Bringing up content kids in today's materialistic world

Parentree-editors 2009-02-16 12:21:50

Do you get tired of hearing “I want, I want, I want...” from your brats all the time? Wonder why despite giving them everything and more, they still want more all the time? Do you ever wonder what happened to the good old days when a simple ice cream would light up their faces? These are all common dilemmas that most modern Indian parents have.

We have some perspective and tips.

Give them unconditional love and spend time with them

First and foremost give them your unconditional love, listen to them, spend time with them when they need you to and make them feel secure and special. Many times children might want to fill up an emotional vacuum with objects and material possessions. The more secure they feel, the less “needy” they will feel and you can rationalize more with them and get more out of them by talking to them.

Focus on activities rather than objects and possessions

  • Do not use only toys as incentives but also at times, spend time with them doing a fun activity. For example, instead of just "I will get you a new Transformer set if you start eating by yourself" say, "I will bake cookies with you" or "take you to the zoo". They will realize that activities are also “fun things” and not just toys.
  • Do the same when they have friends over, encourage them to be activity centric and not just toy centric.
  • Encourage them to play with other material around the house like scrap and utensils and not just commercial toys.  When they get bored, instead of just rushing to the toy store, be creative and give them something from the house and they will also learn to be creative in their play. A pretend bus using a cardboard box can sometimes be more fun and different than a toy bus. So much more eco-friendly as well.

Tread the fine balance

  • Tread the fine balance between keeping them content and indulging their every whim. So, do not deny or deprive them unnecessarily. By all means, get them interesting toys and play materials. Even pamper them. Get them the occasional candy or treat. Let them feel that if they want, they can have it all. The idea is to keep them so content that they will not want to ask for more all the time.
  • BUT, make it a point not to indulge in their every whim or fancy. For example, you do not have to buy them toys or toffees every time you go to the shop. If you get them something every time you go out, they will interpret that as a normal pattern and start expecting and even demanding some objects every time. And remember that the earlier you start this, the better it is and they will get used to not getting something every time and equating life with “things” all the time.

Gifts galore

  • Kids love toys and receiving them. We all do. But try and see that they do not expect a gift everytime you go on a business trip, birthday party return gift and house visitors. That gifts are a bonus and not the norm.
  • Let the grandparents and aunts and uncles indulge and pamper to some extent. But brief them to make some exceptions and not give something every time they meet your child. Its lets them know that you value their spending time and teaching your child finer values and not just the material presents. Basically, the idea is not to let them equate occasions, relationships with ONLY “things” or gifts. That gifts are just one fun thing and not the only fun thing about occasions and relationships.

Monitor their TV watching and explain advertising

  • It is estimated that the average child in India watches 3 to 4 hours of television every day. Most of this viewing is done without supervision by an adult.  During this time, children watch dozens of advertisements.
  • Limit their TV watching. And also you can put DVDs for them instead of TV. This way you can avoid them watching unnecessary ads and can also have a say in what you want them to watch.
  • But the reality is that ads are everywhere around us. So at an early age, explain them the concept of advertising and the purpose. Show them how to differentiate between an ad and a show.
  • Learn more about advertising and your child.

Teach kids about money and the value of money

  • Teach kids early about the concept and purpose of money. Teach that money is finite and is used to buy food, toys, pay the rent etc. They will start understanding the concept of budget and trade-offs.
  • While shopping, give them an idea of why you are purchasing a certain item and understand the concept of needs or necessities and luxuries. Luxuries are fine of course. We need them to enjoy life. But as long as we know that they are luxuries and we enjoy and savour them. For example, buying necessities like pencils and rice or buying luxuries like toys or their favourite biscuits.
  • Learn more about money and your kids.

Foster empathy and encourage giving

  • Foster empathy in your children for poor underprivileged kids. For example, point out poor kids at the traffic signal, that these kids do not even have the basics like proper food, clothes and are still smiling. Your kids will surely realize how lucky they are and they should enjoy what they have.
  • Also, at an early age encourage them to share and give. Enjoy charitable activities together. If they have extra birthday presents, ask them to select some presents to give to a home for underprivileged kids or your maid’s children. Visit a school or orphanage for underprivileged children.
  • When you give, highlight the feeling of happiness when you give to others - the pleasure of giving and not just getting or taking.

Encourage fine values and a healthy level of thrift

  • Gandhiji always believed in living within your means and being concerned about the larger society. Even if you have the means, try and not consume just for the sake of consuming. Of course moms (Oh and dads too), we all need our occasional retail therapy, but in a larger sense. It is more eco-friendly as well and you will pass these values to your child. For example:
    • Try and use some hand me downs in clothing and toys for your child. It is eco-friendly, pocket-friendly and value-friendly. When your child uses a jacket that belong to an older cousin, point that it is fun to wear old stuff. Your child might just think it is a badge or honour vs. a drudgery. And you pass these finer values of valuing people and relationships instead of just things.
    • When giving them money - pocket money, tooth fairy money, Rakhee money - start small. Instead of getting carried away and giving a Rs. 500 note, make it Rs 50 or Rs 100. In fact you could giving them Rs 25 or Rs 50 and ask them to get anything they want at the candy shop. So much more fun for them as well.
  • Teach them about conserving natural resources like water, electricity and that toys and things are made of natural resources that are scarce. Catch em young in being eco friendly.

Inculcate the right values and be a role model yourself

Last but not the least, try and be less material centric in your lifestyle as well. Of course as we said earlier, we all need indulgences but let us not be driven by them. Children learn a lot from us and we unconsciously pass on a lot of our values, thinking and practices to them.

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2009-02-19 05:23:50


Very practical, very useful.

2009-02-17 08:56:56


Very relevant article and well written too. Gives me hope that we are taking a balanced approach and also that we are not the only ones facing this dilemma! Cheers, Sumo


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