A consumer watchdog group has threatened to sue McDonalds for offering toys as part of their children's Happy Meals, claiming these toys lure children into their restaurants. "Tempting kids with toys is unfair and deceptive, both to kids who don't understand the concept of advertising, and to their parents, who have to put up with their nagging children," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Generally, I side with the protection of people over corporate interests. There are many ways to subconsciously influence people, and I believe the most innocent among us should be protected from those more predatory.
But a 5 year old child doesn't buy his own food, nor does he drive himself to the fast food restaurant. And what parent doesn't know that eating McDonalds several times a week is not a good thing? McDonald's, along with cereal manufacturers using cartoon characters to hawk their sugar-laden products, may be enticing to children, but so are toys, dolls, and candy. That's precisely what parents are for - they are responsible for raising their children. As a parent, do you buy every toy your child wants when walking thru a mall? Do you let them decide when their bedtime is and if they will go to school that day?
Well, maybe you do - and that's the problem. Many parents today don't really want to parent. Take this statement - "to their parents, who have to put up with their nagging children" as quoted above. Nagging children? What do people expect when they decide to have kids? Children do nag, whine, fight with each other, and otherwise have obnoxious behavior at times. But that's what being a parent is - teaching discipline and limits to children in a loving way. Too often, parents abdicate parental responsibility and instead want to be friends to their children.
Several teachers echo these thoughts. Jennifer, a grade school teacher in a well-heeled suburb of Chicago, is always surprised at the children whose daily lunches consist of hot dogs, cheetos, candy, Lunchables, etc. "The mom will tell me that Little Johnny refuses to eat anything healthy - all he'll eat is his favorite junk food." Whatever happenend to the old adage "if you don't eat what's for dinner, you can starve"? It certainly worked with many of us when we were growing up - you quickly realized that if you did not learn to eat what Mom made, you wouldn't get anything. Funny how we all learned to love those brussel sprouts.
This is also part of the problem - Mom doesn't cook healthy anymore. Obese parents are more likely to have obese children. If Mom chooses fast food for dinner every night, then the kids are going to eat poorly and become obese.
We need to take personal responsibility for the health of ourselves and our children if we want to eradicate obesity in our country. There's always going to be something to tempt your children, whether it's Happy meals, the newest train set, or staying home from school to watch tv all day. It's up to us as parents to set limits for children, allow them occasional treats, and teach discipline and personal responsibility.