Welcome to Sunday Conversation #11! Just one question this week, but it is a deep topic and is probably deserving of its own post. If you would like to participate in next week’s Sunday Conversation, simply ask your question in the comments section of today’s post and I will respond next Sunday. Remember, any subject is on the table (but keep it family-friendly).
“I have an 8 year old daughter who is very… uh.. materialistic. I’m ashamed that she loves her “things” A lot of people say it’s her age. Is there any way to curb this obsession? (I know turning off the TV is probably a good start).”
Dana, this is an issue every parent struggles with at some point. You’re correct in your assertion that the media certainly isn’t much help. One of the reasons we decided to live with only basic cable was because of the constant advertising barrage children are subjected to, especially on channels dedicated to children’s programming. The Disney Channel, for instance, is seemingly benign, but a large majority of their programming incorporates advertising for their own products, or plugs for other products, and most of their shows promote a never-ending message that rich is cool, and designer clothing is always “in.” I equate most of their shows to soap operas for kids.
But television is not the only contributor to influencing a child’s level of materialism. Parents are ultimately responsible for helping kids develop a frugal approach to life through their own example. How many times have you heard parents bragging about their car, or their home, or their fabulous vacation in front of their kids? How many times have you seen or heard parents making fun of an old beat up car, or a run-down house. Over time these examples mold kids’ attitudes towards material things, and they incorrectly think anything less than the best is not good enough.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, children develop an unhealthy level of materialism on their own. How do we change these attitudes once they develop? I personally believe the best way to cure kids of material desires is to make them humble. Let kids volunteer with you at a local soup kitchen, or ride with you to donate items to the Salvation Army. Make it a teachable moment by taking some time during the ride to and from to explain that some people have no beds, or bikes, or toys, or even clothing. Do so not in the spirit of making them feel guilty for having nice things, but in the spirit of developing your kids into becoming “givers.”
Another idea is to allow your children to spend some time talking to others who have sacrificed, or done without, especially older generations who grew up in the Depression era. My grandfather was born and raised in the Depression era, and often times went without shoes in the summer, and at times went without lunch or dinner when there was no money for food. There were no electronics, no toys, no cars, no computers, no televisions, and much of the time, no power. It is hard for kids in today’s environment of abundance to comprehend living with so little. We are fortunate that my grandfather is close to both of our kids and has shared many stories of his youth with them. I know it has had a profound effect on me, and as my kids get older it will on them as well (especially as I retell many of these stories to them). If you don’t have a “Papa” to talk with at home, visit a retirement home, or church, or even consider picking up a kid-friendly book on the subject. Children of the Great Depression is a great introduction to the history of the Depression era for young readers. Welcome to Kit’s World is another great title, and aimed specifically at young girls.
Do you have ideas for helping to raise “frugal” kids? Please share in the comment below, and remember to ask a question if you would like to see it addressed next Sunday.