Discourse on the intersections of politics, feminism, and motherhood.

Thursday, August 31

Shopping Cart TV?

Are you kidding me? A television inside a shopping cart for children? This thing rents for a dollar and will show your child videos while you shop. Doesn't take a genius to figure out what kind of videos are available as if they are not faced with technologies on an hourly basis. I was under the impression that getting your kids out of the house was to get them away from the television and computer screens to perhaps participate in a bit of social interaction and a display of decent behavior. Just give up on teaching your children patience and manners and strap them into a shopping cart where they will be even more targeted by the vast advertising machine that we as parents work so hard to control. Sounds like a great idea. I'm sure the stores that are testing these things have been garanteed some kind of benefit, most likely in the form of revenue. Just another thing for parents to have to battle.

Tuesday, August 29

Teachers and Gender

Does the gender of a teacher effect the learning of either boys or girls? According to a recent study, girls learn more from female teachers and boys learn more from male teachers. Hopefully we will hear more about this in the future.

Teachers and Gender

Does the gender of a teacher effect the learning of either boys or girls? According to a recent study, girls learn more from female teachers and boys learn more from male teachers. Hopefully we will hear more about this in the future.

Friday, August 25

Plan B

I'm sure everyone is giddy with excitement over the new access to plan B. The 18 year cut off is a bit unrealistic but hey we will I'm sure hear more about that in the near future. Here is a wonderful website for anyone needing information regarding plan B. Circulate to all!

Wednesday, August 23

Federal Money and Heteronormativity. million dollars in federal grant money has paid for more heteronormative marriage behavior. Couples living in poverty, overwhelmingly African American, in Baltimore have spent five months in a relationship class that teaches the benefits of a healthy relationship and more specifically marriage. The premise asserts that a marriage is the best place for the children emotionally and financially. The data is out on whether or not this program is showing significant positive changes but any positive outcomes could be used to undermind gay and lesbian parent's rights to adopt or have children of their own. Just marry off the poor people, give them a five month class on how to be in a relationship (based on a stereotypical model), and assume that these couples will pool their income and miraculously emerge unscathed out of poverty. Wow........what an imagination our government has!

Thursday, August 17

No, Sleep Is Good!

