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post #21 of 34
hmm, interesting conversation. we're about ready to disappear the lego magazines and catalogues from the house because of obsessive behaviours much like the op has described. it is truly making ds miserable that he wants wants wants....

are young children able to psychologically defend against the zillions of marketing dollars that are spent to target them? i have recently heard about but havent yet watched a new documentary that touches on this called 'consuming kids'. has anyone seen it? i have watched 'the corporation' and am fully aware of how children are targeted. we have had conversations about marketing psychology with ds and sometimes he gets it; other times not so much. i wonder if this thread is less about lego and more about consumerism/brainwashing to buy and all of that.

ps i dont think lego is evil but their marketing dynamics have changed a lot since i was a kid.
post #22 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by NellieKatz View Post

I am glad for this discussion, though, because I think I may increase my son's allowance. It's true that with a puny allowance, it does create a longer period of "longing" for a certain toy. It makes me think that perhaps my own childhood and the way I was raised could be causing me to be too ungenerous with my kid, as though I am teaching him to appreciate things more by making them more unavailable? Food for thought.


I raised my ds's at one point because he had started buying cheap things because he felt it was futile to try to save for a year for something he really wanted.  I upped it from $5 to $8 (because he was 8 at the time and that was how much his best friend got) and he went back to saving for higher quality things that he truly wanted.  I'd rather the bigger allowance and fewer, more satisfying purchases.  Right now, his allowance is on hold while dh is unemployed.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by moss View Post

hmm, interesting conversation. we're about ready to disappear the lego magazines and catalogues from the house because of obsessive behaviours much like the op has described. it is truly making ds miserable that he wants wants wants....

are young children able to psychologically defend against the zillions of marketing dollars that are spent to target them? i have recently heard about but havent yet watched a new documentary that touches on this called 'consuming kids'. has anyone seen it? i have watched 'the corporation' and am fully aware of how children are targeted. we have had conversations about marketing psychology with ds and sometimes he gets it; other times not so much. i wonder if this thread is less about lego and more about consumerism/brainwashing to buy and all of that.

ps i dont think lego is evil but their marketing dynamics have changed a lot since i was a kid.

Your ds has aspergers, doesn't he?  I'd guess that would make dealing with this sort of obsession more difficult.  I'd possibly consider making them disappear, too, in that situation...  My ds does really well with the marketing, imo.  He doesn't even want many of the lego sets, just specific ones and specific themes.  He is good at prioritizing.  And at least with legos, we know they are a long lasting toy that can even be resold for more $ if kept in good condition.  But legos are frustrating because they are so fast paced.  Some of the themes get discontinued before the child has a chance to get the ones they want, even if receiving big sets as gifts for Christmas and birthdays and getting an allowance.  That's our biggest issue.  We were prepared for Power Miners to be discontinued (that was a longer running theme, over 2 years) but Space Police being discontinued (a year and a half?) was an unpleasant surprise.  I'm thankful the newer themes don't appeal to him, a good time for a break with dh still unemployed.  
 

 

post #23 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by moss View Post
i wonder if this thread is less about lego and more about consumerism/brainwashing to buy and all of that.

ps i dont think lego is evil but their marketing dynamics have changed a lot since i was a kid.

 

What are their marketing dynamics? I honestly haven't seen a single Lego ad or other piece of marketing that I can think of. I find it really amazing that it feels this way to some of you. I wonder whether part of the solution might be to make family choices which limit exposure to marketing, rather than to the toys themselves.

 

We have AdBlocker working in our internet browsers, we don't watch commercial TV, instead plying the kids with DVDs and public television. We don't subscribe to magazines with ads. We don't subscribe to newspapers. These aren't rules. We just never offered this stuff, we parents chose to avoid them ourselves, and the kids have not asked, except that recently my teens buy their own newspapers and magazines. Where are your kids getting this onslaught of Lego/toy marketing from? Are there ways you can do things a little differently in your families that would minimize this exposure? Because I agree, developing consumer skepticism is something that takes time and young kids are unlikely to be able to stand strong in the face of a continual torrent of the stuff. 

 

Miranda

post #24 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

 

What are their marketing dynamics? I honestly haven't seen a single Lego ad or other piece of marketing that I can think of.


We get the seasonal catalogs because we are on their mailing list and order from their website.  And ds gets the Lego Club magazine, again something we signed up for...  Sometimes there are ads for games on dvds, like an ad for a Harry Potter lego game on a Harry Potter dvd...  That's about all we come across.  I think we once saw an ad for a new theme or maybe it was an ad for Lego Universe (MMORPG) on regular tv...  Their marketing doesn't need to be aggressive because people willingly seek it out, lol.

post #25 of 34

 

Quote:
I think I may increase my son's allowance. It's true that with a puny allowance, it does create a longer period of "longing" for a certain toy.

