Gimme This… and That: 4 Steps to Make Your Child Less Materialistic
In a highly consumerist world, children are easily convinced that possessions equal happiness. Many studies on consumerism and materialism continue to show that an obsessive focus on possessions can make children feel less happy with their lives, suffer anxiety and mood disorders, and lack a sense of empathy. Children who are deeply steeped in materialism are also likely to grow into less satisfied adults. Loving parents can help their children navigate the social pressure to accumulate possessions. Here is how to get started in making your child less materialistic:
1. Monitor Screen Time
Studies published in the August-September issue of the journal Paediatric and conducted by researchers from the University Of Amsterdam School Of Communication Research indicate that TV advertisements play a significant role in perpetuating a culture of materialism in developed countries. Researchers and child psychologists advise that parents should monitor what their children watch on TV and online. It is also important that you regulate the amount of time your children spend on the screens—one to two hours a day is recommendable. Watching DVDs, movies and pre-recorded programs that do not have advertisements is a great alternative to TV programs.
2. Bust the Ads
Ads are inevitable, but take the time to speak to kids as young as 4 years old about the ads they watch on TV. Ask your children, what they think about these ads and try to “bust the ads” (demystify the messages behind the ads). Use child level logic to explain to your children what TV ads aim to do and explain to them that they really do not have to follow what the ads say to feel happy. Boosting your child’s self-esteem everyday is very important. Help your child to understand that he is valuable without having expensive toys or too many possessions.
3. Introduce Alternative Sources of Entertainment and Happiness
Teaching your children about materialism and consumerism should start early when a child is more perceptive to new ideas. Expose children to activities that foster their creativity and help them to focus on other people in the community. Encourage your children to play regularly, take up sports, music, dance, gardening, bakery and other activities that will allow them to feel happy and to enjoy a sense of accomplishment. It is also wise to introduce your children to charity work from when they are young to allow them to appreciate the things they already have. Community activities can help lower that sense of entitlement and self-centeredness that can lead children to excessive materialism and consumerism.
4. Regulate Your Family Consumer Patterns
It is important for parents to watch out on the consumption patterns they encourage in the family. Can you and your children distinguish between wants and needs? Are you always buying unnecessary stuff including toys, food, clothes, or appliances? A family culture based on consumerism and material possessions will certainly rub off on your children who will strongly feel entitled to possessions and are likely to derive a sense of happiness from having things. It is never too late to change your family spending habits. Re-evaluate how you gift your children– you do not have to buy toys each week or spend too much on them. Change eating habits and introduce a culture of moderation. Make a list with your children on containing “wants” and “needs” and then buy what you truly need. Changing your overly consumerist lifestyle may take effort and time, but you will raise a much happier family in the end.