Raising an ungrateful & materialistic child? 5 ways to correct your parenting strategies
Are you dealing with a materialistic child?
Or do you fear that peer pressure is somehow making your child act up towards glitzy things s(he) keeps badgering you to buy?
“Maa, don’t they have school holiday like us?”, asked my then 3.5-ish year old daughter after a child hawker selling pens passed by us on a lazy Saturday morning while we waited for the traffic signal to turn green. I quietly thought for a few seconds if my answer, was in any way going to be conducive to raising a materialistic child in this highly CONSUMERIST world which almost ignores and desensitizes the hardships of the less privileged.
So, I went on to tell my daughter that not everybody in the society gets to live with the basics one could ask for. And that there are children and adults in the world whose every 24-hour span means a morbid struggle for anything. Be it food, work or even a room that they could call home.
Is a well-off kid bound to be a materialistic child?
We, as a family, identify ourselves as MINIMALISTS. And that’s exactly what I NEVER wanted to be, as a child. Every time I saw a new toy or activity board at my friend’s place, I’d start harrying my parents to buy me the same, or a more superior piece.
What’s more, the weirdest ‘logic’ I’d try to squeeze in was how my friends who never took over me academically, were still being bestowed with such fancy possessions. That was clearly indicative of how I was using academics as a parameter to judge a child’s abilities. To which my parents always retaliated with an equally loaded canon of sense. That academics or extracurricular brownies were never a child’s credentials to entitlement nor the right to buy trashy stuff.
Some times, that worked, and at other times I only got to hear why I wouldn’t find these things fascinating beyond a week or two.
For a kid between 5-10 years of age, that was enough reasoning to deal with. But, how convincing was that for an overwhelming scale of a child’s INSECURITY?
Children are innately curious beings and feel easily influenced by peer pressure. And it is THIS property of children that the advertising industry always preys upon.
That brings me to discuss with you 5 ways you can be successfully raising a NON-MATERIALISTIC child. These were inklings dropped by my parents, specially my mom; and a range of thoughts that I have been instilling in my 6 year old daughter’s mind ever since she began schooling.
1. Don’t go overboard with Parties & Celebrations
What makes a child HAPPY?
I bet, you’d tell anything that makes him or her laugh or feel amused. It could be something as insignificant as a tickle, a brief back scratching session or even your minuscule reaction to the classroom activity or prank s(he) narrated to you.
By the way, what kind of birthdays did we have in India? No, like seriously! Regardless of our parents’ status back then.
Our parents got home some cake, and decorated the drawing room with balloons, streamers and banners. School celebration was about wearing anything but uniform and distributing sweets. Evenings would be a short and sweet snack party with delicious, piping-hot savories where all our friends would play. And no, the guests didn’t look forward to any obligatory ‘return gifts’.
Whether we had all of those birthdays photographed or not, they’re always going to be intact in our memories! Aren’t they?
What made them so unforgettable?
Just the organic sentiments. Of sharing close moments with friends, being wished and treated special. The snacks we’d get to feast on and of course, gifts were the last on our priority back then.
Forward to a decade and a half later, what we see today is the pandemic culture of hosting extravagant theme parties for birthdays of children who can barely even understand what value these spendthrift celebrations bring to the table.
By the by, I’ve been guilty of this though I wasn’t really willing to make it a part of our daughter’s 5th birthday celebration. You call it the trend. That everybody sheeps to.
Well, the best thing I hear from the kid is how she enjoyed her 6th birthday so much more! And I quickly asked her, “But what about your favorite mascots at the party last year? The humongous themed cake, a place full of at least 100 children, loads of expensive gifts, awesome food, magic show and games? What about all that?”
“Yeah, that was cool and all. But there’s nothing like the presence of my best friends at my home affectionately singing and clapping to “Happy Birthday” with the same excitement as mine. And the drawing room being thoughtfully decorated by you and Papa where I myself selected the color of the streamers and balloons, and played with the pump while Papa was blowing balloons without it. I also enjoyed the dinner at my favorite restaurant after playing with my friends.”
You see? How children are wired to find happiness in the most inexpensive things?
Children basically look for things they’d love to call MEMORIES linked with occasions. Not the scale of EVENTS you put up for them.
