Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sue Everybody! Punitive Damages!

The title is a reference to an early Jerky Boys crank call, where they called a lawyer and made an absurd claim ending with the caller wanting to sue everyone, including the lawyer on the line. This new suit against McDonald's by a California woman over Happy Meals isn't exactly as stupid, but close. From CNN:
Parham, a 41-year old state employee, says her kids repeatedly ask for Happy Meals, mainly for the toys. "We have to say no to our kids so many times and McDonald's makes that so much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald's is getting into my kids' heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat."
I'm 42. I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, so I have some basis for comment here. There is no word in the English language they hear more than "no". It is a word I am happy to issue. Kids are Want Machines. Parents guide children by saying "yes" to things they approve of, and "no" to things not approved of. Any parent is, in my opinion, abdicating the most basic role of the parent when they decide saying 'no' is too strenuous an act for them to carry out on an ongoing basis. Lovely, but typical for our times.

In the Kole house, the kids know better than to ask Dad for McDonald's. It ain't happening, with one significant exception. When we are doing a long drive, I will take them to a McD's with a "Playplace" in it. That way, they can stretch their legs and generally be kids in a way being cooped up in a car for hours denies. Isabel has been to McDonald's less than 10 times in her life, despite two of their restaurants within a mile of our house, either of which we will drive past, depending on which way we're headed out of our neighborhood.

I hope this mother does what we did here, and remove the TV from her house. If one would give up so easily to McDonald's commercials, it's going to have a lifetime of frustration. Suits will undoubtedly have to follow to toy makers like Mattel, and then later Anheuser-Busch, and General Motors. Not sure what recourse you'll have if the kiddos are introduced to cocaine and gangs.

This is a frivolous lawsuit as Exhibit 'A'.


Doug said...

I told my kids that commercials were basically attempts to trick you into wanting their stuff. I recounted for them how disappointed I was at their age when I saw an ad for some "Zips" sneakers where the kid was leaping over tall trees or bushes or something and running super fast. When I finally got some Zips of my own, I was sorely disappointed to find out they did not convey any super powers.

The kids still see commercials, and occasionally want stuff, but knowing that the advertisers don't necessarily have their best interests in mind has really lessened their influence.

I'm reminded of a Mark Twain story I trot out from time to time called "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg." Basically, the town was so proud of its incorruptibility and took such strong measures to insulate themselves and their children from bad influences, that they were very susceptible to corruption when they were exposed.

Mike Kole said...

Great stuff, Doug.

I recall a friend's remarks to me about a mutual friend and his kids watching pro wrestling on TV. The mutual friend asked his son, "Is this real?" The boy replied, "No, they're actors. They make things look worse than they are." My other friend was impressed. They clearly had discussed what they watched, they had some knowledge about it.

Nothing beats actually talking to your kids. Believe it or not, parents can have an influence.

Sherman Unkefer said...

I agree with Mike. Quality time for your kids is the best. Some TV shows affect your child's behavior so it's better to guide them in choosing what to watch and not to watch.