Going Shopping? Study Says Leave the Kids at Home

August 23, 2011

Most advice you’ll read about shopping on a budget suggest leaving kids at home. The idea is that kids not only can slow you down at the store but also they can inspire you to make impulse purchases.

Now there’s research to back up this thinking.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined what they call the “nag factor” to find out how marketing messages make kids ask for products that their parents hadn’t intended on buying.

“Clearly, 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?” says Dina Borzekowski, EdD, EdM, MA, senior author of the study and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society. “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.”

So what’s a frazzled mom to do?

  1. When you watch television with your child or see an advertisement in a magazine, talk with your child about what that advertisement means and what that advertisements intended purpose is. When my own daughters were preschoolers, we began explaining how advertising is meant to sell you something you didn’t know you wanted or needed. They quickly became aware of advertisements on their favorite shows–but they still often asked for the items they saw. However, we eventually used these situations to have other conversations about “need” versus “want.” At some point we made them spend their own allowances to make any impulse purchases, and after a couple of disappointing purchases, that nearly stopped all together.
  2. Have a discussion with your child at the supermarket, if he/she brings up wanting something from television. Ask your child if he’s ever tasted that product? Does she know anyone who has had this food and liked it? You may even want to buy some of the products and do taste tests. I know that with my girls, we did this a couple of times, and the advertised products ended up not being very pleasing to their palettes-and they never asked for them again.
  3. Don’t bring your kids food shopping with you. Simple as that.

What are you solutions for dealing with the nag factor?

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3 Responses to Going Shopping? Study Says Leave the Kids at Home

  1. Oopon on September 1, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    When I went to the Grocery store with my mom she would give me an item off her list and have me go locate it, then find the one with the best value. I enjoyed the challenge and it helped me practice my math skills (well played mom!) Oh, but I still managed to find time to sneak treats into the shopping cart :)

  2. Leah Ingram on August 23, 2011 at 8:57 am

    These are all very valid points and I appreciate your sharing this different point of view!


  3. Milk Donor Mama on August 23, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Actually, I totally disagree. First of all, it’s not a choice for many parents to not take the children along to the store.

    Second, a grocery trip can be a great educational experience. Marketing, math lessons, identification of letters, budgeting and wants versus needs are all lessons. You can also teach your child about the healthy versus unhealthy foods, foods from other places and foods grown locally.

    Finally, you can meet many different kinds of people at the store. I find that older people love seeing babies and toddlers. I practice attachment parenting and often get Somalian women stopping to talk because I wear my baby the same way they wear theirs.

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