When you go into a store with toys or snacks, a classic scene is seeing a child begging a parent to purchase an item. You might even be the parent trying to steer your child away from that product. With the growth of online shopping, grocery delivery and curbside pickup in the last few years, and much more so in the past eight months, we may not see it as often, but it is still happening in homes worldwide. What is the leading cause of this stressor for parents? Studies show that it is TV advertising.
While parents tend to plop their children in front of the TV (or some other internet-connected device) to get a break, research shows that the more TV a child watches, the more stress parents will experience in this area. The advertisers know a way to a child’s heart.
What can be done? Researchers present three options:
Collaborative communication — empower the child to make some (but not all) choices regarding which products to purchase.
Control communication — tell the child that you are in charge of these decisions, and there is no arguing about it.
Advertising communication — teach your child that ads can be manipulative, and just because they saw an ad doesn’t mean they have to buy the product.
The study found that the latter two approaches tend to backfire, causing more stress. The collaborative approach has the best results.
The often asked question relating to Parshat Toldos is how Esav was able to fool his father, Yitzchak, into thinking that he was such a tzadik. Was Yitzchak oblivious to the fact that Esav was not interested in the same spiritual matters as Yaakov?
I once heard the following idea. Yitzchak realized that Esav was never going to be able to sit and study like Yaakov. The word Esav comes from the word מעשה. Esav was a doer, someone who needed to be out in the world. Yitzchak wanted to ensure that he too had a path to avodat HaShem and, therefore, took an interest in Esav’s hunting activities to bring Esav closer.
Our children and we are influenced in many ways by the culture around them. We may see limited success in trying to cut off those influences or delegitimizing them, but those methods aren’t usually successful in the long run. Learning that some of these influences are acceptable and some are not, can help guide them and us in making the right choices. It may mean compromising a little in certain (permissible) areas where we had higher expectations. But ultimately, it is the recognition that there is no one-size-fits-all in Avodat Hashem.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay