Dear Naomi – I’m not sure what to do about my 3 children & thier buying habits. We usually only go to our local thrift store or the dollar store, but it seems like all they ever want to do is buy. I tell them that we can’t be spending money because we have a very limited income, but they are all under the age of 6, so I’m not sure they comprehend this money issue. We don’t have a t.v., so it’s not like they are seeing toys they want to buy (or even magazine ads, etc). They just think that whenever they want something that we go & “buy it.” Help!
Your children don’t see TV and magazines, but they see stores full of things for sale.
Why take them there? Stores are designed to make us want to buy. It works on children as much as on adults and children don’t see a reason to resist. Even if you had a lot of money, I assume you would not want your children to focus their lives on commercial goods.
Please read my answer to the question, “Protecting Child’s Talent from Industry:”
1) You can give each child a limited amount of money and let them buy whatever they want. Tell them after this final “round” you are not buying anything any more. Many children, when using their own money, come home and realize that all the toys they bought are really not worth it.
2) You can simply stop taking them shopping and provide better things to do that don’t require commercial goods.
3)Make a game out of “not falling for the seduction.” Who can resist best and buy the least or not at all? Model to them resisting the temptation by talking about what you want and why you are not buying it.
4) Put less value on things in your life. Instead of commercial gifts, give times of joy.
Celebrate a birthday by going to the zoo or taking a boat ride. For the holiday, spend time together singing, telling stories and being with relatives. When you buy things, buy what engages your family together creatively like a ball, a CD of music etc. Play games that require nothing; there are so many and they are so much more fun than anything money can buy.
If you are thinking, “My children will scream and have a meltdown,” then you obviously taught them that screaming is for getting things. Tantrums are self-expression. Listen, validate without drama, and be kind and respectful. They can handle having intense emotions when you can.
I personally didn’t take my children shopping very often. Shopping less and without buying, helped them notice that they have the power not to yield to the temptation.
I would even stand with them next to a toy and engage in imagining how it would be to play with it. Usually the child can easily realize that it isn’t really that great. They even discovered that the pictures on boxes show things larger than they are and add scenery that isn’t part of the toy.
Of course sometimes we did buy things they chose, but the children learned to buy only what is really worth while, and to distinguish seductions from real value.
I hardly ever shopped myself and I spoke about this fact in a way that inspired the children. They too wanted to be powerful, by not falling for the bate.