ADVICE & ANSWERS: Brand Names?

Today I bring you another question from a reader. Shannon asks about something we all deal with, but we may all deal with it in slightly (or sometimes dramatically) different ways:

I would like to know people's view of brandism. I think I made that word up, but what I mean is I want to know to what extent do we allow our children to have certain brands (i.e. Disney characters, Nick Jr. characters, etc.) My parents went to Disney World and sent a LOT of Disney stuffed animals, dishes, toys and such. I want to know if I should continue to allow my daughters to play with certain toys just because they are a certain brand. Further explaining my situation, my oldest daughter loves princesses and the most common princess characters are, of course, Disney. I'm o.k. with her liking princesses because she is a princess - her Creator is the King. I also really like what Dora the Explorer teaches my kids, but is it o.k. to allow these "brands" into my home...or a better question might be, what is allowing this brand into my home teaching my children? ~Shannon

Interesting question, I think- so what say you, readers? What advice would you give to this mom with young children trying to determine how to deal with all the characters and brand names in her home? How do you deal with it?

Some related questions you might consider when you give your answer: Are there characters/brand names you have banned from your home? If so, why? Are there characters/brand names you allow? If so, why? How do you deal with the overwhelming marketing aimed at young children? Do you deal with gifts differently than things you yourself purchase for your children?

So come out with it! Let's hear your thoughts on this interesting question!

*** Remember that if you have a question for the readers that you'd like to have featured in the "ADVICE & ANSWERS" column, you can click here & follow these instructions. This feature depends on YOU, so send in your questions! ***


the blackwells said...

I think that it can actually be a teaching experience re: values. Our children know that we won't buy them anything with Simpsons or Sponge Bob because we don't think the shows are appropriate for them. Our 7 year old is more aware of this because he wants to *understand* why they aren't appropriate. We've recently talked a lot about the Simpsons (because the new movie out and that it is just REALLY popular in the UK)...and have explained to him that we aren't into watching something that is about children rebelling against their parents and that the dad doesn't treat his children with respect either (among others things that we didn't get into).

So, I guess you can also turn that around and talk about why we like Dora, Thomas, Little Einsteins, or whomever and what values they teach us.

Anonymous said...

I don't think allowing the "brands" as you call them into your home is sinful, per se, but many times we personally choose not to support some of the companies. It's really on a case-by-case basis for our family. For instance, we choose not to support the Disney company because of some of their decisions, but I have no problem with my children receiving a Disney toy that my mom bought used at a thrift store, since Disney is not making money from it at that point.

As for Dora, I have no problem with her, BUT with the recent toy recalls I am choosing not to buy Fisher-Price products until I'm more sure of their safety, which may be never at this point.

Toys we have banned on principle include Barbies and Bratz...this is due to the "grown-up" nature of these type of dolls and the image they portray. We also generally avoid clothing with ANY "brand" image on it...we have made exceptions for Pooh bear, though.


Andrea said...

hey Jess.
Yes, we take brands seriously.
Of course there is a can't exactly ban everything. I think Disney is ok, in small doses...but when if they are obsessed with a certain "brand" or Disney or whatever, then that's a sign it's gotten out of control. We let them watch (certain) disney movies and wear Disney princess dresses, etc, but we don't do Disney World or anything.
My oldest is 13, so we don't allow Abercrombie and Fitch and Hollister and some other brands because their adverstising is pure p*rn. We feel *very* strongly about that.
i think, as a general rule, to stay away from brands as much as you can. Because they *will* weasel their way in, it's best to try to keep them out. But...the balance thing. :) I hope I made sense.

dariasmama said...

What makes this so difficult is that every toy made for children is also marketed to death with tv, movies, etc. So, I wanted my kid to have a doll. With the doll comes books, movies, accessories, kid clothes...ACK!

Personally,I don't allow my child to have toys whose marketing displays values contrary to mine...even if it's just that the marketing is obnoxious. I have requested that the grandparents honor my wishes for gifts. This year I'm putting out early that we don't want toys. She's ready to move into music and video..Praise God!!

Bottom line: Toys are temporary. How you treat brands (Do you prefer certain brands over others? Do you denigrate cheaper brands and generics used by others? Do you feel pride over being able to provide brand name xyz?) over the course of her life will do more to teach her about brandism than what toys she plays with now.

Janel said...

