or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › The Childhood Years › Living TV Free and Consumerism...Help
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Living TV Free and Consumerism...Help

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hi, everyone! This is my first post.

I have a 3 year old son. He is an only child and I've stayed at home with him since he was born. We are trying to limit his exposure to media and raise him as a very spiritual, and natural person . He does watch TV with us for about 1 hour in the mornings, only children's videos, no commercial tv at all, except for a few times a month when we are at his grandparents' house where tv is always on.

We have also tried to limit his toys to some simple classic ones, such as blocks, books (lots of them), animal figures, crayons and paper, etc. That doesn't mean he lacks toys, but I just keep the ones that fit in two shelves since I don't want him to grow up with excess (toys, money, etc.). So far it's been great; he's a very bright kid who loves to play pretend and prefers to play with a broom stick rather than his Little People Garage or Tonka Electronic Trucks (grandparents' gift...)

Recently he's been asking me to buy him things he sees at magazines or catalogs, and because it's Christmas time, he's being surrounded with toys everywhere we go. I don't know how to respond to his saying "mommy, I want you to buy me this some day...will you buy me this some day?" other than saying no, you don't need that, you have toys already, it's ok to want them but you can't get everything...etc. I never say "we can't afford it" but rather "we need our money for something else". But it seems to go on and on.

He always uses the word "buy" as in "some day I'll buy myself a fire truck with a huge ladder" or "you'll buy me a magician's costume". What's going on? I never take him to toy stores, just to the supermarket and we do go to the mall for his Gymboree class but never buy anything other than what's necessary.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to keep them safe from uncontrolled consumerism and media influence?:
post #2 of 16
Hi, juandipr, welcome!!!

I also have always been concerned with these issues too. I would hate to see my dd turn into one of these mall-kids I see, with their Teletubbies sippy cup, Elmo stroller, Toy Story t-shirt, etc. I don't have a problem with these individual things, but I think it's terrible that so many families let their lives revolve around messages from the popular culture. I call it "the Disneyfication of society"!!! :

I think moderation is the key. My daughter, also 3, has some media-related toys and books, but not too much. And the ones she has are pretty tame and open ended, like a plain stuffed Barney that doesn't talk or sing, or small Blue's Clue's figurines. She makes up stories with these. I don't let her watch commercial tv either, just PBS shows and videos. She loves her little Fisher Price schoolbus (we have the old, non-electronic one - isn't it awful how some companies are adding sounds/lights/computer chips to ALL their toys???), but also loves wooden puzzles, lacing beads, books, etc.

Maybe the fact that your son has none of these things is what makes them so enticing. My daughter doesn't have the same kind of case of the "gimmes" so maybe that has something to do with it? It's probably just curiosity. Try asking him what he finds so attractive about these toys. I would suggest letting him have some of these things he would like and just letting them mix in with his other toys. That way the mystery will be gone. Anyway, that's my suggestion, hope I've helped!
post #3 of 16

My ds, 3, is going thru the same thing. Actually though, he loves looking at the toy catalogues.

He'll ask me for something: IE:

Ethan: Momma, I WANT this Tomas the Tank set. Can you buy it for me plllleeeeasssseee!!!

Me: Well, honey, mommy just doesn't have the kind of money that Thomas costs. Maybe one day we'll be able to buy it.

Ethan: Ok, it's a cool train set.

Me: yes, it is cool. Would you like to go to the bookstore and play with the Thomas set there?

Ethan: Oh yeah!

I find that he doesn't throw a fit if we don't buy him what he wants. We go to garage sales every week, so I do buy them toys regularly, but he knows they are inexpensive. How much he knows. I"m not sure.

But, when we go to TRU to play with the toys there, he never asks us to buy him anything, except a stupid gum ball as we leave the store...but that's another issue LOL.

I'm sure that this won't last long, but I'm trying to teach him that I don't have all kinds of $$ to drop on toys that he's not going to play with anyway.