We were doing so good with a sleep schedule but currently my eight month old is fighting me tooth and nail when he goes down for his naps. Lucky for us the seven o'clock bed time remains uncontested. The first four months of his life were spent snuggled up next to me in bed. This was the best situation due to a daily work schedule and his desire to nurse every two hours. I needed sleep so everytime he woke up and started to root around I would just switch sides. As a first time mom I researched till I was blue in the face. Some experts said no co-sleeping; it's dangerous. Some said co-sleeping was most beneficial for mom and baby and even shows signs of decreasing the event of SIDS because the the baby is close to mom and more aware/alert. Older women would are never going to get him to sleep alone and what if you roll on him. I have to say one would have to be really drugged up or had preceeded to drink too much in order for them to roll over their kid; unless of course you have one of those weird sleep disorders. So we cleared the bed of any extra pillows and such and everything was fine. At four months we decided it was time to move him into his crib. I started by putting him down only in his crib for naps and I have to admit I didn't want him to sleep away from me. I got very used to his cuddly little body and missed him when he wasn't there. But I realized it wasn't fair to him. We needed to implement some kind of sleeping schedule that was exactly the same each and everytime.
So I started asking around. A friend told me about a book called Secrets of the Baby Whisperer which advocated a set ritual, self soothing, and certain hand positions to calm baby and lend support. As a derivitive of the Ferber method which a colleague of mine relayed, this particular method suggests that you do not pick up the baby out of the crib. After a night time ritual you place the baby in his or her crib awake and leave the room. The crying starts and you wait. Five minutes go by and you enter the room. Ferber says just put them back down, give them a soothy and leave the room again. The Baby Whisperer says place one hand on their head and the other on their bottom and talk to them in a soft soothing voice until they calm down, then leave the room. The point is to get the baby to put themselves to sleep so they do not become dependent on being rocked or nursed. In the event that your child needs an extra feeding, The Baby Whisperer suggests something called dream feeding. Dream feeding is a set schedule of nursings that enable the baby to sleep through the night without needing to nurse. This method suggests that babies can make it thought the night but as with my experience some just can't. Mine really needed an extra feeding so as with any method or advice some works well and some has to be adjusted. After dinner I would go up and pick him up while he was still asleep and nurse him at eight, nine, and ten thirty then put him right back. This was suppose to aleviate a three in the morning wake up call but it just didn't work for me. So we spent hell week sleeping in guest room next to the nursery until our little one got the hang of it. He eventually did but there were times when he would work himself up so horribly that we had to pick him up.
That brings me to Moxie, a mom who helps parents trouble shoot their concerns on her blog. The debate between letting them cry it out and picking them up continues to trive because all kids are different. She differentiates by suggesting that if the crying is releasing tension as some babies need then don't pick them up, if the crying is causing a rise in tension then pick them up. This makes complete sense from my personal experience. I can tell is my baby is crying a certain way or not, if he needs to be picked up and soothed or not. The bottom line is get to know your kids and take what works from each person who gives you advice and make your own method. No method can be taught if the baby is not ready and it's up to the parents to realize their little one is their own person with separate needs and emotions. Off the subject but still relevant, I hate when in-laws try to decide who my little one looks like or acts like. He's himself for craps sake! It is nice to be able to put my little one in his crib and he goes right off to sleep all by himself but he is not perfect and will have a hard time on occasion. I think the most important thing is to stay as consistent as possible with bed time rituals as it clears up an confusion the child might have as to what you expect of them.
This week has been a bit rough when it comes to naps but I have a feeling it's the Object Permanence kicking in and his new found mobility. There is just too much to see and do so why sleep?

Tuesday, August 15

Who's Breasts?

I can't believe people write this stuff:

In the end, there are two effects of breast-feeding that we often refuse to acknowledge. One is the de-eroticization of a woman's body, as her husband witnesses one of the most attractive parts of her body serving a utilitarian rather than romantic purpose. This is not to say that breast-feeding isn't sexy. Indeed, the maternal dimension is a central part of womanliness. But public breast-feeding is profoundly de-eroticizing, and I believe that wives should cover up, even when they nurse their babies in their husband's presence.

This particular individual; as pointed out by Pandagon and Feminsting continues to reduce the female body to a sexual figure used for the purpose of male pleasure. The kicker is if the 'erotic nature' of the woman's/wife's body is ruined by the witnessing of breastfeeding or childbirth the marriage runs the risk of falling to crap.

This is not to say that breast-feeding should not be practiced. It is instead to say that it should always remain subordinate to the romantic and passionate needs of a marriage.

This guy should be flogged.

Friday, August 11

Blowing Hot Air Out The Wrong Ass!

A panel, established by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, on higher education issued a report intended to stop the increase of rising college tuition or at least make the increase level with median household income, implement standardized testing for college students as a way to assess student competency, increase Pell grant funding, and make colleges more accountable for students that graduate without the proper skills needed to survive in todays global job market. One panel member even suggested that private student loans be expanded as a way to fund tuition.
Well, that sounds like a great idea. Let's wait until college to address the discrepencies instead of targeting poverty stricken school districts, the No Child Left Behind Act that is not funded properly in the first place, and the fact that elementary schools don't prepare kids for middle school and middle schools don't prepare kids for highschool and highschool sure as hell doesn't prepare kids for college so yes....of course......lets fix it when they are in college....that makes more sense.

Wednesday, August 9

Who Would You Choose?

I hate thinking, what if something happened to me and my husband? During the Terry Schiavo situation my husband and I both said, if that were either one of us please just let us die peacefully. Both of us agreed that neither one of us wanted to stay alive by machines and did not think it was in our children's best interest to see us like that. In the event of a horrible tragedy who would assume guardian responsibilities of our children? Below are some legal tips from an article on NPR discusing what parents must do to assure that their children are taken care of by the individuals they choose.