I have to agree with Andrea and add that when ANYTHING starts bordering on obsession or "must have", there is a problem - even if there is no brand involved.

In our house, my oldest son has been obsessed with everything and anything art of war. What started out as a historical interest in firearms, turned into this monster of mass destruction. Any topic or thing or brand can end up there. We can even twist it to be obsessed with all things Vision Forum or Focus on the Family or church. As parents we have to keep a good pulse on what our children are into and how deeply - even something as "good" as a craft or talent or public service. If something other than the Lord occupies more than half our/their waking hours or you choose something "just because" it’s Brand X so it "has to be good," there's a problem.

How do you tell what’s become an obsession? Back to my son, for weeks and weeks you couldn't have ANY conversation with him without injected facts on war, turning the conversation to or having the focus on war. What is coming out of their mouths? What books are they reading? Movies or TV? Music? What are they begging for if you happen to go into a store? If those elements are all echoing the same thing, something is wrong and steps to correct the problem are needed.

Recently DH told our son, "Enough!" No books, no movies, no homeschool history lesson, no playing war with your brothers, no conversations or facts, NOTHING WAR until you get a fresh perspective on GIVING LIFE. My son admits it's been a hard month trying to obey and not think about it. He understands that it’s a problem. I've finally had several good, non-war, discussions with him in the last week or so. He’s still grounded from war though and will be for awhile.

As far as specific brands, (most) things in and of themselves are not inherently evil. (That’s probably a hot topic in and of itself. I realize there is some pretty twisted merchandise on the market. For my purposes, think cute & cuddly things.) I feel it's the marketing and agenda behind them that is the root of the problem. A two year old doesn't know anything about Disney's less than family friendly agenda. They want to cuddle the cute mouse that Gram sent – the mouse that Walt Disney wanted her to have. Let them enjoy stuffed Mickey and Minnie like they are any other GENERIC teddy bear - just don't buy any more or make a fuss over them more than you would the other bear. By having those stuffed animals, it shows that Grammy and Gramps love them and think enough about them to bring them something home from their trip. Keep it in perspective.

As for the agenda behind the products, explain, explain, explain and stand by your convictions. Kids understand if you explain things on their level, especially if you try to base the rest of your parenting and decisions on reason and Biblical principles. With little ones, don’t try to explain until they ask or put up a fuss because you wouldn’t buy X. If they aren’t asking for more, they probably don’t have a problem with it. If it’s really bothering YOU, ditch ‘em. Put them in a plastic bag in the back of the closet until you make an informed choice and have peace about it. If the kids ask, tell them Mickey & Minnie took a trip. (That trip just happened to be a short one to the closet... I make trips there all the time.)

Parenting can be such barrel ride over Niagara Falls... Hang on & enjoy the rush!

Anonymous said...

Part of it, I think, has to do with how we, ourselves, react to brand name this or that. If we closely follow trends, be it in clothing, cars, the latest movie, electronic gadgets & so forth, I do believe our children will show that same attitude.

At our house we are past the Dora & Disney princess age. But there is something always "lurking" around the corner!! I agree with Andrea that balance is called for. Sometimes I have allowed the purchase of an item (nothing dangerous or off-base as far as our family's values are concerned) but insist that the child use his/her own pocket money for it. This has been my best tool so far, as they learn the lesson of regret, & figure out that delayed gratification (in many areas) is the better way to go. Doing this has cured some "Gimme"s real quick!


musicmommy3 said...

I don't think it's so much about the brand per say but what other readers already pointed out...the "character" of the Characters that matters. My kids are naturally drawn to Sponge Bob. They have NEVER seen the show but let's face it; he's yellow and fun looking. They know we don't buy anything with sponge Bob because he isn't appropriate or someone we want to model after. We don't allow anything that has magic in it (little people, etc) because we feel very strongly about that. We don't need magic we just need Jesus. He's a lot more powerful! :):)
I guess what I'm just trying to reiderate is that I look at what the "brand" or character represent before purchasing. Do those toy characters have the kind of good character you are trying to teach your children or poor character that you would want them not to learn from? That's my question.
Thanks for the question. It was a very interesting one.

Anna S said...

About supporting or not supporting, allowing or not allowing certain brands, I think we should ask ourselves if this specific product, or other products of the same brand, promote norms we don't want to be seen as norms by our children (our ourselves for that matter! I've seen many adults who are brand-obsessed). If there's no specific problem with the brand, it should still be allowed in moderation. While brands aren't necessarily bad, enslavement to them surely is!

