Teaching Kids About Consumerism

Teaching kids about consumerism can be a big task.  Regardless of your income or your priorities, it's an issue parents have to face.  No matter how often you succumb to "the gimmies", there will always be more.  Commercials on TV, ads on the internet, friends who own more "stuff", the ability for social media to track what you look for and like - it's never-ending.  

Want to be thinner?  Faster?  Stronger?  Better looking? Have more energy?  Look better?  There's a product for everything and a toy that your child will "love for years to come".  Less consumerism was about teaching my kids values, not about whether or not I could afford things financially.  It's more about affording it emotionally.   Stuff isn't bad - toys, clothing, art.  Each of us has differing values and desires so there's no one right way to minimize and we keep the stuff that we need or brings us joy.  There are things I wanted my kids to learn:

  • There is no instant gratification
  • Stuff won't make you happy
  • You can't get everything you want
  • Learn a work ethic
  • Prioritize what's of value and earn it

My kids are older now and to see how badly they've been scarred, I went to the source.  I asked 6 out of 13 what it was like to grow up with hand me downs, thrift store shopping, having me bake their birthday cakes at home, make all their Halloween costumes and Christmas pajamas and being told no (regularly) to buy things they "had to have".  Here's what some of the said. 

Gabi - 15 years old: "It sucks being told no sometimes when you want something, but it taught me I don't have to get everything I want. I like the homemade Halloween costumes and birthday cakes from scratch because it means more and there are memories. Hand me downs are pretty cute clothes. Thrift stores mean stuff that's expensive is cheap and we can get it, so it's pretty cool.  I don't mind getting rid of things because I don't use things so my Mom minimizing doesn't bother me.  Our house isn't crowded like it was before. "

Alana - 17 years old:  "(she sighs) I never did get that pillow pet I wanted"  She then proceeded to sing the commercial - be thankful I didn't take a video.  "It taught me that having a few sentimental things is more important than having a lot of things.  It's more meaningful.  It was frustrating not getting things when I was younger because other kids had stuff that I didn't and it seemed like it was cool.  I felt like I never got any of the cool toys.  Now I'm really glad.  I'm not an entitled, stuck up snob." 

Taylor - 16 years old:  "It was nice because I didn't have that privileged mindset that I'll have everything I want.  I learned how to work for things and earn them.  Homemade Halloween costumes, Christmas pj's, and birthday cakes.   It meant a lot that my Mom took the time to do that stuff."

Olivia - 19 years old:  "It was just how I was raised.  If you don't know any different you don't realize there is anything different.  Homemade birthday cakes are always better than store-bought anything.  Mom made things so there was good stuff in it and we were allowed to lick the bowl which always made it better.  We still had a lot, I never felt like I didn't have enough.  The only thing I remember wanting to do and being told no was wearing a belly shirt. I was really mad.  It was a green, waffle material.  That kind of sucked.  The want vs need thing - I make a list of what I need first and then things I want.  So I learned to know the difference between wants and necessities.  That's great for planning ahead and not splurging on things I don't actually need."

Kezia - 13 years old:  "I don't like being told no.  Mainly because I"m one of those people that want everything.  It taught me that I didn't need things just because I wanted them.  I didn't mind hand me downs or going to the thrift store because the clothes were cute.  The one thing I don't like is that they aren't always "in" and fashionable but I learned to make them fashionable.  I like the homemade costumes so we could make them and no one else had them.  I liked the homemade cakes because they were made with love.  One of the biggest things is that we learned to help each other because we did things together.  It brought us closer together."

Ashlea - 15 years old:  "It sucked at the time, but looking at how other families are who have spoiled kids, made me appreciate less consumerism as I got older.  I didn't like getting hand me downs but I'd rather have a few nicer things than a lot of things." 

The bottom line is who the hell cares how you're raising your kids.  One common complaint is that people - even strangers - like to offer advice on parenting.  Since we all do it in dynamically differing ways, you do you.  If owning less and buying all-natural wood toys that are engaging and educational is your thing, then do it.  From my kids to yours - they turn out pretty OK.



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