12 Ways to Protect Your Children's Future

by Alexis Neely

Alexis Neely is a personal family attorney based in Redondo Beach, Calif. Below is a checklist of things to consider when planning for the future for your children and your estate:

A family’s most precious assets are always their children. And yet, many parents have not been educated on these 12 Steps that all parents can take to protect the future of their children.

Step #1: Designate first responders -- What would happen if you died or became incapacitated while your children were in the care of someone else? Somebody would eventually call the police, right? Unfortunately, if your children were in the care of a person without documented and legal authority to have custody of them, the police would have no choice but to call in Child Protective Services. Your children could be taken into foster care until one of two things happened: someone with clear legal authority arrives to take custody of your children; or the courts determined who would have clear legal authority through the guardianship process.

Step #2: Provide clear guidance to your first responders -- You absolutely want to inform the people that are your first responders of their role and how important that role is to you. Your first responders must be prepared to go to your children during a time of crisis with the appropriate documentation giving them the authority to stay with your children.

Step #3: Ensure that caregivers and babysitters have clear instructions -- If you are like me, the last thing you want to happen is for the police to show up at your house and find your children with a caregiver who does not have legal authority to stay with them, and does not have any idea how to contact someone who does have such authority. In the event that happens, the police have no choice but to call in Child Protective Services.

Step #4: Define guardians for long-term care -- Parents regularly tell me that they have discussed and agreed upon a guardian for their children, and have even made their wishes known to their families. However, verbal communication itself is not enough, and can lead to significant internal family conflict. It can also result in your wishes not being followed when it is too late. If you fail to communicate your wishes in a legally binding, written document, you are placing your children in a situation in which every family member has equal priority of guardianship. The state will ultimately decide who raises your children. Legal documentation is particularly important if you intend for a friend to care for your children, as courts will almost always choose a family member over a friend.

Step #5: Plan even if you are uncertain who should be guardian -- I’ve heard many parents say, "we have not made a plan because we can’t decide who should be guardian." Regardless of whether you make a plan, the State has a plan for you and your children. In many cases, the State’s plan is not the plan you would choose. As I discussed in Step #1, your children would likely be placed in Child Protective Services if you do not have local family to serve as First Responders. Someone would then have to petition the court to be appointed the official guardian of your children. Almost everyone has a family member they know they would NOT want to raise their children. Imagine if that was the person the Court appointed to raise your children! And, even if you would be okay with any member of your family raising your children, imagine the strife that could occur when more than one family member comes forward insisting they are the right person. Don't let your reluctance to make a decision turn into a decision that you don't want. Download a free article that will give you a proven method on How to Choose the Right Guardian at

Step #6: Let those designated as guardians know how you want your children raised -- As a mom, I know that there are certain things that are critical to me when it comes to the way my children are raised, such as the spiritual foundation I want them to have, the sense of financial responsibility I want imparted to them, and the educational path I want them to take. Just by way of the fact that you are reading this, I know that these (and other) issues are critical to you as well. The only way to ensure that your children will be raised with your values is to make them clear to the people you’ve named as Guardians if they are ever called on to serve.

Step #7: Document your plan, regardless of your assets -- Many people jeopardize their children’s future by thinking they do not have assets and therefore do not need to plan. Regardless of whether you have significant financial assets, if you have minor children, you need to consider who would raise them if you could not. If you have any assets at all, you need a plan to ensure that the right thing happens to your assets in the event of your death. Consider the following two situations that recently came across my desk -- both families who hadn’t done any planning because they probably thought they didn’t have enough wealth to plan. First there was an aunt willing to take her four nieces and nephews into her care after tragedy struck and the children were left without parents. The aunt lacked financial resources -- she didn’t even have money to hire a lawyer to help carry out the guardianship proceedings. The parents left only $50,000 behind in assets, money the aunt desperately needs to help raise the children. Sadly, the aunt spent well over a year trying to convince the bank to release the funds and ultimately had to find a lawyer and go to court to get access to the funds. There's also the case of a janitor hit by a car and severely injured, left unable to communicate or sign documents. He had only $10,000 in a bank account in his own name, which no one can access it without a court order. This was $10,000 that his family desperately needed, but the court process usually proves to be expensive and confusing. Planning would have avoided both of these unfortunate situations.

