Concerned About Materialism

I have the strong urge to raise my children (a three-year old and a newborn) without over-indulgence when it comes to materialistic “stuff”—since I believe that it creates happier and more emotionally robust children in the long term. Instead we go to playgrounds, parks, playgroups etc. as much as we can. My son does have what I consider many toys, but I want to prevent the amount from becoming excessive. Unfortunately, I have problems explaining my views to my husband and making it clear that I don’t want to keep the children from having fun, but that I also don’t want them to grow up drowning in stuff. I wonder how they’ll be able to still experience joy and excitement later on, if they get everything at the age of two or three. I would appreciate if you could advise me of some useful sources of information/references to help me out. Thanks so much for your time.

You are right to be concerned about the impact of too much materialistic “stuff” on your children. When it comes to raising our children, mothers and fathers in the United States today are locked in a stiff competition with advertisers and marketers. We want our children to be healthy, caring, and happy. But corporate marketers are working overtime to turn children into lifelong consumers, which, research shows, tends to make them more focused on getting rich—and more anxious, dissatisfied and depressed. Marketing is linked to many of the most serious problems facing our nation’s young people. It is a major factor in the childhood obesity epidemic. It encourages eating disorders, precocious sexuality, youth violence, and family stress. Please don’t give up on your efforts to raise your children free of a lot of “stuff.” Here are some resources that I hope you’ll find useful: The Center for A New American Dream’s Tips for Parenting in a Commercial Culture available at www.newdream.org/kids/brochure.php; the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood’s, Facts About Marketing to Kids available at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/factsheets/facts.htm; and The Motherhood Project’s Watch Out for Children: A Mothers’ Statement to Advertisers, available at Motherhood Project. Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood by Susan Linn and Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by Juliet Schor are two excellent books on the subject.