 

I don't know what your son's allowance is but in the OPs case I just wanted to suggest that increasing the allowance is most likely not the pressing issue here - it is being able to share the joy.   I would be curious to see what happened if mom expressed some enthusiasm for the Legos.  Would anything change, would mom be less bothered by it? 

 

Increasing the allowance can always be done later as well.

 

Question:  At some point aren't there enough legos to build anything, provided you are not confined to building the thing that the set was designed for?

post #26 of 34

My ds has a different obsession (an online game called Minecraft), but it's very similar in that he wants to do nothing else and talks about it constantly. I think maybe it's just an 8 year old thing. If you truly cannot afford the toys he wants, maybe he could try to find a way to raise his own funds for them?


 

post #27 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by rumi View Post

Question:  At some point aren't there enough legos to build anything, provided you are not confined to building the thing that the set was designed for?

No. lol.gif

 

My ds free builds some cool stuff.  We periodically go through them and cull out some to scrap.  But others should be thought of as finished sculptural art or engineering pieces and they are kept.  To create more of this art, he periodically needs more specialty pieces, even though he has bins of loose legos.  He focuses more on function than color but he's getting to the point where he'd really prefer certain colors, as well.  I can't blame him.  I'd hate to paint only with unblendable primary colors.  If he painted, I'd buy him more paint and canvases.  I wouldn't make him reuse the canvas and paint over his last painting when he was happy with it.  Since he creates with legos, I get him more specialty pieces from pick-a-brick or other online sources.  I love seeing what he builds. smile.gif
 

 

post #28 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by rumi View Post
Question:  At some point aren't there enough legos to build anything, provided you are not confined to building the thing that the set was designed for?

you would think, but,. like a PP mentioned, there a many pieces with specific functions/ shapes and there never seem to be enough of those and they are never the right color desired by my kids. I have found that having everything very well sorted helps A LOT, but it's hard to get them sorted to that degree and keep them that way. My 10 yr old is getting better at it, but the 6 yr old is still in the making messes everywhere stage.
 

Oh, and as for it being helpful for mom to take interest, I don't know that it's appropriate or necessary. It's great for everyone to be able to expand their scope of interest but it's also inauthentic to feign interest in something that is completely uninteresting to us and I prefer teaching my kids to find others who share an interest with them instead of continually trying to convince someone to like that thing. I do know that it's important to have SOMEONE to share a hobby/passion with, and that it's important to not have hobbies/passions looked down on or derided by a parent and it might be helpful for mom to be able to listen to him talk about it sometimes without judgment, but I've seen what works best for my kids (and for me) is for them to have other kids to play Legos with, or anything that is a kid interest that mom doesn't share.

post #29 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

 

What are their marketing dynamics? I honestly haven't seen a single Lego ad or other piece of marketing that I can think of. I find it really amazing that it feels this way to some of you. I wonder whether part of the solution might be to make family choices which limit exposure to marketing, rather than to the toys themselves.



 

 

If your kids aren't into Lego, as you've stated, then it's understandable that you've not been exposed to the marketing. But these days any kid who owns a set (or has a friend who owns a set) will find in the box a glossy instruction booklet which invariably includes ads for other Lego products.


Even some of the Lego boxes themselves have "ads" on them. I'm looking now at one of DS' Lego boxes (containing a one-piece switcher track that cost him around $15), and the back of the box shows an elaborate train-yard scene with what looks like $1000+ worth of trains, tracks, a train station, cranes, maintenance vehicles, etc, along with a list of the individual kit reference numbers and the URL for the Lego website for easy online ordering. The side panel of the box also entices kids to join the Lego Club: FREE! LEGO CLUB MEMBERSHIP! APPLICATION INSIDE!" (DS never cared to join, so I can't say for sure but I can guess it's primarily more exposure to Lego merchandise).


And if you ever order anything at all from the Lego website, you'll start receiving in the mail, several times a year, a glossy ad-magazine filled with all their new products.


Personally I don't think Lego is doing anything much different from lots of other companies that market to kids. In our case with DS12, all of the above has been approached over the years by using the ads as an opportunity for open and ongoing family discussions about what marketing is all about.