Good luck!
post #4 of 16
My dd is 4 and since starting pre-school this has been a huge issue for us. It seems every girl in her class is into Barbie and other very commercial type things.
My sister-in-law, unbeknownst to me, bought her a Barbie back pack for her birthday. My daughter actually said "Yeah. Now I will be cool like Mackenzie!" These are four year olds! I would like to "protect" her from all this stuff yet this is the society she will grow up in. So when she gets these things for gifts like a barbie doll. I just make casual comments like "Wow. Barbie sure doesn't look like a real girl does she?" When we are going to do something together I will steer her toward crafts or puppet shows saying that I like playing with these things, They are so much more fun than "insert name of undesirable toy here"
I think the best we can do is teach them to be smart and resposible consumers. We have to be careful what message we send when we have to have the latest car, cell phone etc. etc. When we are pre-occupied with money, even if it's because we don't have enough, they pick up on that and begin to think that money is needed for happiness.

post #5 of 16

Hello ladies

I'm having the exact issue with my 3 year old son. I don't want to come off sounding too judgemental, but I get soooo bothered when I'm in the mall (which isn't very often, especially during Christmas BUY ME season) and my son starts checking out other families' "gear," you know them, the Tommy Hilfiger/Nike-wearing moms strutting their stuff, pushing fully loaded strollers that look like they cost a fortune. It's really important to me to instill decent, humble values in my son. But I don't want to end up giving him a complex either. I'm with you juandipr, my son isn't lacking any toys. I have given some of his gifts away because they don't pass my "screening test." It's good to know that other media conscious moms do this too. It is not about depriving our kids of the worldly pleasures. Even when I tell family and aquaintances that most brand-name clothes are produced in sweatshops by kids not too much older than my son, they don't seem to care.

They way I see it is that even parents with the best intentions in the world and love their kids alot get caught up the feeling that buying their kids everything they want equals love. Also parents try to make up for their perceived inadequecies by spending. I obviously can't tell people what to do with thier money, but I wish people would share their wealth more often with people that are poor.

I teach my son that he has to earn special things. Also what I've found is effective is getting excited about simple things, like going on treasure hunts in the forest, then bringing home the wonderful treasure (like stones and leaves) and then making crafts with them. If children sense their parents' genuine enthusiasm about something, they are likely going to follow their example.

It's not easy in our materialistic society, to be sure! I struggle with this all the time.

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 

Just bumping this up

Thanks everyone for your stories, I would really like to read some more...
post #7 of 16
[ I just make casual comments like "Wow. Barbie sure doesn't look like a real girl does she?" When we are going to do something together I will steer her toward crafts or puppet shows saying that I like playing with these things, They are so much more fun than "insert name of undesirable toy here"

peggy [/B]
Have you seen the book Playful Parenting? It's written by a psychologist and has some interesting theories on how we need to get down and play with them on their level before we can move them beyond it. He give examples about playing with the barbies with the child and then starting to change the rules (the steroetypes) to help them break out of the prescribes roles/ways to play
post #8 of 16
I haven't read the book, but I have heard good things about it.
We have played games with Barbie as a fire woman, doctor, sky diver etc, however she still LOOKS like Barbie and that's where the problem is to begin with. That's I why I prefer more open ended toys. We have an awesome set of "tree blocks". clay. modeling beeswax ,dress up silks . etc. With these types of things she is only limited by her imagination, which continues to amaze me everyday!

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

I have bought Barbies

For my niece sometimes, although I prefer to give her other type of toys. But she just loves Barbie dolls, so what I've done is buy her the ones that no one would give her because of their uncommon characteristics: Barbie in a wheelchair, black Barbie, never a traditional Barbie.

For my son I gave him a baby doll that he has since he's one year old and she's one of his "best friends", although family members are always uncomfortable seeing my boy play around with his doll. But I also prefer non electrical, wooden, open-ended toys.

