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#1 of 34 Old 04-24-2011, 10:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My 8 yo unschooled DS is obsessed with LEGO Star Wars. For years, he has built the most creative things with regular LEGOS. In addittion, he used to make tons of toys out of paper. We limit toys and he felt deprived, so he made all of his own toys. He's loved all of the Star Wars films since he was about 3, so most of his homemade toys were Star Wars related. He was always envious of kids and their LEGO Star Wars sets and used to ask me to buy him some. I explained that the general legos were better because you could build whatever he wanted whereas the LEGO theme sets are really nothing more than typical toys. In trying to teach math, we started giving him an allowance of $2 a week. He saved and has bought several LEGO Star Wars sets. He's obsessed. Sometimes he orders them on-line. Before the set even arrives, he is searching for the next set to buy. He literally doesn't talk about anything else. He spends his small amount of computer time searching EBay or Amazon for the next fix.  He doesn't play much anymore. He hasn't drawn or made anything out of paper since he started buying these sets. DH and I feel like we are going crazy and don't know what to do. We do limit TV, computer time, and video games. Other than that, he is free to do what he wants. We are not radical unschoolers, but we don't have curriculum of any kind and were fine with him playing most of the day. But he seems to have been engulfed by our materialistic society and I feel like I need to intervene. Anyone else have similar issues? How did you deal?

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#2 of 34 Old 04-24-2011, 02:25 PM
 
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Well, what does he do all day? You say he searches for more sets, but his screen time is limited... does he play with the sets he bought? What else does he do?

 

He might like this video if you haven't seen it (my son loves it):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbb5CYC6JTs

 

Is he interested in making movies? Some kids who are really into video seem to like that, and since he has some sets maybe he would like to use them to record his own versions.

 

As far as advice, I'd suggest sticking with it for a while. My experience is that any individual obsession doesn't last too long (although my son is younger, and I'm sure that changes as kids get older). But if I were you, I would just try to wait it out and see if his interests eventually develop into something else naturally.


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#3 of 34 Old 04-24-2011, 02:58 PM
 
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I think it shows great responsibility on his part to save that money for legos. Those star wars legos are not cheap!. My ds just turned 9 and loves SW legos too.  Does he have the star wars lego brickmaster DK book? Comes with 250 pieces and the book gives 6 things to build with those pieces.

 

 I would jsut be patient and in time he should start picking up old and new activites. My ds loves to read now and read all the wimpy kids books,and is on the 4th harry potter. He likes to draw sometimes too. Right now he is playing the SW lego 3 wii game his gram got for him.Been playing it for a good 2 hours.I bet in a few days it will be collecting dust just like my dd's sims games. They go through phases where they want to play for hours and then nothing for weeks.

 

I buy different lego sets for my ds,but his favorite are the star wars. He has a friend in Montessori who is absolutely obsessed with the civil war. I will buy the kid books on the subject when I see one. I guess we all have our obsessions.Mine is chickens and gardenning!

 

Keep offering different things to do.With summer coming maybe encourage him to build forts and things.Learn to skate board or roller blade.Bow and arrow,or fishing. He might be all blah about it,but who knows if something will click for him. My ds would love to work for lego one day,so I am going to have him look into what it takes to be a creator of the kits they sell.

 

My ds likes the you tube lego videos.The christmas ones were funny.

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#4 of 34 Old 04-24-2011, 05:13 PM
 
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my boys also both adore Lego Star Wars (all Lego, really), they play the video game, make up the sets, etc. Mine also really prefer to have the exact sets to make things but we've started sorting out the Legos they already have (thousands and thousands of pieces) and I told them they can just have their dad look up the instructions for particular sets and use the pieces they already have to build them. My ex had all the early Lego Star Wars sets that came out in the late 90's and set up a battle scene on the ceiling of my big kid's room before he was born, so, for us, it's genetic winky.gif

 

You didn't mention how long his current buying obsession has lasted, but I've seen both my kids (especially my oldest, who's nearly 11) go through long phases of interest in certain things and he always seems to circle around to something else.You might see if there are other avenues that this obsession can take him to - has he seen the Star Wars Origami?? http://origami.happymagpie.com/swdiagrams.php   And I second the idea of helping him set up making Lego movies.


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#5 of 34 Old 04-24-2011, 06:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaurenS View Post

He's loved all of the Star Wars films since he was about 3, so most of his homemade toys were Star Wars related. He was always envious of kids and their LEGO Star Wars sets and used to ask me to buy him some. I explained that the general legos were better because you could build whatever he wanted whereas the LEGO theme sets are really nothing more than typical toys. In trying to teach math, we started giving him an allowance of $2 a week. He saved and has bought several LEGO Star Wars sets. He's obsessed. 


I think in some respects you created a forbidden fruit situation here. He has this long-lasting love of both Star Wars and Legos, and has pined for those sets that he saw other kids had, but you told him other sets were better (according to your values and goals) but still he knew that they were what he wanted. Now that he has control over his own allowance, it's quite natural for him to develop this intense obsession: after all, it's been ages he's been wanting them, but has had no means to do so until recently. He senses your disapproval but has this $2/week aliquot of purchasing power to buy exactly what you would never buy for him! 

