What are your thoughts on how to avoid raising materialistic (spoiled) children, especially around the holiday season? It seems every year, the stakes are higher as far as how many gifts to give your child, how much money to spend, what brands are best, and who can "outdo" each other with the biggest present under the tree.
In my family, we receive the messages that over-abundance and bratty, spoiled kids are not favorable, but, when it comes to our relatives actually telling our son "no", they say they want to see him content and not cry. Our family gets upset with us (the parents) if we tell him "no cookies", because they think we are being mean and not letting him enjoy the simple joys of childhood. The message to us, from our family, is: we want our grandson/nephew to grow up happy, content and not materialistic. BUT...we don't want to tell him "no" or see him cry or see him go without. We (the parents) can not raise our son in a bubble or away from his family (we don't want to!), so it seems much of our parenting is not only controlling our child, teaching him about giving and receiving, but also parenting/managing the grandparents, aunts, uncles and in-laws as well!
To help with this dilemma, I found some interesting articles, from a variety of sources: a university marketing/consumer analyst researcher, a child psychologist and a journalist. I've included the sources below, but want to comment on my interpretation of these online articles.
To me, the best indicator to know if your child is spoiled or materialistic is: are they not ever content, satisfied or happy, despite all the presents and gifts they receive? Does your child always seem to want more?
The age of the child is a big factor, and it seems as materialistic teenagers and "tweens" are more materialistic around 12-13 years of age, right when their self-esteem plummets with hormones and increased insecurities. You can read the articles below if you have teenagers, as it seems that increasing their self-esteem is one way to deter the "gimmies" for this age.
As for toddlers, it seems as their screaming "MINE!", is not so much a spoiled statement as it is a natural part of their development. Parents of toddlers can use these teachable moments to educate their little adorable possessive monster about sharing, which will be lost on them for the next 6-12 months. Keep trying, though, they will soon understand it is more fun to play with others, share toys, be helpers, etc.
A spoiled or materialistic child is not determined or solidified only around the holidays. Meaning, giving your child "one too many gifts" is not going to automatically turn a once-content child into a hoarder. It seems as if the simple things in life: spending time with your children, volunteering time to help less fortunate families, learning about family traditions, learning about "real meaning" of holidays---and, if you are not religious--learning about values of sharing, community, giving, love, hope and helping others, are all easy ways to combat the "getting" side of the holidays. Plus, spending quality time and volunteering year-round will instill the value of giving in your children, perhaps may help to inoculate them from the "gimmies" and "mine!" for the holiday season?!
I would love to hear: how do you balance spending quality time with family, exchanging gifts...and teaching your children that the holidays are not all about "getting"? How do you help your children be happy and content without stuff?
Chaplin, Lan Nguyen and John, Roedder Deborah. Growing up in a Material World: Age Differences in Materialism in Children and Adolescents (published online January 2007) in Journal of Consumer Research
Accessed at: http://www.csom.umn.edu/Page6384.aspx
Is Your Child Materialistic?
Raising Unspoiled Children in a Materialistic World
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