The only marketing aspect that has really annoyed us, however, is the one that another poster mentioned above: the very brief availability of some of the themed sets. DS is the kind of kid who will think long and hard about how he wants to spend his money. When he was 8 or 9, he was interested in getting an electrified-track train set. He spent a year looking into all kinds of train-set options (not just Lego) and finally decided on the Lego version because it would be compatible with his existing Lego sets. He initially bought one engine, one car, and a basic figure-8 track kit. He'd figured he could expand the set a little at a time. But within a month or two of his initial purchase, the electrified train was discontinued in favour of the RC non-electrified train.


It was, once again, a good opportunity to discuss marketing, etc, and eventually he and DH had fun buying a non-electrified switcher-track and modifying it to electrify it so it would run with his train. But still, pretty disappointing. In DS' case it made him more cautious about ordering such stuff in the future. But I can easily see how a kid with a different personality from DS' might, instead, want in the future to order everything at once before it got discontinued.


Anyways, to the OP, thanks for initiating an interesting discussion. We, too, live a very happy and satisfying life of voluntary simplicity, smack in the middle of a huge city. However, I think there's a lot more to voluntary simplicity than what you buy or don't buy. I think "why" you buy or don't buy is just as important, and that needs to be evaluated with sensitivity on an individual level, according to each specific family member's needs, age and interests, rather than on a blanket, guilt-inducing "our family doesn't believe in buying X". 


As an aside, we've found some of the Calvin and Hobbes comics to be great springboards for honest discussions about marketing. "Hey mom, I saw a bunch of products on TV that I didn't know existed, but I desperately need!" LOL! DS still likes to quote that as he approaches me with a catalog in hand and a big grin on his face.

post #30 of 34
Thread Starter 

I have been keeping up with all of the responses, but sorry, I haven't been able to respond that often. I do appreciate this discussion. I am not the best writer, so without a more thourough description of our situation, some people took me the wrong way. I do think most people got the idea of what problems I was having. Anyway, DS1 does have one good friend that he talks non-stop to about LEGO Star Wars. We see him 2 times a week. One of the times each week is when our local homeschool group meets at the park. So they are together for 4 to 5 hours of LEGO Star Wars conversing bliss. Well, I don't follow them around, so I don't know how much they discuss it. But I do overhear them discussing LEGO Star Wars a lot when they come to the table for snacks. The other mom and I have discussed this, and we both love that they have each other to talk to about LEGO Star Wars. That plus it gives us a small break from it. It is unrealistic for me to be constantly (24/7) enthusiastic about a passion of my child's. It just wouldn't be guenuine. And I see that all people change over time and that DS1 will change as well. And that is fine with me. I was initially just at the end of my rope about listening to non-stop LEGO Star Wars monologues. In the past he was using his creativity in other ways that were about creating. Recently it just seems like his creativity has been overshadowed by intense desire for a product. Which is what I was trying to convey. And I do understand that if he got more allowance that he could save up quicker. But I don't believe that would help the situation. Not to mention that it is financially impossible for us to give more.

 

Anyway, at what point does it become addiction? I seem to have upset some people who came in to this discussion early on, and I have no intention of upsetting anyone. I am just trying to work through what I see as a problem in my family. I have an addictive personality and have several family members with drug and alcohol addiction. Advertising is a problem. Though for us, we avoid most of it. I guess the boxes (showing other sets) or color pamphlets don't help. Though I don't think that is unique to LEGO. DS1 has certainly walked around the house studying the Playmobil pamphlets. DS2 (who is 3) has started to do that with the Playmobil pamphlets as well. But with DS1, it used to be just here and there. Not everyday. And the desire didn't seem as intense.

post #31 of 34

I did get the sense that you probably had some worries over the obsession part of it more than anything and I understand it. I can tell you that your son is at a developmental stage where he's gonna obsess about things probably more than at other times and that it's way to early to put adult context into that. I know when my oldest was a few years younger it was much more worrying for me when he'd start getting into things (and they so often seem to be commercial stuff that I just don't understand) but now that he's older and gone through these phases (and I've seen other friends kids do it similarly), I can see some rhythm to the process and know that the obsession is nearly always something he grows through. He picks up the parts of that thing that he appreciated most and moves onto something else.

 

Also, it might be helpful to keep in mind that addictions are behaviors we do to make up for or mask things that we can't deal with. We use those things we are addicted to as coping mechanisms, not as areas of interest. I would pay more attention to WHY he is being obsessed than what it is he is obsessing about. Is it having the material item that he cares about, it is the story of it, is it the manual playing with the item. IME, emotionally healthy children don't get addicted to things, they get obsessive with things that a lot of us mothers are appalled by but then they move on after a while (which could be 6 mo or a few years) My oldest has been playing with Legos for a decade now and he goes through all sorts of phases with it but I don't think that he's addicted to them anymore than I would say that I am addicted to sewing or buying fabric simply because it is a passion of mine.

post #32 of 34

 

Quote:
It is unrealistic for me to be constantly (24/7) enthusiastic about a passion of my child's. It just wouldn't be genuine.

