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 public: down under with Rose:  
It’s as if parents think love is delivered via Mattel and Ronald MacDonald and
   if they don’t cough up the dough they aren’t good parents.

  You can't say N....

by Rose Cooper
down under with Rose main pagedown under with Rose
Much ado about advertising and the childhood obesity epidemic. A summit surmised we’re hapless victims of a diabolical plot to crush this planet under the weight of billions of chubby children. Seems like cobblers to me. Then I remembered over a decade ago, a new brand of corn chip hit the market with the jingle: “You can’t say no – just say CC”. Several sombrero sporting faux-Mexicans nodded in hypnotic rhythm, and thus a crisp, subliminal message was thrust upon billions of unsuspecting junkfood junkies-in-the-making. There it was - the root cause of the obesity epidemic in a nutshell, courtesy of Latin American strong-arm tactics. How on Earth could we refuse?

Okay, it’s still bollocks. However, the jingle was a self-fulfilling prophesy. Today’s parents can’t say no.

Somehow a backlash against much stricter parenting practices of the 50s, has resulted in an obscene tipping of the balance. Sure, exploitation is rife in advertising but only the commonsense-impaired are in peril. Ad gurus are only too aware modern parents don’t command the same respect as their predecessors. As trade secrets go, this is one is no KFC recipe. Today’s soft parents were nutured by the “near enough is good enough” schooling principles that emerged in the late 70s and early 80s (when they stopped correcting spelling mistakes). In society’s valiant attempt to keep youth self-esteem at a premium, it has all but knobbled a vital cog in the wheel of humanity – character building.

When our parents pressed home their adult advantage, we resented it, sure, but a little healthy fear kept many a waivering young ratbag on the straight and narrow. Not so these days. Parents have lost all credibility. When I fell pregnant, friends warned me of how difficult times ahead were going to be. “They’re all into designer labels these days, it’s going to cost you a fortune.”

I scoffed then and I’m pleased to say 15 years later, I’m still scoffing. Too much of parenting is free-range and children rule the roost. It’s as if parents think love is delivered via Mattel and Ronald MacDonald and if they don’t cough up the dough they aren’t good parents. It’s easy to blame the supermarkets for putting candy at children’s eye-level, but all it takes is for a parent to cave in once and from that point on, they have only themselves to blame. If you show your child that there is no backing down from the word “no”, come hell or high water, then they learn no means no - not “after ten minutes of crying and wearing me down, no will mean yes. A recent episode of “A current Affair” addressed this “problem” with a segment entitled: How to say no to your toddler. Parents have lost the plot.

Coincidentally, the obesity problem parallels the rise of the ADD and ADHD phenomenon. All children come into the world as mere innocent lumps of clay, but they can learn mighty quick how to throw Mum and Dad on the potter’s wheel and make a natty ashtray. We are meant to set boundaries – but some consider this notion cruel. The cruelty is allowing children to do (and eat) whatever they want – they don’t call it comfort food for nothing. Children need guidance. I’m not advocating abusive stand-over tactics, just a lot less apathy.

Now the big fast food company’s face a similar a fate to the tobacco companies. No one wants to take responsibilty for themselves, let alone their children. I don’t agree with anyone who was born after 1960 suing tobacco companies – the writing was on the wall well before then, and I certainly don’t agree with any right-minded fatty suing Macca’s for making crap. It tastes like crap so what were they expecting? Do these people live under rocks? Don’t tell me they haven’t heard of the food pyramid, or that too much fried food is bad for you. Advertising companies also make ads about health food. It’s all shown on the same networks. It’s pretty hard to shoot the messenger with a Big Mac in one hand and the remote control in the other. We all have to walk into the room of mirrors – and if they reflect like fun house mirrors, then it’s time for us to change our habits. Remember that saying “this hurts me a lot more than it hurts you”? Well love hurts – and sometimes that involves seeing your child pout.

How ironic, that in the fight against the upsurge of drug and alchohol abuse and sexual promiscuity among teenagers, the advertising slogan was: “Just say no”. I suggest they repackage that campaign and aim it at parents.

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