Let’s face it, we all want to give our kids everything we can. But just because we can give our kids the world, does it mean we should? Who amongst us hasn’t dealt with his or her child begging for the next big thing in the store, only to watch them forget they have it the next day? How many moms throw their hands up in disgust when they hear their child say “I have nothing to play with,” knowing full well they have a room full of toys? How do we raise our children to be less materialistic and to be more grateful for what they have?
Consider these tips:
Look in the Mirror
One of the most powerful indicators of whether children will be materialistic or not is by the behaviour their parents model. I admit it, I used to be a Class A consumer, but a combination of a tighter budget, guiltier conscience and wanting less clutter in my house changed my ways. Unfortunately, my children didn’t immediately follow suit. After all, I’d already shown them that it was easy to pick up whatever you wanted.
I needed to show them that there was another way, so I started talking to myself—in front of them—at the store. Not directly to them, but just so they could hear. “Do I need this?” “Do I have something else I can use at home instead?” “I’m going to sleep on this, and if I really want it, I’ll come back and get it," and even “Is this in my budget?” It sounds a little crazy, but it’s starting to work. My children are actually starting to ask themselves the same questions when they see something they want at the store. They also help me answer my own questions sometimes. “Mommy, remember? You do have one of those?” It pays to talk out loud.
Raise your hand if you’ve shouted out “Do you know there are children in Africa that are starving?” at least once! Most moms are guilty of throwing this out but it can be a very abstract notion for children to grasp. Involve them in acts of charity at as early an age as possible. Take them to the toy store to buy a Christmas present for a child their age. Have them pick it out and wrap it. Search for charities that involve children, like Free the Children or Because I am A Girl. Stop and give food or a warm blanket to a homeless person. Bake cookies for the elderly. Have your children save a portion of their allowance/money earned for charity. Have them put the money in an envelope with a note written by them and deliver it personally. Children will get an enormous sense of satisfaction when they get a kind reaction from those they have helped.
If your children want something, make sure they earn it. Either through chores, or by saving their allowance. Don’t give loans or float them. Let them know what it means to patiently save for something they really want
Live it, teach it, mean it. It’s amazing how a little bit of gratitude makes you appreciate what you have. Whenever my children get particularly whiny, I make them go write down as many things as they can think of to be grateful for. I don’t let them get away with puny little lists either, such as I’m happy for my mom and dad and brother and sister. I insist on some soul-searching like, be grateful for the socks you had to put on this morning and the clean underwear. How about that bowl of cereal? And the bus that drove you to school? It’s a great exercise for them to realize that all our “gifts” don’t necessarily come from a store. Gratitude is a learned trait and the funny thing about it is that once you start to look around and be thankful for what you have, you want a whole lot less.
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