Is Your Child Materialistic?

The Children's Society, a charitable group in the UK dedicated to improving childhood, released scathing survey results this week that are none too flattering: A whopping 89% of adults feel that today's youth are far more materialistic and consumer-driven at much younger ages than previous generations. That survey also finds that kids most influenced by commercial pressures suffer more mental-health problems.
Of course raising kids in such a materialistic world with advertisers taunting children to buy-buy-buy doesn't make matters easier. But let's face it, the biggest reason our kids are so darn materialistic is because we've allowed it. (Most of us anyway). We've obliged their every whim, bought them only the best name brands, and tried motivating them to “do good” by rewarding them with possessions. What's more, we aren't doing our kids any justice.

The good news is that the latest research from several universities shows there are ways to deprogram your child's materialistic streak. Using those parenting strategies will help your kid be more appreciative of those non-material everyday wonders of life, boost his self-esteem, emotional well-being and actually make him happier and more content. Best yet, you'll save yourself money and kiss away any guilt you've ever had for saying "no" to your kids. Get ready!

A Five Word Review - Is Your Child Too Materialistic?

Here are the five words that best describe materialistic kids. Think of your child's typical daily actions, and then read the following descriptions. Any one word can mean your child is slipping to the dark side of materialism. and it's time for an intervention.

Brands-  His desires are based on name, brand, or logo and not on quality or price.

Stuff- The kid is a consummate consumer. Whoever has the most stuff wins!

- Clothes, appearance, gadgets, or accessories rule. Internal qualities are irrelevant.

- Everything is about his needs and wants. So what if those jeans cost your two-week grocery bill?

- Despite all that you give him, deep down your child is really not satisfied or happy, and just plain wants more.

Okay... You admit you have a materialistic little critter on your hands. Take comfort. There are proven ways to deprogram a materialistic kid. It will take time and commitment, but the benefits are profound for your child and your family.


Here are a few of the best parenting secrets to help you succeed:

Just say no! Always giving in to your kid's materialistic desires doesn't do her any favors. Say no to unending whims and consumer demands, even if that provokes tantrums at first. And do so without feeling guilty. Then simply explain your concerns and the reason for your new policy, but, most importantly, do not give in!
Watch those TV commercials! Research shows that the fewer commercials kids see, the less materialistic they become. When kids' TV viewing was cut by one-third; they were 70 percent less likely than their peers to ask parents for a toy the previous week. So hit the mute button on your television remote and talk whenever those commercials are on. Turn your child toward more commercial-free television shows or Tivo his “have-to-see” favorite so he can cut out the commercials all together.

Spend more time than money on your kids. Materialistic kids go on more shopping outings with their parents. So be honest: How many of your outings stress non-material values? Make a conscious effort to spend time together doing things that don't cost a dime: Go to the park and the museum, talk, take bike rides, build forts, bake cookies, watch the clouds, and play Monopoly. Show your kid the “other” side of life.

Boost self-esteem. Research at the University of Minnesota shows the more materialistic the kid, the lower their self-esteem. All those clothes and electronics they own actually suppress their self-regard by sending the superficial message: “Your identity is what you have -- not who you are.” But you can turn that belief around by giving well-earned compliments that focus on your kid's inner qualities such as “smart” or “fun.” That research showed that doing so immediately reduced tween-aged kids' materialistic tendencies.

Rotate stuff. Instead of letting your child view his stockpile of matchbox cars, action figures, CDs or whatever, store some away in a closet for a week or month. Your new rule: when stowed items are distributed for play, others are stored in their place. The simple solution of rotating stuff makes bedroom cleanups easier, and helps kids learn they don't need so much to have a good time. Best yet, the returned items are more appreciated and treated like new.

Curb those rewards. “I'll do it if you'll buy me those jeans.” “How much will you give me?” “But I wanted the X-Box!” If you've heard those words from your kid, chances are he's been reward with monetary prizes and material possessions for behaving, working or just plain breathing. And materialistic kids who keep upping the ante want more. From this moment on your new response is to just expect your child to do the job or behave without compensation. Instead, give praise, hugs and pats on the back whenever they are earned.

Stop hoarding. Materialistic kids tend to be pack rats and the more stuff the better. To break your child's hoarding habit, provide three boxes labeled with one of these words: “Trash” (for ripped, torn, or broken items); “Memories” (items with special meaning); and “Charity” (gently used toys, accessories or clothing that other kids may appreciate). Then encourage him to go through his drawers, closets, and shelves. Explain that he should keep what he really needs, uses and wears, and put the rest into the specified box. Make sure that he helps you take the “Charity” box to an organization such as Goodwill or Red Cross to help him realize that not everyone is so fortunate.

Teach “Needs” vs. “Wants.” Materialistic kids often want things “N.O.W.” and don't stop to consider if the item is even necessary. So whenever your kid pleads for some nonessential thing he just “must have”, ask  him: “Is it something you really need or just want?” Then outlaw nonessential, “have to have it now” spending.

Teach the habit of “giving” not “getting.” “Hands on” giving helps counter materialism more powerfully than almost anything else. So take your kids with you to bring dinner to a sick neighbor or to volunteer in a soup kitchen. Require your kids to give part of a weekly allowance to needy children. Choose a cause as a family: adopting an orphan through Save the Children; befriending the lonely neighbor. Let your kid feel the power of giving.

Model restraint. Research shows that parents who are materialistic raise the most materialistic kids. You're the best role model for helping your child cope with our complicated material world, so what kind of example are you setting?
If you do have a materialistic child... now what?  Try these tips for deprogramming your child's materialistic ways.

Have an opinion on this issue? I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

Borba_BuildingMoral_136.jpgDr. Michele Borba is the author of Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essentail Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing.


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