 

I call it a forbidden fruit situation but personally I don't think there's anything particularly poisonous about this fruit. It's great for kids to have open-ended toys, but sometimes it's fun to put together a model, just like it's fun to put together a jigsaw puzzle or finish a crossword puzzle or a sudoku. To get that satisfying sense of the completion of a large project that required persistence and attention to detail. And if it involves Star Wars, so much the better. wink1.gif

 

For the record I think it's perfectly okay for a parent to say "I prefer to spend my budget for playthings on open-ended toys that promote creativity. You can spend your money on that if you want it." The allowance was a great idea. (I have also tended to use birthdays to give my kids things they just really want that don't necessarily fit with my agenda for them and therefore I wouldn't necessarily buy for them as general childhood resources. I think birthdays are a great time for small gifts of that type. But that's just me; you may not agree.) I have a feeling that this will burn itself out now that he has an allowance. I'm guessing the allowance thing is fairly recent (less than a year or so?) and he has a lot of pent-up Lego Lust that hasn't yet been satisfied. It's likely to last longer if you fight it than if you support it.

 

We've never been a Lego family, or a Star Wars family, but others have given you a bunch of great suggestions for supporting his Lego and Star Wars interests rather than attempting to redirect them or diffuse them. I have loved some of the Star Wars Lego stop-motion flicks I've seen on YouTube, and my youngest has been doing simple stop-motion animations for a while (she's 8 now). Maybe he'd enjoy that. Love the origami idea! Rather than poo-poohing the Lego Star Wars sets as lacking in open-ended-ness, I would encourage him to use the sets in open-ended ways. 

 

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#6 of 34 Old 04-24-2011, 06:45 PM
 
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Adding to the insights that Miranda had, I want to say that I have seen my kids use Legos as HUGELY open-ended. Even if they really want a particular set, it generally only gets made per the instructions once and then they change it around a bit more and more until it's unrecognizable as the original model. Around here, Legos are imagination fodder, a way for them to act out stories they come up with with actually little guys and scenery and such that can be made to their exact specifications.

 

 


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#7 of 34 Old 04-24-2011, 07:02 PM
 
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I have a Lego addict here and he ONLY buys the themed sets.  He is 7yo and gets $7 allowance/week that is allocated among 5 account wallets.  Only two of them are available for Lego sets: the "fun" account (which gets $1/week) and the "plan" account (which now gets $3/week--but can only be used to buy things that are more than $20).

 

I honestly don't have a problem with it.  We not only limit screen TIME, but we limit what he can do when he's online (in the sense of whether he can be doing something "fun" or "educational").  Otherwise, I let him go.  And this Lego thing has been going on for easily 3 years.

 

Part of my teaching him financial responsibility includes not telling him what to do with his money.  When we started the allowance he was 5yo and got $5/week and was told it had to be split evenly among the 5 account wallets.  Each year, he got $1 more and had to make a case for where to put it--otherwise it went in the order that the wallet system laid out (the first dollar in wealth/savings, second in plan/large purchases and so on).  He advocated to put it in his plan/large purchases account.  Beyond that, what he does with his money is his business.

 

Balancing his screen time options and warding off the occasional "I wish someone would buy me this because I don't have enough of my own money" is a PITA sometimes, but it's not the norm.  And the occasional PITA is just written off to growing up and learning these lessons so far as I can tell.  :)  Even if the obsession lasts until he's 18, if you're limiting his screen time and he only has so much allowance, then really--how much of this can he possibly be doing?


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#8 of 34 Old 04-24-2011, 10:41 PM
 
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You seem to be so adamntly set against lego sets in particular. May I ask you why? (other than them being a manifestation of commercialism) Is it possible that you vilify them more than they deserve? wink1.gif



 

Quote:

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LaurenS View Post

My 8 yo unschooled DS is obsessed with LEGO Star Wars. For years, he has built the most creative things with regular LEGOS. In addittion, he used to make tons of toys out of paper. We limit toys and he felt deprived, so he made all of his own toys. He's loved all of the Star Wars films since he was about 3, so most of his homemade toys were Star Wars related. He was always envious of kids and their LEGO Star Wars sets and used to ask me to buy him some. I explained that the general legos were better because you could build whatever he wanted whereas the LEGO theme sets are really nothing more than typical toys.

 

 

The bolded assumption is not quite correct--while one might not be able to build models out of the general lego sets, one can certainly build open-ended creations out of lego sets. My 6 yo DS has just spent 4 hours on building one of the suggested models, then promptly took it apart, and started modifying the model so that it could meet his needs better.

 

 

Quote:

In trying to teach math, we started giving him an allowance of $2 a week. He saved and has bought several LEGO Star Wars sets. He's obsessed. Sometimes he orders them on-line. Before the set even arrives, he is searching for the next set to buy. He literally doesn't talk about anything else. He spends his small amount of computer time searching EBay or Amazon for the next fix.  He doesn't play much anymore. He hasn't drawn or made anything out of paper since he started buying these sets. DH and I feel like we are going crazy and don't know what to do. We do limit TV, computer time, and video games. Other than that, he is free to do what he wants. We are not radical unschoolers, but we don't have curriculum of any kind and were fine with him playing most of the day. But he seems to have been engulfed by our materialistic society and I feel like I need to intervene. Anyone else have similar issues? How did you deal?