:agree.  but my impression was that the opposite was happening (i.e. you were constantly irritated) - perhaps I was mistaken. 

 

Quote:

 

 In the past he was using his creativity in other ways that were about creating.

 

So I am slightly confused - are the new sets not about creating?  I get that they have a predetermined thing that you create but I am guessing that it still involves some creativity - and if they are talking about it for hours then is it firing their imagination in some way?  I have actually never bought these so I am clueless about how they work.  But I can't help thinking "at least it is not TV / video games." :duck.

 

And having never bought them I have never seen the ads either - but I understand  from this discussion that not only has the marketing has changed but the terms of engagement with the blocks also seems to have changed.  I think that as a kid, breaking down the finished building was an integral part of the experience - and made it possible to be wildly experimental in the building phase as well.    Like the sand paintings in Buddhist art that are wiped away after they are complete - there is something special and ineffable in that.  If the new Legos are designed to be built and kept standing then it is a different ball-game.  Plus of course it helps them sell more legos.  With the regular legos there is such a thing as enough.

post #33 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by rumi View Post If the new Legos are designed to be built and kept standing then it is a different ball-game.  Plus of course it helps them sell more legos.  With the regular legos there is such a thing as enough.

That's not really anything new.  Lego has been selling themed sets since I was a kid in the 70's (and we still have those legos).  Whether kids want to keep them built or take them apart afterwards is likely a temperamental issue.  What IS new to this generation is that Lego is doing themes that tie into movies; Star Wars, Toy Story, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, etc. 
 

 

post #34 of 34

My DS is 7 and has taken up Lego (mostly Star Wars) as a passion/obsession as well, and I get what you are saying about him talking about it ALL. THE. TIME. It was driving me truly nuts.  I wanted to hear about his other interests, any other interests.  First of all, it seems to be normal developmentally for boys this age to be really freaking intense about a particular subject.  Unschooling really allows this to reign free, which I think is positive; I don't think anyone is served by teaching someone to repress his feelings.  Labeling his interest as an addiction at his age seems like it would be counterproductive to me unless he was actually refusing to meet his own physical needs in order to play Lego. However, I feel the same pangs over making sure that there is balance, that he becomes a well-rounded individual, and his susceptibility to advertising messages.  DS does not have time limits on screen time of any kind, and he is the type to really get sucked in and spend a lot of time on it.  We've dealt with this by talking about balance and the value of creating and working on mental and physical projects and being engaged in our family and community - basically what it takes to be a functioning, contributing human being - while still acknowledging the need for down time, for absorbing interesting media, etc.  DS realizes his time can easily get sucked away at one absorbing thing, like Lego or video games without him noticing, so we have collaborated on different ways to keep that from happening.  For a while we had a "no screen time first thing in the morning" rule, and have tried various other systems of limiting so that he would have time to do other things, and now we have a vague routine, rather than outright restrictions, other than generally, he avoids advertising and reviews when he is websurfing because he realizes it "hypnotizes him" into wanting more sets and  being dissatisfied with his already enormous collection in a way that doesn't happen with related games or animations. 

 

Second, DS is very expressive and extroverted, and I am not. I need silence sometimes, and he wants to talk all the time.  Again, I think this is to some degree a developmental stage.  He was defaulting to the subject matter always being Lego sets because, I think, he felt knowledgeable in that area, and could go on for hours about it. Problems started to arise when I would get overwhelmed and ask him to tell me later or didn't understand what he was talking about because I was not as informed or aware of the topic as he was.  He took it as me being dismissive or not liking him because I was not as avidly interested in the subject.  So we began to sit down first thing each morning and have a discussion on a different topic each day, sort of an "Art of Conversation" series.  I explained that a dialogue is a give and take, that taking the time to show you care about the other person's interests and feelings is how we learn about people and build relationships. I told him he would be able to make friends easier his whole life if he were a good listener as well as an intelligent, articulate speaker.  We enjoyed our talks.  He learned a lot. And it gave us a forum to discuss other things he wanted to try, do, or explore. He expanded his horizons, and we talk about a huge variety of things now. Plus he no longer takes it personally when I am not interested in hearing about his Christmas list in February or the newest Lego set that he wants right now.

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