Buy Movie Tickets or Psychopathic Action Figures

Jan 24

You’ve got to feel a little sorry for Hollywood these days.¬† Recession times, such as they are, have hurt them as much as any other business out there.¬† Did you see the Golden Globes?¬† Clearly, they’re on a budget – why else would they have hired a Brit to host?¬† Cheap overseas labour is something every business needs to consider when tough times hit.

The moviemakers have not exerted much effort into improving the quality of their product – that would just be wasteful spending.¬† But rather they’ve brilliantly concentrated on marketing to an expanded audience for each movie produced.¬† Understandably, this is to make up for cheap consumers who’d prefer to buy a week’s worth of groceries than spend a night at the movies.¬† The cinema’s failed poster campaign featuring George Clooney in a three-piece suit (the bubble above his head saying “Aren’t I worth $15 to you?”) gave me pause, but ultimately was not persuasive enough to entice throngs of patrons, such as myself, to the theatres.¬† You are worth fifteen dollars, I said to George’s dapper image, but who was I kidding?¬† As a youngish 37-year old woman, I was still a decade too old to even fantasize about fantasizing about being his main squeeze – we’ve all seen his cocktail waitresses, er, girlfriends.¬† And if it’s fantasy that Hollywood is trying to sell – I’d rather see Twilight.¬†

In fact, it was during New Moon’s opening night, sitting among angst-ridden teenage girls that I realized I’d been manipulated by the latest of Hollywood’s marketing strategies – make a movie that appeals to a “broad”er audience, that is, offer a little something to everyone. ¬†The Twilight movies attract both teenagers and women who want to still look like teenagers.¬† Pure genius.¬†

These efforts have also worked fabulously with children.¬† Walk into any grade one class at Halloween and what do you see?¬† Girls dressed as princesses and boys dressed as superheroes.¬† That must have been the big wigs’ inspiration to jump on the superhero blockbuster wagon.¬† The Hulk, Batman, Superman, X-Men… I can almost hear the chorus of little boys begging Mom and Dad to take them to the movies.¬† But those Hollywood executives aren’t suckers.¬† Sure, movies like Kung Fu Panda do all right, but why not think bigger?¬† And George Clooney needs another pay raise.¬† The PR folks, between plastic surgery appointments, concocted a fail-proof plan to pack the theatres.¬† Draw in the kids with the superhero title, yet pack the flick with violence (plus a small sex scene without the nudity) to attract the older guys.¬† It’s a win-win.¬† The kids get to see Batman save the world and the grown ups get to see a thriller featuring a psychopathic killer.¬†

Of course, Tinseltown had enough foresight to consider hardened parents who aren’t so easily swayed by the incessant begging of their children.¬† They realized such parents are either too cheap to shell out the hundred dollars for a pleasant family night out or are too paranoid to allow their kids to be exposed by some wholesome “violence.”¬† That’s why they created movie merchandise to stock every toy store’s shelves.¬† The Gotham Knight pickings were especially tantalizing.¬† With every purchase of a Batman figure, kids received a free figurine pack of blood-covered corpses.¬† Christmas was very special that year.¬†

Apparently there’s some parent-led movement across North America trying to put a stop to this Hollywood practice.¬† Of course, Hollywood is fighting this madness.¬† America is, after all, the land of the free. ¬†Free – not as in free movie tickets, but as in free to make and sell movies as we please.¬† They quickly silenced the ever growing demands of BAM ¬†(Babysitters Against Movies) whose complaints of job loss were assuaged with free tickets to – you guessed it – New Moon.¬†

Hollywood is just trying to keep itself afloat in uncertain economic times.¬† Yet some people are unconvinced, saying they’re putting profits ahead of child safety and welfare.¬† To these naysayers, the big studios are offering a free showing of the popular movie The Hangover during which they will slash the price of popcorn by half.¬† Should that fail, they will be forced to consider giving George Clooney a pay cut.

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Kids Will Work for Money: Commission-based Chores

Jan 12

About a year ago, I implemented a new chore system for our household.  Determined to get my kids to learn the value of hard work, I developed a commission-based chore schedule.  I was sick of begging them to set the table, practice piano, or do homework.  Even worse, I was fed up with the shrill battle cry that erupted from my lungs when they ignored my multiple requests. 

I’d considered starting an allowance for each of them, but my inner voice of reason taunted me with names like schmuck, sucker, push-over.¬† Did I really think that folding a¬†crisp five dollar bill into my kids’ unwashed hands every week would suddenly compel them to leave the bathroom sink gleaming after brushing their teeth, or set polished silverware over folded napkins in preparation for dinner?¬† Free money.¬† That’s precisely what they would think¬†- a concept they¬†learned after continously watching Mom and Dad slip a magic card into a money-making machine that spat out twenty dollar bills.¬† Who needs to work when there are machines like that around?