Step #8: Provide enough financial resources -- Too many families consider insurance a waste of money, but do not have enough in savings to care for their children in the event of an emergency. Do you want your children to attend college? What kind of lifestyle do you want your children to have if you can’t be there to financially support them? Remember, you are responsible for ensuring sufficient financial resources to support your children upon your death.

Step #9: Help your family avoid probate -- If you have assets that need to go through the court process called probate upon your death, you might want to put your assets in a living trust. Probate is expensive, complex, time consuming and inconvenient -- probate will cost your estate approximately 5 percent of your gross assets, and will take a minimum of 12-16 months in the state of California (other states may vary.) Also, the information in a will is open to the public. While the general public likely does not care about the value of your estate, predators care if your children are to receive substantial assets when they turn 18.

Step #10: Protect your children’s inheritance until they are old enough -- Many young adults who receive an inheritance often use the money less that wisely, buying fancy cars or taking friends on vacations. If your estate goes through probate, you control neither the age at which your children receive their inheritance nor how they spend it. At the end of probate, your funds should be held in a guardianship estate account for the benefit of your children until they turn 18, at which time all the remaining funds would be distributed to them outright.

Step #11: Protect your children’s inheritance from lawsuits and future spouses -- Many families leave their children’s inheritance unprotected from creditors, predators, spouses and estate taxes, assuming that only wealthy families create lifetime trusts for their children. In fact, lifetime trusts are more beneficial for the average family, who would be penniless if they had to fight a lawsuit, a money judgment or a divorce. You can create a lifetime asset protection trust for your children that will allow them to control the assets at the time that you deem appropriate.

Step #12: Consider the impact of estate taxes -- It's a little-known fact: For the vast majority of families, estate taxes are voluntary. But ignorance of the impact of estate taxes on your family can cost up to $960,000. Add up your own taxable estate: the equity in your home, the value of your personal property, bank and brokerage accounts, your retirement accounts and life insurance. Estates exceeding $2 million could be subject to estate tax at a rate of 46 percent. For example, if you have a $3-million taxable estate, your family could pay 46 percent tax on the $1 million exceeding the threshold. In other words, your family would pay $460,000 in estate taxes.

Tuesday, August 8

Parental Responsibility?

Just when you thought Joe Francis, the cre-a-tor of "Girls Gone Wild", could not perpetuate the over exposure of exploitative coersive female sexuality any stronger, an article in the LA Times makes me as a mom want to puke! The public is very aware of the explicit content on these soft porn videos that gross approximately 4 billion a year in sales, and Francis has been arrested, sued, indicted, and cleared of the majority of charges which cover racketeering, drug trafficing, and promoting the sexual performance of a child. While I consider myself a pro-pornography or anti-censorship feminist I question whether or not insinuations, such as the quote below, that suggest the performers/women/girls are empowered by such acts?

I call Vicki Mayer, a sociologist and Tulane University assistant professor, for guidance. Mayer teaches a class on the nudity rituals that take place on New Orleans' infamous Bourbon Street. She has studied and written about "Girls Gone Wild," and she contends that it's simplistic to say that Mantra takes advantage of women. "For some women this is liberating, for some women this is something they do on a goof or for a lark to show friends they can, for some it's a way of flirting with the cameramen," Mayer says.

