It may be contrary to what children themselves will tell you, but if you want happier kids, don’t buy them so much stuff. Things do not equal happiness, for any of us. By buying too many things for your kids, you’re encouraging them to want more and more, rather than enjoying the good things they do have.
Think about all the things children see on television that they want. No parents in their right minds would buy every single thing that a child says “I want” about. Yet so many parents always get sucked into buying more than children can really enjoy.
Teaching Kids to Avoid Consumerism
Children are impressionable. That’s why they love all the toys their friends have and all the toys they see advertised. It all sounds like things they must have.
But people who are excessively materialistic usually aren’t the happiest. Just think how happy simple things in your own life make you feel. The pride you feel in doing things yourself. How often is it things that make you happy rather than what you do?
It’s the same for kids, and it’s up to you to teach them that.
If you let them watch television, talk to them about what ads do to make them want the toys, fast food and other things they see advertised. Talk to them about why they don’t need everything they see. Point out the things that they have enjoyed for a long time, rather than the few minutes that many of the things advertised would be enjoyed.
It’s not easy to teach this in today’s society. Ads are everywhere. It’s easy to want ridiculous quantities of things you don’t need, yet that’s not the choice that will make most of us happy for any significant time.
Make sure you take your kids with your often when you go shopping. Talk to them about what they see that appeals to them, and whether or not those items would be a good purchase. Teach them what you think makes a good purchase. Show them how quickly the cost adds up for the things you do buy, and how much more it would be if you bought everything that caught their eye. Discuss the environmental cost to buying things you don’t need and won’t really enjoy for a long time.
But My Friends Have….
Kids are going to compare their possessions to those of their friends. It’s a part of growing up. They’re going to wish they owned some of the things their friend has, and may not always appreciate the lessons you’re teaching them about avoiding consumerism.
It’s not easy hearing your kids wish for more. We all wish we could let our kids enjoy whatever their hearts desire. But that’s not good for children and it’s not good for the environment either. Teaching your kids that they don’t need to have everything their friends have is one of life’s great lessons.
Help them to think about their own possessions and what they enjoy about them. Help them think of the things they enjoy doing. Help them to see how these things have value.
Talk to them about those who have less. Kids have great sympathy for the less fortunate if you talk to them about it. The idea that other kids have even less than they do is a great lesson that can be taught to young children.
Don’t make them feel bad about owning what they do or even for wanting other things. We all want things we can’t have. We learn to deal with it. It’s a natural feeling.
You can help your kids deal with our consumeristic culture without becoming excessive consumers themselves. Talk about your beliefs, and live them as a family. It’s amazing how well these things can work out.