"But mom, they're magically delicious!"
Mothers are all too familiar with the terrain of the grocery aisle. There's Lucky the Leprechaun beckoning from a marshmallow-loaded box of Lucky Charms. Toucan Sam encourages a dip in his milk-dyeing Froot Loops.
And don't forget Chester Cheetah, looking cool from a bag of radioactively bright Cheetos.
This is where the obesity battle is fought between parents and kids reared on catchy jingles sung by (sinister?) cartoon characters. This is where "the nag" happens.
A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is going deep on the "Nag Factor," the tendency of children bombarded by advertising to screech and whine until they get mom to load the shopping cart up with crap.
"Mothers cited packaging, characters, and commercials as the three main forces compelling their children to nag," said Dina Borzekowski, senior author of the study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Children and Media.
The researchers interviewed 64 mothers of children ages three to five years over a period of 10 months and discovered that nagging falls into three categories: juvenile nagging, nagging to test boundaries and manipulative nagging, which increases with age.
Mothers cited an arsenal of strategies for dealing with the nagging, including giving in, yelling, ignoring, distracting, staying calm and consistent, avoiding the commercial environment, negotiating and setting rules, allowing alternative items, explaining the reasoning behind choices, and limiting commercial exposure.
Moms said the most effective strategies were avoiding the commercial environment and explaining why they wouldn't be shelling out on the Fruit Roll-Ups. The least effective method - surprise, surprise - was giving in.
The authors hope companies will grow a conscience and tone down the marketing. Since that won't happen in any reality we know, it's up to moms, those nutritional gatekeepers, to keep up the fight.
How do you combat the grocery aisle nag?