Where in this senario is the free booze and drugs calculated into the equation? Joe Francis and his team set up 'parties' as they are called and club promoters pay 10,000 dollars a night to have his team set up shop in their clubs. Girls drink for free and are usually very young around 18 to 25 years of age. If a girl is at a party and is sexually assaulted we contend that she is not capable of giving proper consent, so how does a team of young men go around a party where heavy drinking is in play and get girls to sign concent forms? How is this situation different from a young college student going to a party with a guy she likes, drinks, gets physically involved with, but only intends on a few things and ends up having sexual intercourse when she didn't want to?

Francis argues 1st Ammendment rights and that he just loves women, but seems to me to just have a misogynistic shroud of righteousness. It reminds me of the artist Tom Wesselman who painted faceless naked women during the sexual revolution of the 60's and felt that his images were a reflection of the sexual revolution empowering women when we all know the so called sexual revolution was really more about male access. Feminists fought for birth control, female sexual autonomy, and the freedom of to choose, but the culture still ascribed the same roles. Men do the looking and women are the ones being looked at; Gaze Theory. Which points us right back to "Girls Gone Wild."

"My favorite is explaining to dumb chicks why the qwerty keyboard is called a qwerty keyboard, and why the letters aren't in order," he tells me. "They're, like, 18 years old, and they're, like, 'Wait a minute, there were typewriters?' And you got to start there."

Where is our culture's age of womanhood? When did an 18 year old girl become a full fledged woman with complete adult autonomy? 18 to around 22 is a transition for most kids, hence why they are in college, or at least most of them. This age is where they live with a sense of independence away from home and are faced with the firsts of many adult responsibilites. Joe Francis is one media entity that takes advantage. It also brings into question female responsibility and parental responsibility. This reminds me of an episode of the Dr. Phil show. Dr. Phil had his son go down to Padre Island and film spring break. The three girls that drank, did drugs, and participated in exploitative sexual acts on camera were on the show and in deep regret. These teens even felt violated, manipulated, and vunerable. Dr. Phil questioned their actions, their parent's actions, but continued to show video clips of large groups of boys chanting and participating in the girl's exhibitionism. Not one male was questioned for his role in these behaviors. The conclusion was the parents should refrain from sending their daughters on spring break and that the girls should not have participated in substance abuse that put them in that particular situation in the first place. Male sexuality was never questions, only the girl's self esteem.

My role as a parent is to protect my kids, so no I would not let my daughter (if I had one) go on spring break, but I would also not let my son go either. I refuse as a parent to raise a son who believes that his masculinity must conform to these standards in order for him to be authentic.

As the argument proceeds; it is too simplistic to say all the females exposing themselves and participating in sexual acts on camera are victims and being exploitated. Isn't it too simplistic to assume that this is an empowering act for femininity as well? The cultural forces that drive such things are so entrenched in how we view female and male sexuality. It's great that we are teaching girls to have physical autonomy and respect their bodies, but when are boys going to be taught differently and how can such ideologies be persuasive when cultural forces like MTV and Paris Hilton are contradicting those messages?

Wednesday, August 2

Commercials and Kids

What is wrong with this quote by the president of Nickelodeon in an article on NPR regarding the negative consequences of marketing to children?

"But ultimately, Zarghami acknowledges, Nickelodeon believes that by putting characters on products, they are serving their real customers: kids."

