“Four Weeks Without the Car”: Allstate’s Unintended Parenting Commercial
James L. Casale
The current Allstate Insurance commercial airing daily on TV depicts a teenager pleading his case to his parents after he was engaged in a minor fender bender. For me, the commercial is less about Allstate’s accident forgiveness policy and more about a demonstration of effective parenting techniques. Parents, please pay close attention the next time you see it.
The parents are sitting up in bed reading as their teenage son enters their room. The boy shows no fear or trepidation. On the contrary, he displays a certain amount of both comfort and cockiness. He states his case eloquently about his fender bender in a narrow drive-through while intimating, but not directly saying, that it is no big deal. Having done his research, the precocious teen proceeds to flatter his parents for being “so smart.” After all, they are Allstate customers who benefit from an accident forgiveness component in their insurance plan.
I See the Seven Cs of Effective Parenting
The parents listen attentively. Their body language is perfect. They are stoic, and there is no grimacing or eye-rolling. Their eyes never leave their son. They show no emotion; they do not interrupt his plea.
Based on this particular scene, communication in this family is evident. He speaks; they listen. All this occurs while each family member remains calm and civil. If parents expect their children to be calm and civil, they must model these characteristics and many others with planned consistency. Kids learn by what they see and not by what is preached to them. We all may have our moments, but consistency, which requires collaboration between parents and a consistent devotion to a parenting plan, is a key ingredient of successful parenting.
The fact that this teenager would enter his parents’ bedroom and initiate this discussion reveals more than just the ability to communicate in this family. It also reveals a connectedness among family members that is characterized by trust, confidence, and open-mindedness. Trust must be part of the family culture if raising lifelong learners, men and women of character, and good citizens are the goals.
After listening intently, showing no emotion or negative body language, and allowing their son to conclude his case, his mother calmly says, “Four weeks without the car.” Hearing the verdict and accepting the decision, the teen executes a perfect 180 and says, “OK, goodnight,” and then he hustles back to his room. They speak; he listens. Communication and connectedness rule.
Among all the other positive techniques displayed throughout this commercial, mom and dad also exhibit a commitment to work with each other and execute a plan that includes all of the above boldfaced Cs as well as providing consequences as they see fit.
Parenting Is Not Easy
As comedian Jim Gaffigan said, “Most of the time, I feel totally unqualified to be a parent. I call those times being awake.” If you are a parent, you already know this, and I want to add that it takes courage to be a parent especially in the rough seas of the 21st century. These are the seas where distractions are limitlessness, where electronic devices rob our children of their childhoods, where face-to-face socializing is passé, where kids are not building forts, playing in empty lots, or enjoying nature, where the self-esteem movement seems to rule our public schools and our homes, where everybody gets a trophy, and where our college students need safe places, counselors, and now “baby goats” (University of Maine) to relieve their stress.
I exhort my fellow parents to hold your heads up high, walk tall, talk straight, coddle less, model your expectations, allow your children to suffer the consequences of inappropriate behavior, create a family mission statement that establishes a culture of learning at home, and devise a plan that includes the seven Cs of common-sense parenting. These tenets will help parents navigate the parenting journey.
Dr. Casale is both a state and national award-winning educator and the author of the highly praised book published by Skyhorse Publishing, Wise Up and Be the Solution: How to Create a Culture of Learning at Home and Guide Your Child to Succeed in School and Life. His second parenting book, Family Pledge: Raising Lifelong Learners and Good Citizens, has also received rave reviews. Both books are available on his website, jamescasalephd.com, in bookstores, and online in print and eBook versions.