I confess to you that one of my greatest fears as a parent is to raise a son who values material possessions over life experience.
I guess growing-up in God's Own Country before the internet came along, it was a lot easier for my parents to focus on rewarding me for good behaviour, granting me freedom to play outside over giving me possessions like toys and games consoles.
A recent study by the Journal of Consumer Research found parents that were rewarded during their childhood for good behaviour with objects were more likely to grow up basing their self-worth on acquisitions. They also developed judgmental attitudes about other people's possessions, basing their opinion of others on what they owned.
The study concludes by saying that there are ways to help reduce the likelihood of your kid growing up with a materialistic, judgmental mindset. Trying not to make physical objects your go-to way of expressing love is a primary method. This basically means that instead of rewarding your little one for doing something good with chocolate or extra time on the i-Pad, praise and the sense of accomplishment should be a sufficient reward!
I really don't want to be that parent who has to push their kids to play outside every day, as they value their time in front of the TV and or on their tablet over their freedom.
What is more concerning is that TV shows like The Bachelor, Geordie Shore, The Kardashians and The Only Way Is Essex are being watched by teens. I certainly don't want any child growing up thinking that these materialistic, trashy and extravagant programs represent real life!
So how can parents discourage materialism in kids?
We all must start at home by practicing what we preach. Being aware of our own self desires and discouraging ourselves from becoming envious in front of our children can prevent us from unintentionally setting a bad example for our children.
Another important method is to gift children with experiences rather than presents on special occasions; we are more likely to remember the good times we have on our birthdays than the gifts we've received. Giving your kids experiences rather than items will show them that moments of fun are more valuable than the latest toy or computer game.
Bowling, theme parks, paintballing, a trip to the museum and even more time with family and friends can be enough. Consider taking a day off work for special occasions: I am sure any child young or old would rather spend time with their parents going on adventures than sitting in their room alone playing a repetitive video game!
A great example of this can be seen in a recent study in to celebrity spending culture, which found that a $5,000 Cartier bracelet purchased by Kylie Jenner could have paid for a swimming-with-dolphins experience six times! I know which one I would prefer!
Reducing exposure to advertising is another way of helping discourage materialism. When the adverts come on while you're watching TV, consider flicking the channel over or record programs to let them watch ad-free television. I know my son has said he has seen a numerous number of adverts and has asked me directly for the product he has just seen on the TV.
I guess he has been absorbing the idea of buying the toys he's seen during the Ad-breaks will make him happy. Next time your child asks for something they have seen on TV or in store all you need to do is ask them why they want it, start a conversation. Considering coaching them to reconsider their own desires.
Instilling a sense of gratitude and giving can go a long way in teaching children about the value of material goods. Next time you are sorting through old clothes or having a clear out you should get them involved. This exercise will show them just how much stuff they already have and probably don't use, which can be given to people less fortunate than them.
Thanks for reading! I would love to get your thoughts, feelings, and advice on the subject, so if you've got any suggestions then please do leave a comment below.