 

 

He's also getting older, his interests might have changed even without the lego sets. He's 8. It is not that he is not going to play anymore, but his play patterns are very likely to change, as he's getting older. Not everything is lego's fault wink1.gif

 

With the lego sets he is working on different skills, and they are likely what he needs right now for his development. Following instructions while building  doesn't mean that he is not being creative anymore.

 

FTR, we do not have a policy of limiting toys because they are 'typical toys', and DS has been building toys out of paper, cardboard, duct tape, masking tape, and so on for months and months now. I won't be surprised if in 2 years his will start using his creativity in different ways.

 

I do agree with Miranda--he probably wants them more just because of the dynamics that you've created around them. Another reason for him wanting them is because he feels more in control over this aspect of his life--he is saving, he's researching, he's able to purchase them without your approval. It is a step towards maturity. Just from reading your post, it seemed that you are controlling many aspects of his daily learning environment (I actually had to scroll up to see the title of the forum, as I thought I was accidently on the regular homeschooling forum), and he found a way to assert his independence.

 

Our society IS materialistic, and some kids are more materialistic than others. So much depends on personality. How would the extreme control of his toys based on your philosophical inclinations, to the extent that he is envious of others and feels deprived, is going to help a child to develop less materialistic tendencies?


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#9 of 34 Old 04-24-2011, 11:42 PM
 
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When I was 9 I got my first Breyer horse statue as a birthday gift. That started a 5 year obsession with buying, collecting, and playing with the statues. All my money went there. The only gifts I wanted to get for birthday, Christmas, and all other occasions were Breyer horse statues (other than getting a real horse, but I knew that wasn't going to happen.) When we went on vacation to Chicago, my parents took me on a dream-of-a-lifetime tour of the Breyer factory so I could see the statues get made.

 

I did not turn into a mega consumer. I like nice stuff, and I love to research the items I will buy, but I drive a 15 year old van with peeling clearcoat and almost every piece of furniture in our house was bought used. The only time we buy "brand" stuff is when it makes sense to us to do so (for example, ziplock brand plastic bags are BPA, phthalate, and dioxin free and I think StrideRite shoes are superior to Target shoes for my kids. Though for me Target shoes are just fine.)

 

So, no guarantees he won't turn into a mass consumer. However, what will be more important in that area is your role modeling of how you live YOUR life day to day. It will either make sense to him or it won't and you can't control that. So, live by your values and let him figure out what his values are. You've given him the tools (allowance) to experiment with money and stuff. Now it's time to sit back and see what happens.

 

 

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#10 of 34 Old 04-25-2011, 05:18 AM
 
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With only a $2 a week allowance, he's going to be obsessed for a looong time and need to spend much of it searching online for super good deals...  This might be one of those situations where generosity (bigger allowance, getting some as gifts) might make him a little less focused on it.

 

And to echo others, there is a lot of merit to the sets.  How is it bad if he wants to build them as models and collect them?  People collect all sorts of things.

 

Is he aware of the "pick-a-brick" section on the lego site?  You can get specialty pieces that aren't available in the general bucket of bricks sets.  We used to take note of the type of building ds did and pick out specialty pieces that complemented his style.  It was fun seeing the interesting things he would do with a whole bunch of hinge pieces, for example. 


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#11 of 34 Old 04-25-2011, 08:33 AM
 
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Legos are awesome! Star Wars or otherwise. My youngest ds (11yo) is hugely into them and has sets from various themes from which he has created a huge "world" involving an ongoing storyline. Very few sets are in their original forms. I think Legos are completely in line with open-ended, creative play. My older boys (15 and 19) were also very into Legos and still get nostalgic when their younger brother gets new sets.

My advice would be "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Support this interest. Let him research more online. Get him some for gifts. Subscribe to the catalogue. My ds loves when a new catalogue arrives....he circles all the sets he would like. Doesn't mean he gets them all, but he loves to see what's out there. i agree with others that supporting his interest will go along way towards reducing obsession.
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#12 of 34 Old 04-25-2011, 09:59 AM
 
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Another mum of an unschooling boy who loves his Lego. I used to think it was sad that most of the Lego sets these days are "themed" and can only build "one thing". But like others I soon found that my son followed the instructions once, then mixed pieces up in new and unique ways from that point on. I think Lego is wonderfully "educational" (I really hate that word, lol) and the only reason I don't buy it more often is we already have so much of the stuff (thanks to a big donation from my cousin, whose kids are grown up now). 

 

We don't limit screen time, and he does enjoy perusing the Lego website, but mostly he searches YouTube for instructional videos on how to make cool stuff out of Lego. For any of you out there with Lego fans I highly recommend these videos. There are instructions for building just about anything. My son is really into building miniature video games: he's built old-school arcade machines, mini Xbox and Wii (complete with tiny remotes), a mini flat-screen TV with stand, a mini computer, etc...more recently, inspired by the Lego board games, he's been designing his own.

 

I love Lego!


