Raising good kids in today’s consumer culture is no easy feat. But cheer up, parents! If you think you’ve got spoiled kids, it’s never too late to start taming and curbing the gimmes. We’ve got a few secrets to help turn materialistic “I want it now” tendencies into reflective mindfulness––(really!). After all, the earlier you start teaching your kids these strategies, the better. Read on for 10 tips to help kids appreciate what they’ve got, right now.
1. Set the tone and lead by example.
Kids study their parents closely to see how mom and dad cope to not getting what they want. Take disappointments and setbacks in stride and be the model of a good example by buying less non-essential items. Shift the focus from material possessions to intangible forms of fulfillment. If you fuss at not getting what you want, or you always have to be on to the next purchase instead of enjoying what you have, that attitude will trickle down to your kids.
2. Broaden their perspective of the world.
Parents tend to protect their young kids in a bubble … and rightly so to an extent. But we can get them beyond their limited perspective by teaching them about people in need, and get them involved by donating time or goods to others. Make soup to deliver to an elderly neighbor. Have them select toys and books they no longer use to donate to kids in shelters. Take a new teddy bear to the local children’s hospital for a suffering child, make no-sew blankets for the homeless. No act of charity is too small.
3. Help kids realize the “rush” of getting new stuff is short-lived.
It’s an epidemic among humans to want more and to experience the temporary excitement of buying new items. Buying too much stuff simply doesn’t lead to long-term happiness—in fact, it may have the opposite effect as clutter and keeping up with the Joneses lead to an endless purchase cycle. Give your kid examples of things they’ve bought that are now relegated to a dark corner of the closet or lost under their bed. A light bulb might go on in their head the next time you mention this during one of their “gimme” moments.
4. Just say NO and don’t back down.
Prep your kids in the car before a trip to Target or your shopping destination that you will not be buying them ANY toys or trinkets. Even if they clutch that dollar section gizmo in the cart the entire time, they must put it back before checkout time … tantrum or not. When kids know you stand by your word and you front-load them with this information before your outings, it will help to stop begging and pleading on the fly.
5. Or … hit the pause button on purchases.
If there’s something your kid really wants that will actually benefit them, then try delayed gratification––a practice which has been proven to make people more successful overall in life. Read about The Marshmallow Experiment conducted on kids in relation to delayed gratification here. Some purchases like a new bicycle or a great book could provide life-changing experiences for kids, but if they’re able to wait to buy these items, even for a short amount of time, the payoff will be greater and they’ll also learn a valuable life skill.
photo: Jon Flobrant via Unsplash
6. Spend more time than money on your kids.
Prioritize love, laughter and shared positive experiences over acquiring belongings. It’s a fact that family vacations can boost a child’s happiness in myriad ways; so consider putting the money you’d all spend on frivolous purchases into a vacation fund jar instead. If traveling is a stretch, you can also opt for tickets to a concert or play or a trip to get ice cream.
7. Ask: “Is it a need or a want?”
When your kiddo is having a “gimme” moment, ask him if he “needs” the item in questions or if he “wants” it? He’ll most likely instantly know the difference if you explain that you “need” something in order to survive. If the item is a want, and you’re okay with buying it, consider saving it for the next holiday gift or having your kid spend their piggy bank money to purchase it.
8. Teach kids to split their piggy bank savings three ways.
Find a three-way piggy bank like this one that has compartments labeled: save, spend and share. When your kids earn chore money or receive birthday or holiday gift money, have them divide it––however it’s fairly agreed upon between parent and kiddo––into the save, spend and share categories. This gives them the opportunity to be generous with their own “share” money to give to a cause that moves them (ie: buying dog food for shelter animals) or any way they want to help others. Saving money will teach them goal-setting and the value of a dollar, and the money they have left to spend will mean more to them after this division.
9. Monitor, limit and explain media exposure.
Kids of all ages are bombarded by advertisements from morning to night. YouTube videos of kids reviewing the latest “must-have” toys, TV commercials, pop-up ads online, social media ads, even branding by sponsors of school-related events. We all know that media thrives on sustaining a culture of consumerism by making viewers think they must use the said product to be happy or better somehow. Explain to your kids that ads serve the sole purpose of making you want to buy things, and then don’t let them fall into that trap. Fast forward/skip commercials when possible too.
10. Make thank you cards a habit.
Handwritten thank you notes have become a lost art, which is unfortunate. When kids take a few minutes to reflect upon and acknowledge the kind deed of someone selecting, buying, wrapping and giving them a gift––it teaches them the full circle process of being both a giver and a gracious recipient. It’s hard for a ‘gimme’ attitude to co-exist with a child who has learned to be gracious. You can discover creative ways to say thank you by clicking here.
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How do you curb your kid’s greedy habits? Share in the comments below.