Last week, while shopping for groceries, I happened upon a scene familiar to many parents.
Passing the breakfast cereal aisle, my ears picked up the less-than-angelic tones of a 7 year old child screaming at her mother that she needed a specific brand of cereal and that she would hate her mom forever if she dared to purchase a product not endorsed by the appropriate cartoon character.
Luckily for the little girl’s growing pancreas, her mom didn’t give in to the blackmail.
But, it made me wonder.
- How many parents would have given in?
- How many parents would break under the strain of incessant nagging?
- How many parents would sacrifice their child’s health in return for some peace & quiet?
Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health have recently examined this “Nag Factor”.
Described as “the tendency of children, who are bombarded with marketers’ messages, to unrelentingly request advertised items”, researchers explored whether and how mothers of young children have experienced this phenomenon and their strategies for coping.”
Here’s what they found.
According to study author Dina Borzekowski, “it’s clear that children are not the primary shoppers in the households, so how do child-oriented, low-nutrition foods and beverages enter the homes and diets of young children?
Our study indicates that while overall media use was not associated with nagging, one’s familiarity with commercial television characters was significantly associated with overall and specific types of nagging.
In addition, mothers cited packaging, characters, and commercials as the three main forces compelling their children to nag.”
Using quantitative and qualitative methodologies, researchers interviewed 64 mothers of children ages 3 to 5 years.
Mothers answered questions about the household environment, themselves, their child’s demographics, media use, eating and shopping patterns, and requests for advertised items.
Participants were also asked to describe their experiences and strategies for dealing with the “Nag Factor.” Researchers selected mothers as interview subjects because they are most likely to act as “nutritional gatekeepers” for their household and control the food purchasing and preparation for small children.
They found that nagging seemed to fall into three categories:
- juvenile nagging,
- nagging to test boundaries,
- and manipulative nagging.
Mothers consistently cited 10 strategies for dealing with the nagging; the strategies included:
- giving in,
- staying calm and consistent,
- avoiding the commercial environment,
- negotiating and setting rules,
- allowing alternative items,
- explaining the reasoning behind choices,
- and limiting commercial exposure.
And after sifting through all the data, the researchers determined that :
- manipulative nagging and overall nagging increased with the age of the child.
- 36% of mothers recommended limiting commercial exposure as an effective strategy, while
- 35% of mothers suggested simply explaining to children the reasons behind making or not making certain purchases.
- Giving in was consistently cited as one of the least effective strategies.
- Kids are influenced by marketing messages.
- Kids respond to those marketing messages by emotionally blackmailing their parents
- Parents who give in to emotional blackmail are making a big mistake.
For the sake of their kid’s health, and their own sanity, parents need to fight back.
Fight back by slapping a household ban on breakfast cereals and other junk foods that use movies & cartoon characters to manipulate our kids.