We do our best to teach our kids about money and spending decisions… but there’s no getting around the fact that consumerism can be a big hook on our kids (and on ourselves).
It’s a fact of our modern society. Ads, shopping, and consumerism are all around us. They surround our kids, too, who see 40,000 commercials each year. Forty-thousand! With all these messages around buying, needing, and consuming, it’s no surprise many parents struggle with too many toys and too many “can I have this?” at the store.
Which begs the question…
Should we protect our children from consumerism?
In general, I tend to shy away from the idea of “protecting” or “blocking” our kids as parents. We’re fairly frank (albeit appropriate) and answer their questions honestly when they ask. At the same time, I feel it’s important to set boundaries to curb consumerism with our kids… and with ourselves.
We’re not perfect, and we’re still learning, but here’s what we are trying to do. I’d love to hear your ideas and approaches as well.
1. Limit Media/TV Commercials/Ads
We cut cable a few years ago, so our kids rarely watch “real” TV anymore with traditional commercials. Sure, Amazon and Netflix have some advertisements, but they are much fewer.
That being said, it’s not just traditional ads anymore. As adults, where else are you seeing ads or messages? Emails? Social media? Peers?
Recently I unsubscribed from emails and social media pages/groups where I tended to buy impulsively or feel lured in by a “really good sale.” Allow yourself to control when you see those ads or messages to buy – out of sight, out of mind. (And remember, it’s never a good deal if you don’t need it!)
2. Delete the YouTube App
I know… mean mom here. I mean, our kids LOVE to watch the YouTube kids app – especially the toy and video game demos. But oh my, the attitudes when it’s time to turn them off! It is basically one big commercial and caters perfectly to a young child’s short attention span. No surprise here, but all of a sudden, they want ALL THE TOYS.
It’s not just about YouTube (this just happens to be my hot topic at the moment…).
The idea here is to pick and choose what media we are exposed to. There are so many options out there, we try to pick something more educational or at least less geared toward consumerism.
3. Give Experiences Over Stuff
The culture of gift-giving can be tricky if you’re trying to curb consumerism. Big birthday parties, Santa, family expectations, etc. all feed into more and more stuff – much of which we didn’t want to start out with.
I’m working on another post about gifts, but where I’ve landed for now, is to give our kids gifts we know they really want or need and to focus on experiences or hand-made gifts.
This shifts the conversation. Instead of “what do you want for your birthday?” the conversation becomes “what adventures do you want to go on this year?” or “what kinds of things do you like to do with your friends or family.” We also ask for no gifts from family and friends – or if they insist on gifts, we ask for experiences (museum or zoo tickets, etc.) It doesn’t always work, but it gets the conversation started.
4. Practice Delayed Gratification
I read a stat somewhere that, for kids, the ability to delay gratification is one of the key indicators a child would be successful in life. Whoa. Let that settle for a minute.
Having two (very different) kids, I can see how much of this is how they are wired, however teaching and modeling these skills will help with curbing the consumerism (“we will think about buying that” “we need to save for that” “we will eat dessert after dinner”).
5. Talk About It
Want something — like really, really bad? Okay, let’s talk about.
Why do you want it? Do you know how much it costs? How can you earn the money to buy it? What are you willing to give up to have it? If you invest that money instead, how much would you have in five or ten years? Is it worth giving up that savings?
All important spending questions and skills for kids – and for adults – in thinking about spending. (Lots more thoughts on this topic over here.)
6. Talk About Peer Pressure/Influence
Our older child is in second grade, and we’re noticing – much more – that he is influenced by what his peers have. I know this is huge for parents of teens who are in full mustachian and savings mode, and since our kids are still young, this is newer territory for us. Our approach so far is simple – let’s talk about it.
So, should we protect our kids from consumerism?
Protect, no. Be intentional about curbing consumerism for ourselves and our kids? You bet.
What do you think? Do you try to protect your kids from consumerism? I’d love to hear your experience! Comment below (or join the conversation on Facebook).