"You cannot teach people anything. You can only help them discover it within themselves."

Healthy Eating

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THTM #23: Pester power (TV advertising)

What is the key message?

  • Commercials connect foods with positive feelings.
  • Commercials encourage children to “pester” their parents to buy the product being advertised.
  • Parents want to please their children and may be tempted to buy foods that they think will make them happy.
  • Parents who offer healthy foods show love for their children.

Who should receive this message?

  • Parents of toddlers and older children.
  • Parents who buy unhealthy snacks and foods for their children.
  • Parents of children who watch lots of TV and are exposed to lots of food commercials.

How can this message be used?

  • Think back to when you were a kid. Were there any foods that you begged your parents to buy? What kind of foods were they?
  • Do your children beg you for certain foods when you’re at the supermarket? What kinds of foods are they? How do they know about them?
  • What are some of the most memorable advertisements for foods that you can think of?
  • We often attach feelings and personalities to foods.
  • What foods do you associate with love?
  • How do commercials connect food and love, happiness or other positive feelings?
  • What experiences, traditions or beliefs have caused you to associate love with those foods?
  • At what age do you think babies or children are being influenced by ads?
  • What food commercials do your children especially love? How do the commercials make them want that food?

(Offer handout at this point)

  • Commercials are very good at attaching feelings to foods, especially for the ones they are selling. Children are especially vulnerable to commercials and often pester parents to buy the featured foods.
  • How do you feel about commercials promoting foods by attaching positive feelings to them?
  • How does it feel to not give in every time your child asks for a food that may not be so healthy?
  • What foods do parents offer that really show love for their children?
  • Which would you be more proud of— offering healthy foods or buying frequently advertised treats?
  • Ultimately, who do you think has more influence on your child’s food choices…you or the TV?
  • What can you do to counter the “pester power” that commercials encourage?
  • Offer handout. Quickly review tips, reinforcing practical ways parents can show children the greatest love of all—offering healthy foods. Do any of these ideas seem realistic? How can these ideas become a reality for you and your child.What might be barriers? (Brainstorm solutions)
  • What will you do next time your child pesters you to buy something he or she saw in a commercial?


Emotion-Based Messages