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#13 of 34 Old 04-25-2011, 12:31 PM
 
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My son loves looking for more lego figures, sets and accessories to buy--he is more into warriors, knights, vikings, etc, but he has had a few Star Wars sets too. Currently he enjoys going on toywiz .com and editing his cart and looking at what he'd like to have and telling me about them. I used to do the same thing when I was a kid, only with catalogs. Saving up while dreaming of what you'd like to have is a pleasure in itself. It doesn't mean you will grow up to consume with abandon.

 

Sometimes my son has thousands of dollars worth of legos in his cart (and on his amazon wishlist) but obviously he can't buy all of that, he is just having fun. He also spends a lot of time playing with his legos and like others have mentioned, he loves lots of youtube lego videos. He has discovered some music he likes from those (and the movie Monty Python & the Holy Grail) and he enjoys making up his own stories.

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#14 of 34 Old 04-25-2011, 03:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, thanks for all of the responses! Yesterday I was a bit rushed when I was creating my post. And I was a bit frustrated. DS1 was leaving the house with DH and giving us a long winded talk of the new LEGO Star Wars set he wants. So let me clarify some stuff.

We try to live a life of voluntary simplicity. So when I said we limit toys, what I meant was, we don't have hundreds of toys. If it were up to me, we would have very different toys than we have. So I don't choose his toys. I buy things second hand, and when I was at a rummage sale a couple of years ago, I was happy to buy a large box of general legos for my kids. We have many Playmobil sets that DS has picked out over the years. In addition to many other toys. We just don't have the volume of toys that his friends have and he has never been shy to tell me that he wished he had what his friends have. I do have discussions with him about it often, and I do remember myself as a kid having more toys than anyone I knew, and I too, was envious of some other friend's toys. He makes amazing things out of paper and I have overheard him telling guests to our house that he builds them because he wishes he had the real toys. The allowance started nearly 2 years ago. At first, he was just using the money to buy snacks for himself. Then he would buy small toys that cost under $2. Then he started saving his money, which I know is very difficult to do. So I thought it was wonderful when he bought a $13 LEGO Star Wars set. Then he bought a couple more. Bought a couple of figures on EBay. Then used birthday money to buy a few more. And it has just been a bit difficult to watch this process. He talks a lot. So when we are around each other all day and he follows me around the house talking about the next set he's going to buy, it can be a bit grating.

I guess I better just figure out a way to adjust my attitude. This current obsession has lasted more than 6 months. I will just have to try harder to figure out a way to let him obsess, while not letting myself go crazy. I will look into stop animation and Star Wars origami.

 

Thanks again for all of your responses.

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#15 of 34 Old 04-25-2011, 05:49 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaurenS View Post

Wow, thanks for all of the responses! Yesterday I was a bit rushed when I was creating my post. And I was a bit frustrated. DS1 was leaving the house with DH and giving us a long winded talk of the new LEGO Star Wars set he wants. So let me clarify some stuff.

We try to live a life of voluntary simplicity. So when I said we limit toys, what I meant was, we don't have hundreds of toys. If it were up to me, we would have very different toys than we have. So I don't choose his toys. I buy things second hand, and when I was at a rummage sale a couple of years ago, I was happy to buy a large box of general legos for my kids. We have many Playmobil sets that DS has picked out over the years. In addition to many other toys. We just don't have the volume of toys that his friends have and he has never been shy to tell me that he wished he had what his friends have. I do have discussions with him about it often, and I do remember myself as a kid having more toys than anyone I knew, and I too, was envious of some other friend's toys. He makes amazing things out of paper and I have overheard him telling guests to our house that he builds them because he wishes he had the real toys. The allowance started nearly 2 years ago. At first, he was just using the money to buy snacks for himself. Then he would buy small toys that cost under $2. Then he started saving his money, which I know is very difficult to do. So I thought it was wonderful when he bought a $13 LEGO Star Wars set. Then he bought a couple more. Bought a couple of figures on EBay. Then used birthday money to buy a few more. And it has just been a bit difficult to watch this process. He talks a lot. So when we are around each other all day and he follows me around the house talking about the next set he's going to buy, it can be a bit grating.

I guess I better just figure out a way to adjust my attitude. This current obsession has lasted more than 6 months. I will just have to try harder to figure out a way to let him obsess, while not letting myself go crazy. I will look into stop animation and Star Wars origami.

 

Thanks again for all of your responses.



it sounds to me like what is a life of *voluntary* simplicity for you is one of *coerced* simplicity for him.  While it sounds like you possibly find it....charming? amusing? somehow morally superior? that he makes the toys he wants out of paper instead of having the real toys, to me, it sounds... sad. :(   I'm all for creativity, and i love it when, for example, my daughter uses her waffle blocks to create a house for her dolls, but if she really wanted a dollhouse, and was willing to help save for it, or to ask for it as her major birthday or xmas gift, then she would get it.

 

I guess i also feel like you are completely judging his CHOICE of obsession.  It sounds like if he were "obsessed" (which, in itself, is a judgmental word...I might say " enthusiastically interested in" ) with a toy/hobby *you approve of* you would not have an issue with it.....for example, if his "obsession" were...making things out of paper?  or drawing?  or origami?  would you be so annoyed with him?  