It was important to teach them a direct connection between work and earnings.¬† You work – you make money.¬† Given my lack of confidence in my ability to enforce daily duties on my children, I decided to give them the opportunity to make money based on their own individual efforts.¬† For every duty they completed, I stuck¬†a gold star (well, my initials, actually) into a box beside their name.¬† At my current rate, they earn whole dollar for every six initials they receive.¬† It’s not a lot of money, but it allows them the freedom to buy a book or video game every couple of months as reward for their efforts.

On a really good week, my oldest son will earn up to¬†twenty of my monetary signatures (his chores include doing homework and practicing piano).¬† On a slow week, he may earn only ten.¬† My youngest earns the least amount of money because – surprise – the least is expected of him.¬† The system works at its best when the kids have decided they want to purchase something.¬† Those days, I can hardly come up with enough chores¬†to rack up the dollars or, er, quarters.¬† Recently, all three boys pooled their points to purchase a Wii game.¬† It’s a good thing, too, because I would have definitely nixed the plans if they’d not had their own means of paying.¬†

While I still perform the bulk of the household chores, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do – teach my children that money does not, in fact, materialize if it we just wish it so.¬† It is earned.¬† They understand that if they want to accumulate more money, they need to put in more effort.¬† So if they’d rather play Wii than help clean, they’d better be prepared to play the same old games until next Christmas – when Santa’s feeling generous.

A full explanation of the system is at http://porridgereport.com/2009/02/27/commission-based-chores-for-your-kids/

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A Sexual Burger King Ad for Kids?

Apr 07

Parents now have another excuse for not taking their kids to a fast food restaurant (besides the most obvious one – unhealthy, fatty foods).¬† A new ad from the fast food giant, Burger King, features¬†the King, himself, singing a rendition of of Sir Mix-A-Lot‚Äôs 1990‚Äôs hit song, “Baby Got Back‚Äù with the new lyrics, ‚ÄúI like square butts and I cannot lie.‚Äù¬† It’s an effort to market their latest Kids Meal that features Sponge Bob Square Pants to unsuspecting children and their parents.

In it, Britney-Speerified “girls” shimmy their behinds for the camera in red hot pants.¬† Just in case¬†that segment is¬†not inappropriate enough for kids, there’s¬†a shot of a woman wearing a slinky red dress who then turns around to display her backside so that¬†the “King” can measure it with a measuring tape.¬†

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gMZ62PsvRM

Question to Burger King:¬† Did any of the marketing gurus that pulled the ad together have kids themselves?¬† My guess is… No.¬† I admit, my kids love the junk that McDonald’s and Burger King¬†serve (despite my efforts to teach them that it starves their body of everything needed to grow into big healthy boys.)¬† They’re all in primary school – the ideal age group for a kids meal.¬†¬†So how is it that kids under the age of ten need a lesson in¬†the demoralization of women?¬† My kids, thankfully, still believe that all women are like their mother… Strong, smart, respectful, funny and pretty (of course).¬† But thanks to the marketing kings at Burger King,¬†now they can learn¬†practice of checking out asses.¬† Hmmm… how about their teacher’s rear-ends?¬†¬†Or better yet, the small behinds of their young¬†female school mates.¬†

So, thank you Burger King.¬† For giving me another reason to never eat at your “restaurant” again.¬†

I encourage all parents to share their outrage with Burger King and Nickelodeon through the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood’s web site at¬† http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/621/t/6725/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27008.¬† Let’s stop this ad before¬†more kids are exposed to it.¬†

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Commission-based Chores for Your Kids

Feb 27

My kids are just reaching the¬†stage where they are capable of helping out around the house.¬†¬†The oldest of my kids (now in grade three) can make his bed without much difficulty, brush his own teeth (if you don’t mind a little yellow), understand the difference between cleaning his room and stuffing everything under the bed, and can clear a plate without spilling its contents all over the kitchen floor (which sadly, is usually¬†still dirty from the night before.)¬† The younger two, while not quite as capable, are old enough to follow his lead and willing to work for anything that¬†promises¬†a reward.¬†

