Chapter Four - Choosing

Parenting for an Age of Information

Chapter Four - Choosing

"Make up your mind!"

People have been using that phrase for generations now.

"Will you please make up your mind?"

What does this sentence really mean?

Sometimes an edge of impatience creeps into the phrase as one person waits for the other to make a decision, to select something, to choose between several options. Sometimes the person making the decision jumps blindly, rushing headlong into a choice without careful review and consideration. At other times, people make no active, conscious choice at all but slide instead into whatever Fate brings, drifting along with the river or casting their Fates to the winds. Another way of handling decisions is to rely upon tradition and custom to inform one of the proper path. Still another is to flip a coin or toss the dice. Many people simply rely upon their group . . . "the blind leading the blind."

During the decades of rapid change which lie before us, "smart" choices will be based upon thoughtful, deliberate decision-making . . . "making up one's mind" . . . which will require analysis and research as well as the skillful application of intuition, instinct and insight. The well-informed hunch will become a prominent tool. In addition, all important decisions had best be grounded in personal values, preferences and beliefs so that one's actions will stand centered in harmony with one's core being. When the winds of change and the roar of rapids encircle future citizens, those who have learned to choose upon such a personal foundation will find the heart and the courage to persevere, while those who rely upon blind leaps of faith, the tossing of coins, the blind leading the blind or archaic traditions will lose their way, swept off their feet by turbulent conditions and surprises.

Why is choosing so important for your child?

In this society of ours, children can count on a bombardment of advertising "to be continued" from cradle to grave. Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons are renowned for a barrage of commercials aimed at children. And now it is even difficult to escape the onslaught in schools where students may begin their days with Channel One's morning news programs and commercials. Following homeroom TV, they may walk to classes past billboards promoting deodorants, mouth sprays and hair sprays.

The messages are usually emotional rather than rational.

"Buy our deodorant so you won't be embarrassed."

"Buy our mouth spray so you won't lose your friends."

"Buy our hair spray so you won't be alone Saturday night."

"Buy Brand X because that's what cool people buy."

Often the messages are imbedded in subliminal content - non-verbal messages which creep inside the child and seek out core feelings like a computer virus worming its way into the operating system of a computer. Barring parental intervention, these commercial messages threaten to undermine the basis for your child's decision-making systems before they are ever established. They attempt to program your child to equate well-being with the possession of certain products. Self worth is defined by what kind of car one drives, what kind of house one occupies and what kind of beer one drinks. According to Engelhardt (1991), even the best selling children's literature seems to have joined in the chorus promoting this high consumption life-style.

Years of advertising teach the child:

"Say Yes to our deodorant."

"Say Yes to our mouth spray."

"Say Yes to our beer."

"Say Yes to our sleeping pills."

And then well meaning folks try to turn it all around with a much weaker, poorly financed campaign to teach the adolescent to "Say NO to drugs."

Unfortunately, with the advent of the Information Age and multimedia's powerful tools, the bombardment is likely to grow more intense, more subtle, more persuasive and more pervasive during the next decade as computers and marketing experts have combined forces to develop potent campaigns designed to persuade us to choose products and candidates without regard to quality, value or track record. These campaigns rely increasingly upon appeals to fears, base emotions and anxieties rather than reason.

Choosing skills can equip your child to resist such emotional appeals and propaganda. They equip her or him to make decisions which are healthy. Choosing skills provide your child with "virus protection They form the basis for an adult life which provides satisfaction through deeds and natural highs rather than a closet full of the right clothes and the right sneakers.

Chapter Four - Choosing (continued)

©1991 JMcKenzie

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