Anonymous said...

This is kind of unrelated, I guess, but why don't you all like Sponge Bob? I don't have kids or anything-- but I thought he was a Christian-based cartoon. Now I'm assuming that's not true. Could someone please explain?


dcrmom said...

Interesting question. I haven't read the comments, so I may be redundant, but I don't see any problem with having brands or characters in your home, as long as you don't find that they are causing any issues. I dislike the Bratz dolls, for obvious reasons, I hope, so I don't allow them. But any shows that are wholesome and promote kindness are welcome in my home, as is their merchandise. I really never thought much about this before.

katie said...

We will not allow Barbie or Bratz, ever, period. I like to keep away from much of the other stuff and avoid clothes w/ them on. We have a couple of Pooh outfits and a couple Minnie Mouse, but that's all. DD is only 13 months now so she doesn't know the characters at all.

sharyn said...

Interesting question -- we're not against brands, per se, but I agree with the other commenters who said when something becomes an obsession, it's time to redirect. We have two boys (almost 4 and 19 mos.) and we're currently in a Buzz Lightyear phase with the older one. He has a Buzz outfit and some Buzz dolls, but beyond that we've tried to limit how much Buzz there is (again, on that idea of obsession) -- he has a space-themed room but it is not Buzz-specific -- more solar system and planets in general. And we have said for the upcoming birthday no more Buzz stuff -- but that is more from a standpoint of, he's got enough, we don't need more!

We are OK with Dora and Diego, but don't watch SpongeBob -- mainly because the few times he's seen it I think it's odd and doesn't really have an obvious lesson behind it. (Not that everythiing needs to have a lesson, but it just seems too high-speed and strange for his age!)

I think what we do is evaluate on a case-by-case basis -- when I'm looking for toys I mostly am looking for non-branded stuff, but that's because I think it gives them more to imagine/come up with on their own. We have gotten Diego toys as gifts and some are good (not the ones with lead paint, of course!) but some seem like they do one thing and then that's it for the toy. I steer more towards -- let's get rockets or space helmets and play space launch or space training or mission control -- more to do than just fly Buzz around. (although we do, in fact, just fly Buzz around many days)

I'm not in the position of having to decide on Bratz or Barbie, since we don't have girls (as yet!), but I do think I would be against Bratz because of the message/values.

-- Sharyn

Anonymous said...

In our home, we allow "brands" that promote good morals, ideas, etc. I chuckled at some of the previous comments regarding the Bratz dolls, since we also do not allow those in our home. I sometimes feel that in comparison to the "rest of the world," I am too overprotective, but reading the previous comments encourage me to keep on keeping on :)

Jaime said...

makes me wonder who IS buying all the Bratz stuff, since we aren't either! :) no Barbies either.

Like so many others have said already, it's a balance. my daughter has a couple disney princess dresses, but she also has several dress-up costumes that i got on halloween clearance sales last year.

i try to avoid nestle, but it's so hard to remember all their subsidiary companies that I know i mess up on that sometimes too.

Jess said...

Hey all-
Good discussion! After a reader wrote in asking if I knew of any other companies to avoid for moral reasons, I was reminded that my husband found a helpful and easy-to-read chart that examines some of the major companies in America and lists their involvement in pornography, abortion, anti-family stances, support of “alternative lifestyles”, and support of alcohol and gambling. It’s really useful and would be helpful in determining which companies you might feel led to avoid.

Here's the link:
THE HALL OF SHAME It’s a chart done by a Christian-minded investment firm intended to help people make informed decisions about their investments, and it's really simple yet helpful. I think it's totally applicable here.

Thanks, Brittany, for jogging my memory about this link! :)

LisaM said...

I always thought that I would completely ban Barbie too - then I saw one of her movies. She's obviously a doll, but she is feminine, much more respectful than the Disney princesses, and also encourages cultural learning, such as ballet and music appreciation. Rather than teaching that "you just have to believe and you can do anything", I've found that there's always a bit of "you can't do it alone" lesson. She's graceful, but strong. She's nurturing, believe it or not.