Allowances simply faded away, chore charts ripped down, treats eaten and then long forgotten.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried in vain to enforce regular duties for them.¬†¬†Rewards have ranged from¬†a weekly allowance to food bribery to sticker charts.¬† In the end, however, nothing ever stuck.¬† I’m as much to blame as my kids for our inability to stick it out.¬† My efforts too often fizzled after a couple of weeks when I would tire of my begging them to keep up the effort.¬† Allowances simply faded away, chore charts ripped down, treats eaten and then long forgotten.¬† Every once in a while, when my son was feeling the need to buy¬†himself a little something special, he would lament the disappearance of his allowance and ask what happened to it.¬†¬†I would reply with a sigh, what happened to making your bed?¬† We’d both shrug our shoulders and return to whatever we were doing.¬†

Many parents are against the whole allowance concept.¬† They claim that¬†it teaches children entitlement, rather than encourages them to appreciate¬†their¬†contribution as a natural part of the household community.¬† I understand that thinking, but I don’t buy it.¬† Maybe that’s because I hate to clean almost as much as my kids do.¬†¬†I wonder,¬†what’s wrong with motivating a child to do something that nobody enjoys doing?¬† They’re still learning the importance of doing their duty, and doing it well.¬† My main problem with allowance in our¬†house is¬†the degree to which they are actually earning their keep.¬† I have trouble doling out a few bucks every Sunday when I see little evidence that they did anything the preceding six days of the week.¬† Or worse, if I had to constantly remind them¬†to clean their rooms, clear their dishes, empty the recycle bin¬†- in ever increasing decibels.

I’ve finally created a chore schedule that works for our family – it really works.¬† With it, my kids earn an allowance based on what they’ve done throughout the week.¬† And, because cash in the hands of young’uns is consumed like chocolate on Halloween (they don’t remember how it went so fast, and are soon asking for more), they¬†pick an item that they’d like buy and its price becomes their earnings goal.¬† Once they’ve earned enough dollars, we go to the store.¬† Our latest purchase was a PC video game controller.¬† It took them about four weeks to earn it.

Here’s how it works.¬† One chart indicates exactly what chores are expected of each child and on what days of the week.¬† This is essential, as it prevents fighting over who did it yesterday or three days ago – everyone knows who has to do what, when.¬† So, Monday to Sunday are lined across the top and the chores are listed down the first column.¬† My oldest child’s name is in the most boxes because he is the most capable, next my middle child, and my youngest has only a few boxes.¬† Naturally, the eldest has the potential to earn the most money since he has the most duties to fulfill.¬† Here’s a pdf that you can look at to get an idea of how it works. I recommend creating your own in excel or word, but feel free to use this one, if you wish.¬† helpschedule

In addition, each child gets his or her own¬†Points Chart.¬† This will be printed off at the beginning of every week and keeps track of how many points each child earns.¬† Parents need not chase their child around the house to enforce the bedmaking rule.¬† If the bed’s not made, Julie gets no point (I use signatures in these boxes so that the most impish of my kids can’t fake a point.)¬† At the end of every week, the points are talllied and added onto the next week’s chart.¬† You need to determine how many stars equal a dollar.¬† In our household, they earn one dollar for every eight “signatures” earned.¬† No one’s getting rich, but it’s enough to keep a young boy motivated.¬† Here’s a pdf that shows how this chart will look for each child.¬† Again – I recommend creating your own chart, as each family has different chores depending on the age of children and just how much work is expected by the parents.¬†¬†pointschart¬†

I hang the charts up on a kitchen cupboard for them all to see.

I still nag my kids – if I could eliminate that with an easy-to-follow system, I’d sell it!¬†¬†After all, I can’t put every little thing they do on a chore chart (putting on your boots to go outside is a necessity, not a chance to earn money), and that inevitably leads to the nag cycle.¬† However, when I remind them that they won’t earn a signature if they don’t set the table that night, they’re quite willing to do what they have to do.¬† They often count their points to see how far along they’ve come toward attaining their financial goals (read: earn enough money to buy a new DS game.)¬† Just¬†don’t try to talk them into putting their hard-earned money into a savings account¬†- that’s a motivation killer.

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Canadian Tire Pulls Maxim Magazines

Jan 27

A few days ago I complained to the head office for Canadian Tire about their display of Maxim Magazines at the cash register.¬† As I explained in this blog, I felt that type of publication was inappropriate for a retailer that markets and sells to families.¬† Today, I am happy to report that the head of Corporate Social Responsibility called me to apologize for the magazine display and has ensured that all Maxim magazines have been pulled from any stores that sold them.¬† She explained that not every store included this publication on the magazine rack, but those that did, no longer will do so.¬† This is a win for all women and parents of young children and a welcome reminder that it’s better to voice your dissent than turn a blind eye and mutter under your breath.¬† Thanks to any of you who emailed Canadian Tire to rectify this situation.

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