Your child has a passionate hobby.  It's not violent video games, guns, drugs, etc.  It's LEGOS.  Awesome, awesome legos.  In the Star Wars variety, which is even cooler than regular legos.  On top of that, your child, being deprived by you of the items he wants, has very maturely and responsibly decided to use his allowance to purchase those items he desires.  He wants to talk with you about his passion.  He is excited by them, and wants to share that excitement with you, his mom, who he clearly has a close relationship with.  

Your child wants to share a part of his life that brings him joy, with you.  I completely do not get why this upsets you.    I just don't. 


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#16 of 34 Old 04-25-2011, 06:05 PM
 
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I've seen several mama's around here who avoid themed lego sets like the plague, and I don't get it.  There is still just as much creative play going on, IMO.  My oldest is obsessed with a particular Disney Pixar movie, and has Lego sets from it, and I don't see any difference in his imagination when he's playing with them or his other sets.  In fact, he often uses the "plain" sets to expand the themed ones. 


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#17 of 34 Old 04-25-2011, 08:19 PM
 
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I totally get the concerns that you child might be more materialistic than you want him to be, and I totally get the grating irritation of having to hear about all the "things" your child wants to buy. I have similar things that go on with my kids, but, in our case, they have 2 households, so it's partly a matter of different values at those 2 houses.

 

It sounds like he doesn't have many other people that he can share this passion with?? I find it much more fulfilling for them to be able to share it with other kids who have similar loves so i try to encourage them to talk about these things with those friends. I have often set limits on how much I want to discuss my kids interests, because, while I enjoy sharing things with them, most of their toys don't interest me at all and them going on and on to someone who isn't interested shows that they might need more of a community that is interested. That might also be something to discuss.

 

As for your concerns about materialism, I think it would help to really work on seeing the good sides and to remove your personal judgments as much as possible. Toys are cool, gadgets are cool and it's fun to talk about these cool things with others. I have lots of experiences with lack of toys and lack of money from my own childhood as well as experience with a mother who looks very down on my "values" of liking certain objects that she doesn't see value in. I can tell you that her dislike and distrust of my own inner compass has not helped the relationship at all, nor has it given me any support for the ways that I DO share values that she also has. Please don't let a passion for Legos come between your relationship with your son.


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#18 of 34 Old 04-26-2011, 07:54 AM
 
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We try to live a life of voluntary simplicity. So when I said we limit toys, what I meant was, we don't have hundreds of toys ..... We just don't have the volume of toys that his friends have and he has never been shy to tell me that he wished he had what his friends have. I do have discussions with him about it often, and I do remember myself as a kid having more toys than anyone I knew, and I too, was envious of some other friend's toys. 


Ah, okay. I get it. This is something I've thought about a lot: imparting to my kids a healthy relationship with money and stuff.

 

I too aspire to a life of voluntary simplicity. But it's a very delicate dance when it comes to one's offspring (and one's spouse, too, in my case). You can't impose this on others. The very key is in its voluntary nature. For me voluntary simplicity about seeing the value in a closer connection to the source of things, about minimizing the social and environmental impact of how we live, about living carefully and intentionally with what we need, about staying focused on the more important personal and spiritual connections rather than getting distracted by connections to stuff. The problem is that these are pretty abstract ideas and intentions that most children aren't going to be capable of appreciating until (a) they've got the robust capcity for abstract thought that typically kicks in during adolescence and (b) they've had some life experience to use as a basis for evaluating and making considered choices.

 

If we impose our own simplicity on our kids without their complicity, we risk producing guilt, resentment and a pent up lust for stuff and for participation in mainstream consumer culture, all of which is of course totally counter-productive to our values and long-term goals for our kids. I grew up in a family that had a very frugal left-wing anti-consumer-culture stance. My parents looked down their noses at mainstream consumerism. I ended up exactly like your ds for many years: an obsessive hoarder, saver, wish-list-maker, incredibly attached to whatever "stuff" I could manage to squeeze out of my meagre allowance. I felt conflicted about my mainstream stuff-lust and my purchases, because I knew it was all contrary to my parents' values, but I had enough contact with mainstream culture to feel the gap very keenly and was very torn up about it. As a tween and young teen also ended up stealing a fair bit of money from my parents because I could see no other way to close even part od the gap between my parents' keenly-held values and my own desire to have what normal kids had. I felt such intense guilt about my desire for what other kidshad that it couldn't articulate my desires to my parents and saw no other solution than theft and sneakiness. I ended up wtih a disturbed relationship with money and stuff as an adult which I'm still getting over in my 40's. I have a lot of guilt and secretiveness concerning even basic purchases, an intense need to rationalize and over-rationalize everything I buy. It drives my dh crazy how much baggage I have over spending money.