Now, I know the Barbie company also sells Bratz, sexy dolls and clothes, and that lovely idea that you should pay hundreds of dollars to have a collection (I hate brands and companies that market "collecting stuff", such as HotWheels, Pokemon, any cards, etc.). But if you don't watch commercial television, and don't take them shopping to the mall or Walmart where all this stuff is screamed at them, you can use just the "good" movies. I want my girls to be "ladylike" girls, and not "sassy" like the Disney brand girls. Well, we do have the old Disney princess movies - they were a more feminine; even if they do teach that it's all about dreaming and wishing, they still behave in a "Ladylike" manner.

Hmm. Did I just ramble?

Christie said...

Hmmm...this is all very interesting. I haven't any children of my own so I have not been in an environment where there is a battle over the brands. I would have never thought it would be an issue either, but I am sure I will have a lot to learn when I have kiddos!

As a general rule, though, my husband and I try to avoid clothing and household goods that flaunt a certain brand name. We want to be representing Christ not American Eagle.

We also do not boycott certain brands or stores because of their political/social agendas or values (with the exception of extreme examples such as Spencer Gifts). This is mostly because (out of admitted ignorance) we have assumed that the majority of companies out there do not align with our values. We are in a depraved world, so when I go into a store and see "Fashion isn't a luxury; it's a right" painted on the wall, I do not agree with that statement, but I am willing to buy a shirt from that store. I don't expect that I can find stores that align with my values and also offer
a good value for what I purchase.

I may check out the link that Jess suggested to become more informed about what some companies are up to.

Thanks for getting my wheels turning!

Mrs. Meg Logan said...

In our house we don't allow brands on toys. That said, some things have slipped in, once a spongebob doll from McDonald's got in somehow... and my son has a Diego book. I let these things slide, because my son does not watch these characters on TV. Though, the spongebob went the way of the wastebasket as soon as he was forgotten in the least!

My parents found this difficult at first. My mother likes pooh and tigger. We still don't let the kids wear those characters, but to see them in moderation has been allowed. And my mom doesn't go crazy buying that kind of thing.

We really tried to emphasize that we would like traditional wooden toys that would last, not plastic junk. That really helped to keep most brands out.

It hasn't been too hard yet. But my kids are 4, 16m and (coming soon!).

They are not allowed much TV, and they don't hang out with peers...

We do want to take the kids to Disney World. And it will be a massive teaching experience... I plan to walk and talk my kids through all the trash there, and focus on the good fun we have as a family. And not bring home souvenirs. No cups, hats, t shirts, dolls, etc. My parents want to bring them home one small souvenir each. We may concede.

I don't like brands. I can't even explain why! LOL

Just my two cents.

Amy said...

We avoid most name brands. If I am aware of a companies political agenda (generally on the negative end) then I do try to make my position clear to the company (through AFA) and avoid their products.
With that said, the area that I tend to try to be very aware of is clothing. I don't let my children wear clothing emblazened with logos (especially those that are openly hostile to Christianity).
I don't let toys that are contrary to our convictions make it to the toybox (trash or give away box they go). Books are the same way. We are a family of book worms and thus we all read alot of books. My children already have a habit of letting me read the flyleaf of any book they think may be interesting, sometimes I read a chapter or have read an entire book (these are library books generally). What goes in tends to stay there and we want it to work with us not against us.

Laurel said...

My five kids are now all grown and I they have gone on to give me four grandchildren with one more to come next month. When my 25 year old daughter was younger, she collected the little figurines from her favorite Disney movies. She didn't have trouble with obsessing, their new digs are out in our shed, but it allowed her to use her artistic interest in drawing and imagination. Although, she has decorated her coming little girl's nursery with traditional Pooh.Granted, Disney has definitely changed over the years and supports horrendous political ideas. Maybe, supporting positive roll models, if Disney has them anymore, might send a message. Who could forget Cinderella and her selfless, positive personality? Snow White was a very feminine lady. There is a sense of nostalgia watching those older movies.There are many more, and there are many more negative characters and movies that Disney is creating now. I say, use your power and support the positive movies to encourage more to be made.
There is one area that even my little five year-old granddaughter does that many other little girls do these days that truly grates on my nerves. Growing up we never would refer to ourselves as being "princesses". It is a "look at me, aren't I cute and special?" attitude. No, give me a Cinderella any day (before she met the prince).
I never used my kids for a billboard, though. I never let them wear shirts with anything but Christian messages on them.

Anonymous said...

Anyone interested in this topic should pick up Susan Gregory-Thomas' book "Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds".

Link -

- cot