When did my kid become a 'customer'? He doesn't pay for anything! He is not a consumer in the Capitalist sense of the word! My child consumes what I give him, since I'm the real 'customer', which consists of breastmilk, organic baby food, cereal, organic O's, and organic Lucky Duckies among other things and none of what I purchase has any cartoon characters on the packaging nor is associated with any television personalities. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children under the age of two not be exposed to any television what so ever and after age two only two hours of programming a day is recommended. We know how realistic this is. With the majority of two income earner house holds a children's video can be a drastic time saver in the mornings. I personally like Noggin as the programming is educational and free of commercials. This of course doesn't mean I drop him in front of the television and just go about my day, but in the event of a morning with two adults and one infant needing to leave the house at the same time, it can come in handy. Oh yeah, and since I'm the real 'customer' I don't have to consume what I don't choose to consume. I have a choice, one of the positives of Capitalism. Parents should not feel powerless against this advertising machine but gain as much information as possible to fight the forces. I know some will say, easier said than done, but crap so what if the kid throws a tantrum, it's not the end of the world and they can't have everything they want. So we, as parents reside in between this difficult advertising machine and parental responsibility. I say, easier said than done if the machine would let up a bit! Parental responsibility is only half of the story. Kids have to branch out into the world and eventually make decisions for themselves. If they would put Dora on a bag of organic apples all would be great but they don't. They put a bunny on the Trix box, and a friendly tiger on the Frosted Flakes box and create commercials that air on children's time slots that look just like cartoons themselves. What the hell is a parent to do? Blindfold their kid?

Vicky Rideout says about one-third of young children live in homes where parents leave the television on almost all the time, regardless of whether anyone is watching.

"They think that, leaving the TV on in the background, the kids are mostly ignoring it," Rideout says.

But Broughton says that children take in a lot, even if they are only occasionally exposed to programming intended for general audiences. A colleague recently told him about a father whose 4-year-old son raised the topic of Levitra while on a doctor's visit for an earache. He notes that children are attentive to messages that aren't necessarily intended for them, and that they may not be equipped to process the information, even with ads on age-appropriate programs.

I do agree with this. I don't think leaving an adult show on during the day while your child plays is the best idea. Children are so receptive; for the most odd reason my child turns his head and smiles everytime he hears Dr. Phil's voice which I personally dispise; Dr. Phil that is. My husband is addictive to those horrible court shows that only reinforce the worst stereotypes in our culture so I don't let him watch them when our child is awake and playing. I've included an exert from a great book by Susan Linn. The advertising industry is much more complex than we think and their aim is to create brand loyalty by introducing products at an early age. Children's programming gets caught trying to make a buck as federal funds for stations like PBS and after school programs fall to the waist side or are used to buy more bombs. It's important to be informed as a parent, that way one can better have the tools to anticipate such situations before they become out of control.

Excerpt: Consuming Kids


Cover, July 28, 2006 · I don't absolve parents of responsibility for their children's well being in a commercially driven world, but most of the parents I talk to are doing their best in what often feels like an unending and overwhelming struggle. In the face of well-funded, brilliantly strategized, and relentless commercial assaults on their children, parents are expected to be unyielding gatekeepers and their children's sole protectors.

"I think it's all the parents' fault," an older woman comments during a call-in radio show about marketing to kids. "They are too indulgent these days. They need to learn to say no." I often hear comments like this when I talk about children and the marketplace. I don't agree. After years of exploring advertising and advertising practices as they affect children, I've come to the conclusion that telling parents to "just say no" to every marketing-related request that they feel is unsafe, unaffordable, unreasonable, or contrary to family values is about as simplistic as telling a drug addict to "just say no" to drugs.

The phrase "It takes a village to raise a child" may have been overused during the past decade, but it's still an evocative metaphor for the argument that caring for our children is a collective effort that has to extend beyond the immediate family. It also reminds us that children's experiences beyond their own households—in the neighborhood, in school, or in the larger community -- can have a powerful impact on their growth and development.

As I listen to parents and think about my own experiences, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a colleague of mine who works with families in a neighborhood saturated with gangs. He talked about the anguish of parents who find that -- despite their best efforts -- they can't compete with the seductive offerings of a toxic street culture. The culture of marketing that pervades all our communities, from the poorest to the richest, is similar in that it competes with parental values for children's hearts, minds, and souls. These days, the village raising our children has been transformed by electronic media, a ubiquitous, commercially driven force in all our lives. What this means is that children are bombarded from morning to night by messages designed not to make their lives better but to sell them something.