 

So with my own kids I've been very careful not to impose my values, but rather to invite my children to grow to appreciate them without coercion or judgment. I don't want to risk creating the sense of deprivation that fills them with a conflicted, guilty desire for stuff. I try to show them how fun it is to make things from scratch, to see through ad campaigns, to manage to do or have something without needing to pull out credit cards, to cheat big business out of our money by choosing another alternative, to experiment from time to time with doing without for the fun and adventure and educational value of it. We've chosen to raise our kids geographically and socially removed from mainstream consumer culture (we live over and hour and a half from the nearest [tiny] mall, in a rural valley full of back-to-the-land and DIY types, so that their peers tend to be from families with similar values. So I do a lot that doesn't involve saying "no" to raise non-consumeristic kids. But I do give my children fairly generous allowances so that they can make their own choices, and I don't attach judgment to their choices. I do my very best to allow them to feel a healthy delight in buying things, and in cherishing what they do choose to buy. I see lots of signs that my values of simplicity and frugality are taking root in them, but I know that they need a lot more maturity and experience to fully integrate those choices and make them their own. They need the freedom to gain that experience and make those choices. 

 

Just my own thoughts, deep from the recesses of my own emotional baggage.

 

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#19 of 34 Old 04-26-2011, 08:20 PM
 
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You have given him a way to fulfill the material side of his interest / obsession with Legos - but what about the non-material side?  You mention that he also loves to talk about the stuff right, not only buy it.  Talk about buying it, whatever, but I wonder if he might be seeking a way to fulfill his need to share his joy and obsession - like suppose I loved yoga, and was spending & saving money to take classes, go to camps - I would also feel happy if I could find someone with whom I could share my enthusiasm, who would understand my disappointment if I couldn't afford to attend every camp, etc. 


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#20 of 34 Old 04-26-2011, 08:59 PM
 
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I agree with this. My son (8) went through a huge period with Bionicle and Lego Hero Factory, then Lego Atlantis and other Lego kits, and while he LOVES working through the instructions to build the kit as instructed (that's most of the fun), after they are complete he eventually pulls them apart and starts modifying, switching out the parts, etc. So my earlier concerns about the "closed-ended" sets really were unfounded.

 

My son's obsession with all things Lego hasn't dampened his creativity at all; he's just as likely to wander into the craft closet and pull out some Model Magic to make his own toys as he is to use a Lego product. Model Magic is pretty cool....my son is into Power Rangers Samurai right now and he used model magic to make various "weapons" based on the series as well as other kinds of toys--these were things that were not available commercially so he just decided to make them himself. :-)

 

I am glad for this discussion, though, because I think I may increase my son's allowance. It's true that with a puny allowance, it does create a longer period of "longing" for a certain toy. It makes me think that perhaps my own childhood and the way I was raised could be causing me to be too ungenerous with my kid, as though I am teaching him to appreciate things more by making them more unavailable? Food for thought.

 

Thanks everyone.

 

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Adding to the insights that Miranda had, I want to say that I have seen my kids use Legos as HUGELY open-ended. Even if they really want a particular set, it generally only gets made per the instructions once and then they change it around a bit more and more until it's unrecognizable as the original model. Around here, Legos are imagination fodder, a way for them to act out stories they come up with with actually little guys and scenery and such that can be made to their exact specifications.

 

 



 

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#21 of 34 Old 04-26-2011, 10:07 PM
 
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hmm, interesting conversation. we're about ready to disappear the lego magazines and catalogues from the house because of obsessive behaviours much like the op has described. it is truly making ds miserable that he wants wants wants....

are young children able to psychologically defend against the zillions of marketing dollars that are spent to target them? i have recently heard about but havent yet watched a new documentary that touches on this called 'consuming kids'. has anyone seen it? i have watched 'the corporation' and am fully aware of how children are targeted. we have had conversations about marketing psychology with ds and sometimes he gets it; other times not so much. i wonder if this thread is less about lego and more about consumerism/brainwashing to buy and all of that.

ps i dont think lego is evil but their marketing dynamics have changed a lot since i was a kid.

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#22 of 34 Old 04-27-2011, 07:40 AM
 
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I am glad for this discussion, though, because I think I may increase my son's allowance. It's true that with a puny allowance, it does create a longer period of "longing" for a certain toy. It makes me think that perhaps my own childhood and the way I was raised could be causing me to be too ungenerous with my kid, as though I am teaching him to appreciate things more by making them more unavailable? Food for thought.


I raised my ds's at one point because he had started buying cheap things because he felt it was futile to try to save for a year for something he really wanted.  I upped it from $5 to $8 (because he was 8 at the time and that was how much his best friend got) and he went back to saving for higher quality things that he truly wanted.  I'd rather the bigger allowance and fewer, more satisfying purchases.  Right now, his allowance is on hold while dh is unemployed.

 

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hmm, interesting conversation. we're about ready to disappear the lego magazines and catalogues from the house because of obsessive behaviours much like the op has described. it is truly making ds miserable that he wants wants wants....

are young children able to psychologically defend against the zillions of marketing dollars that are spent to target them? i have recently heard about but havent yet watched a new documentary that touches on this called 'consuming kids'. has anyone seen it? i have watched 'the corporation' and am fully aware of how children are targeted. we have had conversations about marketing psychology with ds and sometimes he gets it; other times not so much. i wonder if this thread is less about lego and more about consumerism/brainwashing to buy and all of that.

ps i dont think lego is evil but their marketing dynamics have changed a lot since i was a kid.