Thanks for the suggestion on the book, I was reading the excerpt on Amazon and I am thinking about buying it.
post #10 of 16
I hate to sound negative, but protecting children from consumerism is a long, uphill battle. It's probably easier if you homeschool, but my children are in public school and we don't watch any TV. My two oldest (ages 8 & 9) have been complaining alot this year because they feel left out at school sometimes, such as when conversations among their friends are about TV shows they've never even heard of. My ds is accutely aware that he is the only child in his class without a Nintendo or Playstation or similar and they've been complaining that they're the only kids in their classes who haven't been to King's Dominion. (Big, expensive amusement park.) It's easier for my kindergartener. Although I sympathize with my children's complaints, I'm not about to back down and hook us up to cable or buy a playstation. It's too bad that TV is so important to most kids that many of their conversations revolve around it. So, I think my children may have a tough road ahead of them, but they'll be better off in the long run. And it's not like they're teased or ostracized, they're just very aware of what they're missing. I'm trying to teach them that it's cool to be different.
post #11 of 16
It's so hard to know what to think about consumerism. On one hand we all are consumers, and since money has been made the token for barter...adapt and overcome
In my more idealistic days, I thought we could live on a farm and produce everything ourselves--honey, wheat, veggies, rice, etc. Tried it & was too exhausted for babies afterwards. So it boils down to the need for community. We got a house in town, and MIL gave us a tv (gee, thanks), so I limit what my babes watch.
My son watches movies because I honestly like to watch movies myself.
I also let him watch movies because of this: Friends of his that are not allowed to watch any tv come over and beg and whine to watch movies. My son says, "no, lets go swing", play tag, but these kids are so desparately curious that it takes them over. Once, a mom said ok to a movie after her son pleaded, and it was so scary--we tried asking him questions during the movie & he would NOT acknowledge us. This stuff is out there, in the real world...I feel, almost everything in moderation--of course there are much more important things in the world than tv. I feel like if you create tv to be taboo, the curiousity will put it on a pedestal and they will never want to stop.

BARBIE MUST BE BROUGHT DOWN!!!! She has no place in sane realm of existence! My kids & I discuss why she's not realistic or fun. Everything in moderation except Barbie!! My brother and I used to bury any barbies we came across...we had some insight!
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 

This is infuriating...

...today my husband took our son to work because I had an appointment with the doctor. When they came home, my son came running to me: "mommy, look I wrote a letter to Santa Claus". One of my husbands co-workers had helped him look at a damn Toys R Us catalog, cut out several toys and paste them onto a paper and told him that it was important because that way he would get the toys he really wanted!!!

Just two days ago I had a talk with him when he asked about Santa and I explained that he would deliver just one toy because there were many children in the world, and the toy would be a surprise because I want him to learn to be grateful for what he gets, not to ask for particular toys. I also want him to focus on the real reason to celebrate Christmas, but it seems so hard to deal with situations like this!

I was angry with my husband and he said that he had no choice because he was doing something else and she was watching our DS until he came back to his office.

Suggestions? Anyone? It seems like everyone is telling my baby something about toys and gifts and material things and Santa Claus every day and since he's already 3 years old he knows what it means. It's like my words are taken away by the wind...

HELP!!!! Am I overreacting?
post #13 of 16
Hi juandipr,
No you're not overeacting. You have ideals and duties to raise your son as you see fit. Too many families look at what other people are doing (or worse, what actors in sitcoms are doing) and try to compete or emulate. There's a big difference between being a consumer and overconsumption, and Toys R Us definately caters to the latter. It really takes steadfast determination because there's so many people out there who love to prey on those of us who are raising our kids outside of the loop. Our family doesn't believe in Santa Claus, and it gets so confusing for my son when everybody keeps trying to convince him otherwise. I have been in situations like the one you're describing and have been really angry and frustrated. I am honest with my son, I tell him that it is not good to have too much, because you can't take it with you! I've found that kids who are preoccupied with getting things are usually the ones who don't get enough attention from their parents.

