As a strong proponent of parental responsibility, it both amuses and angers me to see some parents lining up behind an initiative to sue McDonald's over the inclusion of toys in their Happy Meals.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is leading the charge in this case by pushing the state of California to ban the toys. The group suggests that the toys in Happy Meals are inducing children to eat the burger and fries, thus contributing to the obesity epidemic in America.
As I asserted in my past column that supported first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative, I fully back efforts to end obesity among our children. But at what point do some folks use common sense?
For example, in a Chicago Tribune story, parent Monet Parham said her 6-year-old daughter was so enamored with toys offered in partnership with the movie, "Shrek Forever After," that she pestered her mom to collect every toy. That would mean going to McDonald's every week, since the promotion was a weekly giveaway. And that's not something Parham wanted.
So instead of being a parent and telling her child, "no," Parham decided to become a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Instead of being the grown-up and not giving in to the demands of a bratty 6-year-old, Parham thought it made more sense to sue McDonald's to make her job as a parent easier.
I've long maintained that the problem today isn't children or the world changing. Instead, the problem is punk parents changing. Yes, I know that's a strong phrase, but when a parent can't control a 6-year-old, we have some issues.
Do I have any biological children? Nope. But my wife and I have raised six of my nieces at different times. And when they lived in our home, we would take them to McDonald's for a Happy Meal. And when we went, we would order them apples instead of fries. Instead of a soda, we would get apple juice or milk. Yes, it was that simple. All we did was order the healthier options on the menu, and the girls were happy with their Happy Meals.
Why is this so hard? There is a fundamental role that government can play when it comes to nutrition. Going after the cigarette makers who enticed children with cartoon characters to smoke? Good. Limiting trans fats in cooking? No problem here if it makes us healthier. But the McDonald's lawsuit is ridiculous.
What we desperately need today are real parents. Parents should understand that it's not their job to be friends with their children; they need to be parents. It's not a bad thing to have a disappointed child who doesn't get his or her way all the time. Parents need to give their child the right look when the child begins to act like a fool and throw a tantrum.
I am not one of these adults who subscribe to the notion that no one can tell them what to do and they can do it all. For instance, I support sex education in schools and don't believe that we should leave that up to the parents. It's called education for a reason! Count me as a major supporter of schools changing their menus to have healthier-eating options. And I'm also down with school uniforms. The heck with the peer pressure of the haves and have-nots based on designer clothes. None of these prevent parents from doing what they want to do with their children. It's all about focusing on the broader needs of the child.
What has to be understood is that a lawsuit isn't the answer to everything. And if we want our children to be healthier, banning a toy will do nothing to make that happen. Push McDonald's to make it more visible as to what healthy options are on the menu. I love the idea of having calorie counts on foods — it has changed my mind on many occasions as to what I was going to buy in a fast-food restaurant. Push fast-food joints to have a healther menu option by adding a salad, fruit and/or water instead of fries and a fountain drink. All of these make sense.
Trying to ban a toy because a parent can't say "no" to their child is ludicrous.
My nieces and nephews know full well that when it comes to who is on control, Uncle Ro Ro doesn't play around. I'm not their friend or buddy; I'm their uncle. What I say goes. I don't negotiate. I don't consult. I don't give in. I make it clear: my money, my rules. As my dad told me, "When you're grown enough to pay all of your bills, you can make the call." __If a niece or nephew wants to go to McDonald's every week for a month just to get a toy, but the deal is we only go once a month, here is the option: "We go once a month or not at all. Your call."
Trust me, even the biggest child pest has enough sense to figure out that once a month is the better option.
Parents, buck up and become the adult in the family. Stop blaming everything on an outside agency or corporation. Maybe McDonald's should think of suing sorry parents for not doing their jobs. Now that's a lawsuit I'm willing to support.
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and the author of the forthcoming book "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin."