Humiliation builds character.
That’s the first line in The Parenting Handbook, right? I haven’t read it, but most parents rely heavily on this character-building tactic, so I can only assume.
The following are a few key ways to grow your child into a water-conscious, environmentally savvy adult through simple, inexpensive embarrassment techniques that any parent can master.
#1: Reuse things. According to the EPA, each child who brings a brown bag lunch to school every day generates about 67 pounds of waste by the end of the school year from paper bags, plastic baggies, plastic food containers, etc. When every kid at school pulls out their Ziplocs and Lunchables, your child will be utterly humiliated to be caught with a 6-pack cooler and a two foot tall stack of Tupperware containers. (I know I was!) They may beg for Juicy Juice but you know better; those tiny boxes get thrown away but a Thermos is infinitely re-washable. Score!
Your child will wish they could hide under the lunch table but this is a good time for them to learn to be proud of what they stand for.
What else can you reuse? Pretty much anything! Take advantage of your childrens’ uninhibited creativity to come up with new ways to recycle what’s in your house. It’s less embarrassing if their friends can’t see it, so maybe they won’t hate you for this family activity…
#2: Learn to love second-hand. After years of wearing clothes passed down from my older brothers, I can’t justifiably endorse making your children suffer through hand-me-downs. However, I can with the cleanest of consciences endorse thrift shopping! If you took my recommendation and read The Green Blue Book, you know how water-intensive clothing manufacturing is. So take this opportunity to humble your kids by forcing them to wear something that another person has already worn! (The terror!)
Please note: This trick will work wonders for a while, but your older child may eventually turn the tables on you and develop a thrifting habit. While the most voracious thrift shopper is still easier on your budget and the world’s water supply than the average mall shopper, you may be disappointed that method #2 no longer serves your evil plans.
#3: Eat local food. As Alan mentioned in his post about Yule trees, most of the carbon footprint associated with a product is from growing, harvesting and transporting it. For junk food you can add the footprint related to packaging and advertising. If fruit snacks, Chips Ahoy and Doritos are a popular snack in the 4-15 crowd, just imagine how disgraced your child will be when they’re discovered munching a locally grown apple and some cucumber slices with homemade hummus! I’m almost embarrassed for them, just thinking about it.
If you want to make the experience of eating different food from their friends even more traumatizing, take your kids on a tour of the farm their food comes from! Ask about the irrigation practices the farm uses, where their water comes from, how their business would be impacted if they didn’t get enough water… Your child’s reputation may never recover once word gets out, but you’ll know you’re raising healthy, intelligent citizens and one day they’ll thank you for it. (Probably)
#4: Watch the wrong TV shows. Most kids can quote every Phineas & Ferb episode and sing every Hannah Montana song, right? How exactly are those skills preparing them for the future? They’re not.
Instead of the usual cartoon characters and Disney channel pop stars, introduce your kids to Flo, Bill Nye the Science Guy, whatever kids’ programs your local water disctrict offers, or good ol’ Sesame Street! What’s more embarrassing than not knowing a Jonas Brothers song? Actually knowing all the words to the Sesame Street song, for one.
One of my favorite ValleyCrest Takes On posts so far was Kelly’s “Everything I Needed to Know About Water Management“, about how Junior Raindrop inspired his lifelong passion for water management. A friend recently related to me that a Sesame Street episode about water conservation is what got him interested in the subject 20 years ago. It’s a message that sticks around if it catches on early in life, so watch the clip above and be inspired.
My parents perfected each of these methods and it worked out alright for them, so I trust it will work for you too. What other tactics do you use to get your kids interested in environmental stewardship? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!