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We are living in times of unprecedented prosperity. All but about 35 million of us are benefitting from this prosperity, including me.
Not only do our pocketbooks suffer from excess consumerism, our kids suffer as well.
It is simply not healthy for children to be surrounded by so many toys they can’t find a thing to play with. It is not healthy for kids to get everything they ask for because it retards their development of a most important life skill: postponing gratification.
What’s an affluent parent to do? News Flash: Mr. and Mrs. Parent you are responsible for raising your kids responsibly. No matter how affluent you are, parents are the people-in-charge in their house, not the kids and not the kids’ peer group.
See that foot? You have two of them. It doesn’t matter which one you put down.
Remember that easy-to-pronounce, one-syllable, two-letter word, “No”? Try saying this foreign-sounding word a few times until it gets easy.
Protests from the kids? Snide remarks like, “We can afford it!”? Stand firm. It’s your job to decide on matters of high finance and to make critical decisions involving health, safety, and sane behavior.
Start early to combat consumerism. When your children are preschoolers begin a family tradition of wrapping and donating a holiday gift to a less fortunate child. Toy overload because of doting grandparents? It’s appropriate to say, “You got so many presents today–which toy would you like to give to a child who doesn’t have any toys?” Take your children with you when you donate food to your community food bank or make sandwiches for the homeless. Involve your children in decisions about where the family philanthropic dollars should go.
Give your kids something more valuable than an expensive toy. Instill in them from early childhood the three R’s of respect, responsibility, and reason. Treat your children with RESPECT and teach them how to treat others the same way. Teach them the concepts of empathy and fairness, demonstrate how to not only tolerate but embrace diversity, and insist on respect for things and the environment so they don’t write on library books or litter hiking trails.
There is only one way to avoid producing obnoxious kids who think they are entitled to everything and that nothing is ever their fault: teach RESPONSIBILITY from toddlerhood on. Start with simple chores and progress to keeping track of tasks at school and at home without reminders, planning and keeping their own schedules, and even writing a thank-you note to Grandma without parental nagging.
REASONING starts with simple choices and increases as children learn about cause and effect and what makes a good choice. Eventually all children must develop critical thinking and mature decision-making. And so do parents. When your child asks for an outrageously expensive gadget because “All the other kids have one!” or want to go to a boy-girl sleepover because, “All the other kids are going!” your reasoned answer is, “No way!”
There is another important reason for combating consumerism. Consumerism has a deleterious effect on family life, especially today when family time is threatened by the pressures of work and activities outside the home. Consumerism is a huge TIME ROBBER!
Think about all the time it takes to purchase something. You spend time thinking about it (looking at ads or catalogs, deciding which stores to go to), driving to the store or stores, finding the darn thing, deciding on the specific purchase, paying for it, taking it home, opening and unpacking the item from its several superfluous layers of packaging, recycling the applicable packaging, finding a place to put the item, and finally either balancing your checking account or figuring out how to pay your credit card bill. Add up the time and remember you could have spent it hanging out with the kids.
Plus whatever you bought adds to the clutter which is in itself a great time robber. If you’re smart you’ll get in the habit of discarding an item for each one you buy.
And don’t fall in the trap of thinking it’s a “labor-saving device.” It took me many years to realize that the only kitchen appliances that saved me “labor” or time were the ones that had a permanent place on the counter–all the ones that had to be dug out and replaced cost me time. On my counter now? Toaster, food processor, coffee maker and coffee grinder. NOTHING ELSE! I decided , after realizing I had not used my waffle iron in years, to get rid of it. If I want a waffle I go out for breakfast.
Bottom line: buy less, enjoy your family more.
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