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Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb (and Other Childhood Messages That Stick)

When the newest member of our family was old enough to start banging his little fists on his high chair table (not in a demanding way…but in time to my poorly executed rhythmic recollection of a favorite childhood book, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins), I was surprised how quickly he tuned in to the beat of the words.

Slowly but consistently, I would start repeating the words from the book and the momentum and intensity would grow (just like it does in the book). It was fascinating how riveted this little guy was as I spoke the words while drumming my hands before his face. Didn’t take long before he started mimicking me as soon as I started to repeat this catchy word play. He remembered (and appeared to become enchanted).

Scary.

It took me back some years when my own children were young and we would be watching their one alloted hour of daily television and a commercial would come on…and I would mute the volume. As a person who has studied marketing, I wanted to make sure my kids didn’t succumb to the onslaught of messages telling them they needed to purchase certain products in order to be happy.

So, at first laboriously, we’d click off the volume every time, and after a while, whoever was holding the remote did it without thinking. When one of them would balk, they’d get a 60 second (commercial sized) lesson on critical thinking and how marketers have one aim…to communicate dissatisfaction to their watchers.

Eventually, my kids would come to see the value of turning off and away from the media…but it took time and lots of repetitive instruction for them to believe me (as a parent who loved them unconditionally) over some strange (but compelling) marketing strategist.

I’d forgotten all about this little quirky ritual our family practiced until recently when I rediscovered how much influence a big person has over a little person (my fingers drumming on a drum in front of six-month-old Logan).

Then I realized how much power parents have (and responsibility) to diligently monitor their kids’ media choices because children will become what they fill their minds with (we all do).

So, while I don’t always turn off commercials today…I am mindful of the messages they’re sending me…and how I’m better off hitting the mute and thinking for myself.

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