Materialism has undesirable consequences for our children. I believe there is great benefit in teaching them to crave less.
You may recall I wrote about raising my son as a minimalist several months ago. While this continues to be a strong desire of mine, I realize I’ve disconnected a bit from this value after the birth of my second son. In an effort to keep big brother happy, I often found myself resorting to bribery in the form of shiny playthings. When my typically calm-beyond-his-years son recently threw a tantrum over not getting a new toy at the store, I realized the magnitude of my situation.
Related: Why I am Raising a Minimalist
As you might expect, materialism in children has more than just an affect on your wallet. Research has linked materialism to anxiety and depression in children, as well as difficulty in relationships later on in life. Children who are materialistic often grow up into adults who are materialistic, consumed with a belief that material processions are a reflection of their self-worth.
Materialism may also contribute to lower performance in school and increased feelings of envy (which I have heard can be a thief of joy).
A world with less emphasis on material goods would be a blessing as far as I am concerned. Imagine the positive impact it would have on the environment. Consider the freedom of not keeping up with the Joneses and the result of living life by giving more to others than to ourselves.
Parents, it begins with us.
With all of this in mind I developed a plan to curb my son’s growing materialism. Instead of rewarding him with toys I have gifted him special experiences and decisions. I let him pick the menu for dinner or promise to spend extra time drawing pictures with him.
I’ve asked him what he is grateful for on a daily basis and we’ve had conversations about the baggage of too much stuff. We agreed upon limited toy storage space and together picked several playthings to donate.
In the material world we are a part of, this plan has not exactly been a walk in the park. After all, my son still loves toys. As we left a friend’s birthday party, he asked why other children get a lot of presents on their birthdays and why he only received a few. We had an open, honest conversation about it. I reminded him that our birthday celebrations would primarily include special experiences together as a family.
I try to imagine myself in his tiny shoes, thinking about the playroom full of toys he might be missing out on. I then imagine the amazing man that he will become and I realize he will one day be the better for it.
Above all, what our children need most is us. Material processions cannot replace this connection. No matter how ordinary a day spent with your children may seem to you, to them, it’s the whole world.
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