like throwing kids to the wolves, IMO – and likely to contribute to their own financial meltdowns later on.

  24. Stephanie says:

    I’m usually a lurker, but thought I’d jump in here with a comment about families who downshift. Ms. Schorr says that families like us are impossible to find, but I feel like I am surrounded by like minded families in the homeschool community. There are a lot of people like me out there, who try to live simply, don’t let the kids watch much TV, and refuse to buy into the idea of the child as a consumer. As a former workaholic and conspicuous consumer, I have to say that downshifting with family is sometimes challenging, but it is worth it!


  25. Felicia Agudelo says:

    We have had no problem down shifting with two children ages 13 and 7. I think that having explained our reasons and talking to them all the time about it has helped. Basically, we are teaching them to be free-thinkers and that they have choices and they are actually proud and appreciative of it. As a family all agree that we are happier now than ever.

    We have a once a week family TV night that they look forward to. We have popcorn or something else “special” and plan on a good movie or program that we all will enjoy. During the week they don’t miss it at all because they are too busy reading, painting, stamp collecting, knitting, riding their bikes, walking in the woods, playing in the backyard, doing homework, volunteering at the state parks, practicing their instruments etc., etc. Actually recently a month went by without the TV night because we were so busy with other activities and we were all surprised that we hadn’t missed it.

    We very seldom eat out, but we have friendns over for dinner and do lots of tea parties, picknicks, camping, and tailgates with good home made food that everyone is proud of and enjoyed making.

    Regading clothes, we have taught them that you coordinate your wardrobe so you don’t need too much and you always buy at the best price possible. However you buy things that you really like, not just because they are cheap so that you feel good wearing them. Since there is such a selection to buy from, you just need to look around and you will find what you want at the price you are willing to pay. Clothes are bought twice a year, for winter and summer only with no inbetweens unless of course necessary.

    Also, we don’t buy toys or other things during the year. That is for Christmas and birthdays. We do buy craft supplies though as they run out.

    They toys we give them are the kind that will last and that can be added to year after year. For example, the doll house, a castle, a wooden play kitchen. A lot of these things or the items that go in them we made. For example, my husband made the doll clothes closet, I painted it, and every year they get a new doll dress or outfit that we made or bought.

    Honestly, they are fine with all of this because they have everything they want and need and have so much around them to keep them interested. When it comes to making Christmas lists, they sometimes have trouble because they can’t think of anything.

    They are different from the other children at school and there are those that just can’t understand how they can do without what they think is essential in terms of “culture” and belongings, but then there are those that actually admire them because they are better than average students, nice, polite and friendly children that can have a really good conversation with you.

    Bascially, we teach them that everyone has to decide how they are going to spend their money according to what is important to them. For us it is travel, so we teach them that we should never try to spend our money foolishly or in ways that others would maybe want us to, but that is not in our best interest, in order so that we can see more of the world and in so doing see that there are many ways to live your life.


  26. jimmy b says:

    Very well said janewilk (#23). I don’t have children yet but when I do, I’m highly considering a Waldorf school. To have a school that focuses on their talents and real interests is quite exciting. When I first heard about the Waldorf schools, my initial reaction was “it’s probably way too expensive”.

    Considering the amount of money I’m going to save by not purchasing labels or exposing them to mindless media, it’s a total win-win situation.

  27. ha'apai says:

    The library wasn’t that hard to find.

    Arguments supporting Schor’s contentions were harder to find, at least in the first two chapters. She’s got a little bit of Chicken Little in her.

    I’ll give it another chapter or two. Maybe there’s some meat somewhere in this book.

  28. LollieMouse says:

    Oddly enough, my earliest memory was of JFK’s funeral on TV, I was almost 3 and I was on my mum’s lap (as I always was).

    As far as my kids go, I honestly believe I can forgo the TV entirely. They have DVD’s they love, they watch Japanese Anime on the computer (with me being right there to read the subtitles) and they rarely ask for brandnames, outside a couple of “American Eagle” “Aeropostale” or “Hollister” shirts, and those I buy on sale, we are talking BIG SALE, and they are very content. I agree, kick the TV to the curb. It really isnt the necessity society puts on us. Be careful with what is watched and our kids will grow up just FINE!
    Great subject, Trent, thanks!

  29. Dana says:

    Personally, I can’t be fussed to call someone anti-American just because they’re against corporations. I know corporations are supposedly legal persons, but really, let’s not beat the legal metaphor to death, mmkay? :P Now if she’s out to burn the Constitution, then we can talk about it.

    I’ve had two of Schor’s previous books and they’re eye-openers. I should look for this one at the library.

    And I really don’t see what’s so horrible about not exposing your child to branding and commercialism at all in the early years. I mean, it’s too late for me and my daughter, but kids aren’t supposed to watch *any* TV before two years of age, and if they don’t get that early start then, depending on their life situation, they probably won’t care much about it later either. I don’t know about you, but I can think of much better things for a child to do than park it in front of the tube. And I can think of better potential friends for my child than other kids who would judge her by how much plastic-crap-made-by-nine-year-olds-in-China with logos all over it her parents buy for her.

    We as parents are so often willing to settle for the least offensive common denominator when it comes to parenting our kids. Just like we’re willing to settle for $10,000 in debt instead of $10,000 in a retirement fund, and a high school diploma and dummy degree instead of constantly pursuing our own education and betterment. Why is that?

    (I said “we” for a reason: I’m realizing how much of the suckitude in my life has resulted from my being too willing to settle. The problem with settling, though, is that it is never on a stable foundation because instead of building something solid for yourself, you parked your butt on someone else’s idea of what constitutes a good life.)

  30. Bret says:

    I was surprised to heard someone who feels
    “black-and-white labeling is ridiculous” refer to an author as “an anti-American Marxist who hates all corporations”

  31. Kaye says:

    We got rid of our TV 2 years ago. The first Christmas the kids had no idea what to ask for. It has been great for the kids, but I still have CNBC withdrawal.

  32. imelda says:

    What about Amy Daczyzyn, of the Tightwad Gazette? Hers is a family with many kids, and I think her way of life counts as “downsizing,” no? Would you consider her an example of a family with kids that has managed to do it?

  33. Stella G says:

    I’m surprised the author couldn’t find any families that downshifted. We have and we know several others. There are whole communities on the internet devoted to that sort of thing.

    Also, I don’t see that downshifting is the total rejection of consumer society. It’s about deciding for yourself what is valuable to you and what is not and spending your time and money accordingly.

  34. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “I’m surprised the author couldn’t find any families that downshifted.”

    I think she was looking for people more like Ruby Ridge than the type of downshifting that’s discussed in online communities. That’s just the impression I got – I might be wrong.

  35. typome says:

    Trent, re: your son’s Cars blanket, I’m wondering why you still bought it for him…? I imagine that you could still teach him your reasonings for buying the No Name blanket and still be his primary consumer teacher without buying the Cars blanket. The only reason I could think of was maybe the Cars blanket WAS of better quality than the No Name blanket.

    Re: the author’s observation of the lack of children outside, a great method parents can practice is to actually go outside and play with their kids. I know a mother who keeps hounding her son to lessen video games and TV and instead go outside, but how much will he listen to her if she plants herself in front of the TV and doesn’t offer to play with him outside? So I think a great way to encourage playtime outside is to play with kids.

    (Sorry that I’m only commenting on the first chapter now– I just got my copy from the library today!)

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