Most of the studies on media marketing to children have focused on the products advertised, not the process of the marketing or the consequences of that process. But there are consequences, and among the most insidious of these is marketing's effect on family life. Parents may hold the line and refuse to buy, they may overindulge children by acquiescing to every request, or they may strain their finances by buying more than they can really afford. Conflict about stuff marketed to kids is a cause of stress in families,1 and marketers are well aware of that fact. Advertising clearly influences the things children ask for -- if it didn't, of course, companies wouldn't be spending so much money doing it.

A 1999 article in Advertising Age begins, "Mothers are known for instructing children not to play with their food. But increasingly marketers are encouraging them to." On grocery and toy store shelves, this has translated into a rash of such nutritional "necessities" as green catsup, chocolate-flavored French fries, and battery-operated lollipop holders that twirl around by themselves. In chapter 6, I discuss marketing's impact on nutrition, obesity, and eating disorders; here I want to explore the attitudes and philosophies behind the creation of such products and the campaigns to sell them, as well as the impact of those attitudes and philosophies on families.

Starting with the simple example cited from Advertising Age, it's certainly true that children like to play with food. For babies, being able to eat with their fingers and explore the textures of food is a valuable tactile experience, but the fact that children like playing with food is not enough justification for encouraging them to continue to do so long after babyhood and against their parents' wishes.

Our job as parents, in addition to nurturing and protecting our children, is to help them learn to live in a civil society by transmitting positive values and standards of behavior. One of the more relentless aspects of this task is to sort out, sometimes on a daily or hourly basis, those things that are harmless or even beneficial to children from those things they like to do that may cause them harm, cause harm to others, or cross our own personal threshold for irritating behavior.

In the grand scheme of things, playing with food against a parent's wishes seems like a small transgression. In and of itself, it is, though that's not the point. By targeting children with ads designed to entice them to play with food, marketers are willfully encouraging children to do something that they acknowledge is contrary to most parents' expectations and values. In fact, the marketing industry purposely comes between children and parents in many instances, potentially wreaking all sorts of havoc in family life. One of the most egregious examples of evidence that they do this comes from a 1998 study on nagging. Conducted not to help parents prevent nagging but rather to help retailers exploit nagging to boost sales, the study, called "The Nag Factor," was conducted by Western Media International (now Initiative Media Worldwide) and Lieberman Research Worldwide.

According to a press release from Western Media International headlined "The Fine Art of Whining: Why Nagging Is a Kid's Best Friend," the study identifies which kinds of parents are most likely to give in to nagging. Not surprisingly, divorced parents and those with teenagers or very young children ranked highest. The study identifies some things children often nag for, estimating for each how often nagging was successful: in four out of ten trips to "entertainment establishments like the Discovery Zone and Chuck E. Cheese," in one out of every three trips to a fast-food restaurant, and in three out of every ten home video sales.

Since research conducted by marketing companies is proprietary, which means that researchers' methods are not usually made available to the public, these firms sell their reports for a great deal of money. I don't know how much the Nag Factor study sold for, but in 2003, for instance, a publication called The U.S. Market for Infant, Toddler and Preschool Products: Vols. 1–3, second edition, cost $6,000.

Perhaps because it found that "the impact of children's nagging is assessed as up to 46 percent of sales in key business that target children," the Nag Factor study attracted a great deal of attention in the marketing world, and several publications described the study and how it was conducted in various amounts of detail. In a story headlined "The Old Nagging Game Can Pay Off for Marketers," Selling to Kids (a marketing newsletter, not an advocacy group) reported that in the study, researchers asked 150 mothers of children aged three to eight to keep a diary recording their kids' purchase requests over a period of two weeks. The moms reported a total of 10,000 nags—an average of about 66 nags per mother, or about 4.7 nags per day. The study identified two different kinds of nagging. The first was "persistence nagging," or repeated requests for a product. The second was "importance nagging," when kids gave a reason for why they wanted a product. To use the example cited by Western Media executives: "Mommy, I need the Barbie Dreamhouse so Barbie and Ken can live together and have children and have their own family."