post #14 of 16
This is a great discussion. Bottom line, I wouldn't worry too much about any request your child makes until he can get in the car, drive to the store and pay for it. My ds finds a zillion things a week he "wants" only to forget about them ten minutes later. We read magazines together and look at the pictures, enjoy numerous catalogs, and go to the bookstore or toystore once in a while where I help him pick out something affordable and appropriate. Have we left the store in a screaming fit with nothing new 'cause we couldn't agree...you bet...but it only happens once or twice before they know who controls the cash. I actually enjoy our talks about "things" and I learn a lot about my ds's interests that way. For x-mas and birthday, we selected one big toy based on his interests and let friends and relatives do the rest.
post #15 of 16
We try to get non-commercial toy catalogs into our home (Magic Cabin etc) so ds can look at these instead. I agree with the everything in moderation rule, but there are some non-negotiables for us (no logo clothing - neither I nor my child will be a walking advertisement; no playstation/xbox - we have a computer and he can play some limited computer games but we try to pick ones that are open-ended, like Sim City or railroad simulation games where the kid has to do some work setting stuff up).

The things I don't like about consumerism is a) it encourages the never-ending competitive consumption cycle, and b) too many of the consumer goods (xbox and other video games, long hours of commercial/cable-tv watching) encourage kids and adults to turn off their brains.

I think to combat a) one needs to get one's child involved in something else, EARLY, like foreign language, musical instrument, astronomy, whatever, so the kid can channel some of that natural childhood obsessiveness away from consumption of *things* and into consumption of *ideas* (like the kid who knows 100 different kinds of dinosaurs by sight and can spell each of their names). This gives them some area in which to compete with their peers that isn't about consumption.

To combat b) I try to pick commercial forrays that are more open-ended (eg the train simulator computer game), or dolls that are more realistic and less rigidly structured (less the doll that only goes with one pony/car/whatever and can only play out one story, more the doll with a neutral expression and clothing). Dd has a Groovy Girl doll - she's cloth and has nice hair, and I can easily make clothes for her on the sewing machine that are just as rockin' as anything she can get in the store. Barbie stuff is fun because it's elaborate - kids love to play out that obsessiveness thing in elaborate dress-up scenarios. I guess the thing is learning how to honor the impulse, as they say, in a way that you can feel good about.

On a more particular note, three is the age when kids discover they can have things that are *theirs*, they can *own* things and *want* things and express desires for them. Their ability to control stuff is connected to their identity. So all this catalog-flipping and 'I want this and this and this' is just part of that normal developmental thing for the age.
post #16 of 16
I think of consumerism as an attitude in which buying takes on a life of its own, or becomes an end in itself. Does that sound right? Anyway, before you worry too much about your 3yo, keep in mind that for a 3yo, buying things *is* an end in itself, because it's a cool new concept. My dd does the catalog thing, and she also will sometimes get a hankering to buy something when we go into a store. Not anything in particular, just something. Today I talked her down from a bottle of fish food (we have no fish) to a $0.99 bouquet of cloth roses she plans to give her grandmother as a Christmas present (another fascinating new concept, and she seems unaware that Christmas is over). To her, a $0.99 bouquet of cloth roses is on pretty much the same level as a $40 toy in a catalog, because she doesn't really understand "objective value" distinctions (price is arbitrary to her), and for these purposes, also on the same level as say a head of broccoli (something we need). Though the fact that the roses are something she bought herself and is going to use independently makes a difference.

Small children are also notorious for having a very very different aesthetic -- one that often seems loud and disorganized to adults (through Grace's eyes, those cheap roses are beautiful) -- and a strong junk collecting tendency. If not toys, then bottle caps, string, drawings, rocks, etc.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: The Childhood Years
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › The Childhood Years › Living TV Free and Consumerism...Help