Your ds has aspergers, doesn't he?  I'd guess that would make dealing with this sort of obsession more difficult.  I'd possibly consider making them disappear, too, in that situation...  My ds does really well with the marketing, imo.  He doesn't even want many of the lego sets, just specific ones and specific themes.  He is good at prioritizing.  And at least with legos, we know they are a long lasting toy that can even be resold for more $ if kept in good condition.  But legos are frustrating because they are so fast paced.  Some of the themes get discontinued before the child has a chance to get the ones they want, even if receiving big sets as gifts for Christmas and birthdays and getting an allowance.  That's our biggest issue.  We were prepared for Power Miners to be discontinued (that was a longer running theme, over 2 years) but Space Police being discontinued (a year and a half?) was an unpleasant surprise.  I'm thankful the newer themes don't appeal to him, a good time for a break with dh still unemployed.  
 

 


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#23 of 34 Old 04-27-2011, 10:17 AM
 
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i wonder if this thread is less about lego and more about consumerism/brainwashing to buy and all of that.

ps i dont think lego is evil but their marketing dynamics have changed a lot since i was a kid.

 

What are their marketing dynamics? I honestly haven't seen a single Lego ad or other piece of marketing that I can think of. I find it really amazing that it feels this way to some of you. I wonder whether part of the solution might be to make family choices which limit exposure to marketing, rather than to the toys themselves.

 

We have AdBlocker working in our internet browsers, we don't watch commercial TV, instead plying the kids with DVDs and public television. We don't subscribe to magazines with ads. We don't subscribe to newspapers. These aren't rules. We just never offered this stuff, we parents chose to avoid them ourselves, and the kids have not asked, except that recently my teens buy their own newspapers and magazines. Where are your kids getting this onslaught of Lego/toy marketing from? Are there ways you can do things a little differently in your families that would minimize this exposure? Because I agree, developing consumer skepticism is something that takes time and young kids are unlikely to be able to stand strong in the face of a continual torrent of the stuff. 

 

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#24 of 34 Old 04-27-2011, 03:18 PM
 
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What are their marketing dynamics? I honestly haven't seen a single Lego ad or other piece of marketing that I can think of.


We get the seasonal catalogs because we are on their mailing list and order from their website.  And ds gets the Lego Club magazine, again something we signed up for...  Sometimes there are ads for games on dvds, like an ad for a Harry Potter lego game on a Harry Potter dvd...  That's about all we come across.  I think we once saw an ad for a new theme or maybe it was an ad for Lego Universe (MMORPG) on regular tv...  Their marketing doesn't need to be aggressive because people willingly seek it out, lol.


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I think I may increase my son's allowance. It's true that with a puny allowance, it does create a longer period of "longing" for a certain toy.

 

I don't know what your son's allowance is but in the OPs case I just wanted to suggest that increasing the allowance is most likely not the pressing issue here - it is being able to share the joy.   I would be curious to see what happened if mom expressed some enthusiasm for the Legos.  Would anything change, would mom be less bothered by it? 

 

Increasing the allowance can always be done later as well.

 

Question:  At some point aren't there enough legos to build anything, provided you are not confined to building the thing that the set was designed for?


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#26 of 34 Old 04-27-2011, 11:23 PM
 
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My ds has a different obsession (an online game called Minecraft), but it's very similar in that he wants to do nothing else and talks about it constantly. I think maybe it's just an 8 year old thing. If you truly cannot afford the toys he wants, maybe he could try to find a way to raise his own funds for them?


 


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Question:  At some point aren't there enough legos to build anything, provided you are not confined to building the thing that the set was designed for?

No. lol.gif

 

My ds free builds some cool stuff.  We periodically go through them and cull out some to scrap.  But others should be thought of as finished sculptural art or engineering pieces and they are kept.  To create more of this art, he periodically needs more specialty pieces, even though he has bins of loose legos.  He focuses more on function than color but he's getting to the point where he'd really prefer certain colors, as well.  I can't blame him.  I'd hate to paint only with unblendable primary colors.  If he painted, I'd buy him more paint and canvases.  I wouldn't make him reuse the canvas and paint over his last painting when he was happy with it.  Since he creates with legos, I get him more specialty pieces from pick-a-brick or other online sources.  I love seeing what he builds. smile.gif
 

 


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#28 of 34 Old 04-28-2011, 09:52 AM
 
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Question:  At some point aren't there enough legos to build anything, provided you are not confined to building the thing that the set was designed for?

you would think, but,. like a PP mentioned, there a many pieces with specific functions/ shapes and there never seem to be enough of those and they are never the right color desired by my kids. I have found that having everything very well sorted helps A LOT, but it's hard to get them sorted to that degree and keep them that way. My 10 yr old is getting better at it, but the 6 yr old is still in the making messes everywhere stage.
 

Oh, and as for it being helpful for mom to take interest, I don't know that it's appropriate or necessary. It's great for everyone to be able to expand their scope of interest but it's also inauthentic to feign interest in something that is completely uninteresting to us and I prefer teaching my kids to find others who share an interest with them instead of continually trying to convince someone to like that thing. I do know that it's important to have SOMEONE to share a hobby/passion with, and that it's important to not have hobbies/passions looked down on or derided by a parent and it might be helpful for mom to be able to listen to him talk about it sometimes without judgment, but I've seen what works best for my kids (and for me) is for them to have other kids to play Legos with, or anything that is a kid interest that mom doesn't share.


