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Kids & Money: Help Your Kids Avoid Materialism

A couple of years ago, my son was sure that the key to happiness could be found in the acquisition of a single Transformer. Of course, after he had that Transformer for a few days, the novelty wore off, and he was sure that some other toy would result in true happiness. I was disturbed to see my son developing the signs of materialism.

My husband and I have since been doing our best to help head off these materialistic tendencies, hoping to teach our son that there is more to life than just gathering things. Is it working? I’m not sure. But he seems to be losing some of his fixation on things as a source of happiness. Here are some things that can help you raise children to avoid materialism:

Turn Off the TV Commercials

My son rarely sees TV commercials. Instead, we buy the shows he likes on disc, or we record the shows on DVR and fast-forward them. That way, he avoids the commercials. A reduction in commercials means a smaller amount of time for your child to be exposed to the gimmicks companies use to make various items desirable to children.

Set a Good Example

When my husband got caught up in buying Lord of the Rings action figures, it was really hard to explain to my son why he couldn’t just buy a bunch of stuff. How do you keep your child from becoming materialistic when he or she sees you spending money on “whatever you want”? It just won’t happen. You need to set a good example, showing your child that you are content with what you have, and that you don’t need more things to make you happy.

Start a Tradition of Service

One of the ways you can help your children avoid materialism is to help them focus on others. Philanthropy [3] can be a great way to teach about giving. However, you have to set the example. Do service with your children, so that they learn to enjoy it. I let my son help me gather up food and then deliver it to the food bank. Additionally, he gives to our church, and feels good when we see where the money goes — and that he is helping a worthy effort.

Spend Quality Time as a Family

Giving your child a bunch of toys and video games, to keep them “busy” while you do other things will only encourage materialism. Instead, build memories as a family. My son and I enjoy playing games together and going camping. We like to go to the lake as a family, and we enjoy having company over. This focus on spending time with people, rather than with things, can help you child learn to value time with family, instead of focusing on material possessions.

Encourage Active and Imaginative Play

My son loves to play outside, so we encourage it. This gets him out of the house, and lets him see that he doesn’t need toys to enjoy himself. We also encourage him to use his imagination. We have him use the toys he does have for multiple purposes; the fact that he enjoys Legos is very helpful, since these are versatile toys that can be anything his imagination wants them to be.

It’s easy to be materialistic in today’s world. However, you can teach your child [4] that happiness can come from within, rather than from external things.

(Photo: Trailmix.Net [5])