2. Teach your materialistic child about MONEY
Parents usually feel tempted to buy fancy things and gadgets for children hoping to ensure a very smooth, ‘happy’ and trouble-free childhood and teenage. However, it acts exactly the OPPOSITE WAY.
Never assume that the ‘things’ you buy your children can even remotely make up for your continual absence from their significant moments. I know, we cannot keep trailing behind our kids all the time. But buying your child a smartphone or any interactive gadget at a very young age that tells him stories, trains her with quizzes and even plays rhymes on demand DOES NOT compensate your active presence with him/her.
Gadgets and toys largely based on AI or electronics may simulate human instructions and voices but can NEVER generate the warmth you give to your child in the process.
Here’s what I wrote about how to start teaching your kid about the value of money. Because it’s only after they realize how money works, they’d start appreciating all the basics they have, be capable to take financial decisions efficiently and distinguish between need & greed as grown ups. In fact, explaining the essence of managing finances is the first step to raising a non materialistic child.
This even includes budgeting and desensitizing to unwanted and off-putting ads, which I’ve discussed in the above-mentioned article.
3. Inspire to Reuse or Re-Invent
Most of us as Indians, by default, have a thing for economic and sustainable ways to living. And when it comes to clothing, a lot of us prefer to turn our outdated clothes to fancily done hankies, quilts (popular among those with very young kids or newborns) or anything useful. A lot of our old party clothes even become our home wear.
I never purchased those cute and expensive bed spreads for our baby, and a lot of her bedding material and suits were redesigned from our existing clothes & accessories.
Likewise, I emphasize the importance of re-using obsolete stuff into something resourceful for our day to day life. That’s not it! You must see the marvel and excitement that pumps up your child if you teach him/her to recycle an object into something fun!
I taught my child to redesign cleaned ice cream tubs with decoration of her choice and use them to store her miniature toys or items. The recent addition to this upcycled brigade at our home is this pencil holder that A made with the cups from her old kitchen toy set.
Incidentally, it’s wise to invest more in books for children than clothes and shoes beyond the reserved number of those to suit specific events or occasions. Because they’d always outgrow clothes. But whatever wisdom they grasp from books, stays with them forever. And that can be life-changing too! Moreover, you can always give a book off to somebody who’d love to own it regardless of how many eyes read it before.
That brings me to the most powerful way to stray a materialistic child away from the glam of glittery things.
4. Never BRIBE!
I’ve seen a lot of elders and peers trying to motivate their children to study well (for grades!) by promising them a very expensive gift they’ve been wanting to own. NEVER DO THAT!
Because the moment you instigate kids to do something for the sake of a ‘prize‘ or a much loved kids’ junk food, it defeats the very purpose of the work you want them to do for their own benefit.
For me, it’s been pretty simple.
“You study, you get better at life (not just at grades). You don’t? Then don’t mind repeating it for a second time!”
5. The pleasures of Giving Away
Every house, specially those with growing children generates a number of almost-abandoned things from time to time.
They may not be of any use to your child but would bring smiles to others’. Find out through friends or within your neighborhood if there are children, particularly of blue-collar workers, who may find joy in acquiring your child’s possessions.
Discuss this before with your child. Lead by example. Inspire your kid to get involved in conscious charity while giving away your belongings to those who can never afford them.
We always pack our old clothes in the best of their condition to give off to designated people who come twice a year to collect pre-loved clothes. The toys, we give away to children of laborers and masons who keep frequenting the area whenever there’s a construction going on.
While A wasn’t initially that happy about the idea of giving away her things to somebody else, she changed her mind before we could say knife when she saw us one day giving off our stuff to the charity collectors. She was just 4 that time. 🙂
Well, apart from these ways, I could also include GRATITUDE as another method to inculcate simplicity instead of materialism in your children. But I strongly believe that once you start tuning your kid to help those in need, gratitude starts shaping up automatically.
Have you tried to correct the way your child looked at things only to show off to friends?
Or have you had conflicts with your teenager who’s hopelessly succumbing to peer pressure of materialism?
Don’t worry; it’s never too late. A materialistic child is not always a brat.
Having a dialogue helps. Acknowledge your child’s peer pressure and then go on to have a reasonable discussion.
The bright side to our social media today is that there are a huge number of influencers who genuinely promote minimalism and sustainability. And gosh, no matter how simple it may sound, their simplicity is almost making minimalism a TREND!
And such personalities can really motivate your child to adopt their ways in life.