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#29 of 34 Old 04-28-2011, 12:12 PM
 
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What are their marketing dynamics? I honestly haven't seen a single Lego ad or other piece of marketing that I can think of. I find it really amazing that it feels this way to some of you. I wonder whether part of the solution might be to make family choices which limit exposure to marketing, rather than to the toys themselves.



 

 

If your kids aren't into Lego, as you've stated, then it's understandable that you've not been exposed to the marketing. But these days any kid who owns a set (or has a friend who owns a set) will find in the box a glossy instruction booklet which invariably includes ads for other Lego products.


Even some of the Lego boxes themselves have "ads" on them. I'm looking now at one of DS' Lego boxes (containing a one-piece switcher track that cost him around $15), and the back of the box shows an elaborate train-yard scene with what looks like $1000+ worth of trains, tracks, a train station, cranes, maintenance vehicles, etc, along with a list of the individual kit reference numbers and the URL for the Lego website for easy online ordering. The side panel of the box also entices kids to join the Lego Club: FREE! LEGO CLUB MEMBERSHIP! APPLICATION INSIDE!" (DS never cared to join, so I can't say for sure but I can guess it's primarily more exposure to Lego merchandise).


And if you ever order anything at all from the Lego website, you'll start receiving in the mail, several times a year, a glossy ad-magazine filled with all their new products.


Personally I don't think Lego is doing anything much different from lots of other companies that market to kids. In our case with DS12, all of the above has been approached over the years by using the ads as an opportunity for open and ongoing family discussions about what marketing is all about.


The only marketing aspect that has really annoyed us, however, is the one that another poster mentioned above: the very brief availability of some of the themed sets. DS is the kind of kid who will think long and hard about how he wants to spend his money. When he was 8 or 9, he was interested in getting an electrified-track train set. He spent a year looking into all kinds of train-set options (not just Lego) and finally decided on the Lego version because it would be compatible with his existing Lego sets. He initially bought one engine, one car, and a basic figure-8 track kit. He'd figured he could expand the set a little at a time. But within a month or two of his initial purchase, the electrified train was discontinued in favour of the RC non-electrified train.


It was, once again, a good opportunity to discuss marketing, etc, and eventually he and DH had fun buying a non-electrified switcher-track and modifying it to electrify it so it would run with his train. But still, pretty disappointing. In DS' case it made him more cautious about ordering such stuff in the future. But I can easily see how a kid with a different personality from DS' might, instead, want in the future to order everything at once before it got discontinued.


Anyways, to the OP, thanks for initiating an interesting discussion. We, too, live a very happy and satisfying life of voluntary simplicity, smack in the middle of a huge city. However, I think there's a lot more to voluntary simplicity than what you buy or don't buy. I think "why" you buy or don't buy is just as important, and that needs to be evaluated with sensitivity on an individual level, according to each specific family member's needs, age and interests, rather than on a blanket, guilt-inducing "our family doesn't believe in buying X". 


As an aside, we've found some of the Calvin and Hobbes comics to be great springboards for honest discussions about marketing. "Hey mom, I saw a bunch of products on TV that I didn't know existed, but I desperately need!" LOL! DS still likes to quote that as he approaches me with a catalog in hand and a big grin on his face.

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#30 of 34 Old 04-28-2011, 02:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have been keeping up with all of the responses, but sorry, I haven't been able to respond that often. I do appreciate this discussion. I am not the best writer, so without a more thourough description of our situation, some people took me the wrong way. I do think most people got the idea of what problems I was having. Anyway, DS1 does have one good friend that he talks non-stop to about LEGO Star Wars. We see him 2 times a week. One of the times each week is when our local homeschool group meets at the park. So they are together for 4 to 5 hours of LEGO Star Wars conversing bliss. Well, I don't follow them around, so I don't know how much they discuss it. But I do overhear them discussing LEGO Star Wars a lot when they come to the table for snacks. The other mom and I have discussed this, and we both love that they have each other to talk to about LEGO Star Wars. That plus it gives us a small break from it. It is unrealistic for me to be constantly (24/7) enthusiastic about a passion of my child's. It just wouldn't be guenuine. And I see that all people change over time and that DS1 will change as well. And that is fine with me. I was initially just at the end of my rope about listening to non-stop LEGO Star Wars monologues. In the past he was using his creativity in other ways that were about creating. Recently it just seems like his creativity has been overshadowed by intense desire for a product. Which is what I was trying to convey. And I do understand that if he got more allowance that he could save up quicker. But I don't believe that would help the situation. Not to mention that it is financially impossible for us to give more.

 

Anyway, at what point does it become addiction? I seem to have upset some people who came in to this discussion early on, and I have no intention of upsetting anyone. I am just trying to work through what I see as a problem in my family. I have an addictive personality and have several family members with drug and alcohol addiction. Advertising is a problem. Though for us, we avoid most of it. I guess the boxes (showing other sets) or color pamphlets don't help. Though I don't think that is unique to LEGO. DS1 has certainly walked around the house studying the Playmobil pamphlets. DS2 (who is 3) has started to do that with the Playmobil pamphlets as well. But with DS1, it used to be just here and there. Not everyday. And the desire didn't seem as intense.

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