"He's been asking me for weeks to get him a Nintendo DSi for Christmas," Alicia explained.
Her son, Alex, is only nine. Christmas is well over a month away but he's been relentlessly pressing for the "must-have" electronic toy that his classmates already own. Money is tight for Alicia's family these days, and the handheld device starts at 149.99. Games are extra, at $35 a pop.
Alicia doesn't indulge in expensive clothes, trendy bags, or "must have" purchases-at least for herself. But when it comes to her son, mom-guilt too easily clouds her perspective.
And retailers and advertising gurus wouldn't have it any other way. As one pollster for the retail industry put it, "It's not all about being cheap this year."
One toy company sends out something called, The Great Big Christmas Book. I foolishly thought that this advertising book might, in the midst of the toy ads, suggest the real reason for the season---the birth of Jesus Christ. Not to be. The book invites kids to "start flipping through the pages to show their parents - and Santa - the toys that will WOW them on Christmas morning," said a senior executive for the toy company. Kids can check the item off in the box provided, and mom and dad have an instant "gimme" list.
But our children's hearts are the poorer for it. Marketers manipulate the Christmas season to make our children want ever more "stuff" - to focus on how much they can "get". Remember that old joke, "He who dies with the most toys wins"? Come Christmas morning, many kids - and so many of their parents - act as if that sick joke were true.
How to save your family from merchandise mayhem
Do your best to cut-off the constant onslaught of ads targeted at your children this Christmas season. Poring over ads in search of "something I might want" not only creates an ever-growing list but a habit of greed and discontent. And face it, if a kid has to look at a book or magazine for an idea of what he "wants" then he never really wanted it in the first place. In fact, he probably never even thought about it before.