Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We can't blame McDonald's for everything

I watched a report on the news the other day about a woman who was suing McDonald’s because she felt that the toy in the Happy Meal attracted children to an unhealthy meal, and then she, as a parent, had to tell her child “no”, they couldn’t get the meal nor the toy. But, she continued, then her child would become upset and she would have the parenting challenge of having to deal with this upset child, therefore, she was suing McDonald’s to get them to take the toy out of the Happy Meal.

I’m not saying that children should get every one of those little dolls and cars and crazy toys. Sometimes, as a parent, I have to say “no” to my kids and they pout and fuss. But I don’t think it’s McDonald’s fault. If we could blame companies for our children fussing and pouting over things they can’t have, I’d also have a case against UnderArmour, Aeropostale, and Toys R’ Us.

In recent years, people have also blamed McDonald’s for childhood obesity. If it weren’t for those french fries and double cheeseburgers, all the children in the country would be healthy, athletic, and fit into their clothes.

Not to ignore the issue of childhood obesity and all of the health factors that accompany it – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, compromises to the bone structure, early development and puberty. I witness it every time I walk into one of my children’s schools and see kindergartners that are the size of my middle-schooler. But, again, I don’t think it’s McDonald’s fault.

This isn’t an effort to defend McDonald’s, Lord knows they have enough money and resources to defend themselves. But instead, it’s a view of how much we’ve let corporations and other entities become the scapegoats for parental responsibility. Kids are fat? Blame fast food restaurants and school vending machines. Kids getting into trouble? Blame the lack of after-school activities. Kids are dressed too maturely? Blame music videos. Kids walk around cursing? Blame Hollywood. Are we too scared to blame the parents?

Let’s consider childhood obesity, a serious problem. If kids are fat, we have to look at what the parents are doing. Kids can’t sit in front of the TV, playing video games, and texting their friends all day. They have to go run up and down the street, playing real games with their friends in person. Parents have to make sure they aren’t allowing their children to eat french fries and hamburgers and a shake for every meal. They need to make sure they get in a vegetable at some point during the day. Parents have to provide something other than a bag of chips and a soda for an after school snack. I know parents and families are busy; our own family has at least one after-school activity every day of the week, many overlapping dinner time. Its easy to get caught in the drive-thru routine to pick up dinner. But with some careful planning, you can avoid the burger & fries for dinner every night. Fix the kids a grilled chicken sandwich, pack it with a bag of carrot sticks and a bottle of water and bring it along in the car. Have fruit available when the kids get home from school. Bring along grapes as a snack when running errands rather than getting cookies and a candy bar out of the vending machines. It takes a little more effort and planning ahead, no doubt, but its healthier and less stressful.

And every now and then, go ‘head – take the drive-thru and get them the Happy Meal, complete with a new little pony or big wheel truck, and sit back and watch a good show on TV. Its all in moderation.

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