The persistence with which children nag seems to increase as they get older. A recent survey of 750 kids between the ages of twelve and seventeen produced the finding that, on average, they may ask nine times before their parents give in and let them have what they want. Nagging seems to peak in early adolescence. Of the twelve- and thirteen-year-olds surveyed, 11 percent reported nagging parents more than fifty times for one specific product or another -- and all of these were products they had seen advertised.

To help corporations fine-tune their strategies for encouraging nagging, the researchers at Western International Media divided parents into different categories:

"Indulgers" are parents who basically give in to their kids' every whim.

"Kids' Pals" are parents who want to have fun, too, just like their kids.

"Conflicted" describes single and/or divorced parents, whose purchasing behavior is often influenced by guilt.

"Bare Necessities" are parents who seem able to fend off their kids' pleas and ultimately make all of the purchasing decisions on their own.

"Marketers need to understand," the Selling to Kids article reminds them, "that a single marketing or advertising message may not resonate with different kinds of families." (I've added the italics.)

And who are the "Bare Necessities," the parents who cope so well with nagging? According to the people who did the survey, they are the parents whose lives are the least stressed -- they are the most affluent and the least likely to have babies or toddlers in the house.

We might hope that "The Nag Factor" was an aberration. It's alarming to think that people would actually want to wreak havoc in families just to make a buck, but exploiting the nag factor -- or "pester power," as it is also called in the industry -- continues to be a perfectly acceptable tool from the marketers' point of view. Kelly Stitt, senior brands manager for Heinz's catsup division, had this to say in The Wall Street Journal: "All our advertising is targeted to kids. You want that nag factor so that seven-year-old Sarah is nagging Mom in the grocery store to buy Funky Purple. We're not sure Mom would reach out for it on her own."

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from the publisher. Footnotes have been removed.

Tuesday, August 1

America's Perspective on Education

I have to say Oprah has hit the nail on the head. I don't consider myself an avid Oprah watcher but since the object permanence kicked in the days have been very difficult. Yesterday afternoon, the Oprah show tackled the long silent issue of American schools. American schools are clearly in crisis. Perhaps not all American schools but the vast majority of students that graduate if they graduate at all are not prepared for college nor the professional environment. State averages are held up by schools located in upper-middle class areas veiling those schools that are ridiculously in need.

Here in South Carolina, public education is run like a corporation. All schools in the state receive the same amount of money from the federal government. The state funds schools based on property tax. If you can afford to purchase or rent in a upper-middle class area then your school district will most likely be well off in the financial department as well as staffed with decent teachers. If you live out in some of the agricultural communities or in lower income areas then your district has schools with no text books, over populated class rooms, a high crime rate, low test scores, high drop out rates, out of date technology in the class room, no computer education, you get the picture.

I was under the impression that education should be the equalizer. Investing in education and not just a single notion of education but many diverse ways in which education is offered will cement our economy, reduce crime rates and prison populations, create more industry, development, and better environments for future generations. It seems that American politicans are more concerned with controlling natural resources than educating it's youth. After all who benefits from keeping people uneducated? Education is power.

The reason Oprah was so important is that the show brought to light the work Bill and Melinda Gates, former basketball star and education advocate Kevin Johnson, and others who are creating new and experimental schools that are working. The most compelling story came from a woman who oversees the only highschool within a state prison in San Francisco. She noted that the city had identified five "feeder" schools that account for 75% of the inmates at her prison. A second startling statistic; 80% of prison inmates in America are highschool dropouts and 600,000 inmates get released each year. The cycle is quite clear.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Kevin Johnson have started Stand Up, an organization working to change the perspective America has regarding education. Stand Up is a national campaign that recognizes the struggles, road blocks, and disparities that fester in America's educational system and is currently working to change the overall environment by empowering parents, educators, and students; the perspective being, power to change lives in the hands of the public. Their mentality in regards the the American educational perspective is that we as parents, students and educators need to work together and demand better quality and higher standards from public policy makers.