There are some specific strategies parents can start with young kids to discourage and overly materialistic approach to life. Dr. Michele Borba offers these tips.
As children enter the grade school years, it’s only a matter of time before other kids, TV and other influences increase their awareness that the material world exists. There are some specific strategies parents can start with young kids to discourage and overly materialistic approach to life. Dr. Michele Borba offers these tips.
Set a Good Example
At this age, kids still look up to their parents more than to their peers, so you’re the best role model for helping your child cope with our complicated material world. If you want to discourage him from developing an insatiable appetite for possessions, let him see you behaving with restraint and wisdom. Enjoy window-shopping together without buying anything to show that while it’s fun to look at store displays and gather ideas for gifts and other purchases, you don’t need to buy something every time you go to a store.
Turn off the TV
From cereal boxes to Saturday morning cartoons to clothing emblazoned with store names and Disney characters, advertising is everywhere in our culture. Kids also make up a huge portion of consumer spending, as buyers themselves and as forces affecting their parents’ buying decisions. Limit your child’s exposure to TV commercials, and he’ll be less likely to develop a lengthy wish list.
Use Restraint in Fulfilling Requests
Children who get everything they ask for don’t learn to handle disappointment, and they don’t learn to work — or even just wait — for things they desire. Do yourself and your child a favor by saying no to unending requests, even if that provokes tantrums in the toy store at first.
Teach Your Child About Money And Savings
Grade-schoolers can learn about the value of possessions by paying for them themselves. Giving your child an allowance provides him with cash and you with the opportunity to teach him how to use it. If you want to institute spending rules, set them up right away so he knows from the start that, for example, half of his money should go into savings and half is his to spend as he chooses.
At this age, children should also understand that some expenditures, like groceries and rent or mortgage payments, are necessities, while others are optional. This teaches him that there are logical reasons behind purchasing decisions.
Teach Them to Prioritize
If holidays or birthdays are coming up and your child is expecting lots of presents, give him some paper and ask him to make a list (or draw pictures) of the three things he most wants and then number them in order of importance. If he helps you deliver a box of his old toys to a charity, he’ll be learning about empathy and generosity in the process.
Teach your grade-schooler to think seriously about whether he really wants that new video game by making him wait for it. Have him write down or draw a picture of the item he wants and post it on the fridge along with a timeline of days — one or two weeks, say — until the date that he can go out and buy it with you. Finally getting it will be a much-anticipated treat, but if he loses interest before the time is up, even he will probably agree that he didn’t really want yet another game after all.
Find Out What’s Fueling His Desire
Sometimes kids (and adults) crave possessions to fulfill an emotional need. If you notice that your son, who never used to care about games as much as his friends did, suddenly wants a PlayStation 2, talk with him about why that toy is appealing. If the answer is just that his two best friends both have one, you can have a simple conversation about the fact that it’s okay to like different toys than the rest of the crowd.
Show How to Give to Others
Take him with you to bring dinner to a sick neighbor or to volunteer in a soup kitchen. That kind of activity can foster an attitude that will help counter materialism more powerfully than almost anything else.
Spend Time Rather Than Money on Your Kids
It’s not easy in our hectic lives to give children the time and attention they crave, but that’s the best way to ward off the “gimmes.” So try not to give your child things as a substitute for spending time with him. Make an effort to spend time together doing things that don’t cost anything — go to the soccer field and the library, take nature walks and bike rides, play a game of charades. No matter what your child says, he wants — and needs — a secure sense of family more than a roomful of possessions.
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