A parent writes: With the gift giving season coming up, our kids place too much emphasis is placed on getting and not giving. What advice do you have for spoiled children?
The advent of rampant consumerism and the opportunity for immediate purchase and gratification has undoubtedly impacted today's children. Thanks in no small part to technology, childhood has been upgraded by a "see it - want it- buy it" approach to life. While parents attempt to stem the tide of this pervasive materialism, some children are ensnarled in the cycle of wanting more and appreciating less. Insistence upon getting the latest or best and the self-righteous attitude it springs from, signals the arrival of the spoiled child and all the attendant shortcomings.
If this unwelcome situation has found its way into your home, here are some coaching tips to soften up the hard edges of greediness:
Refrain from the knee-jerk reactions of calling your child selfish and making idle threats about never buying them anything again. Greedy children tend to push buttons in their parents, prompting them to respond emotionally rather than rationally. This only serves to distance children and make them recoil from the important messages that follow. Aim for a concerned and sincere tone delivering an observation about their over focus upon getting stuff and how it gets in the way of character growth. Point out any instances where this behavior has surfaced beyond the borders of the family, and tarnished their reputation.
Consider deeper issues that may be the springboard for their preoccupation with having the latest and greatest possessions. Sometimes these issues reflect social or emotional troubles that a child is trying to hide or solve through having "the best to show the rest." Perhaps they are attempting to find entry into a social group that overvalues clothing and appearance or that they are trying to compensate for feelings of academic or athletic inadequacy. Use a sensitive and nonjudgmental approach while discussing these possibilities and any hunches about what else could be contributing to their emphasis upon things. Be prepared to respond with understanding if your child reveals a "seed for their greed."
Emphasize core virtues such as generosity, compassion, and appreciation as some of the important personal upgrades to lead a happy and successful life. To this end, parents are wise to enforce a policy of pause and review purchase requests with the child to unearth reasons for requests. Efforts at building and/or demonstrating core values can be established as conditional for purchase. Don't give credence to the retort that "it is their money" even if they received it as a gift. Consider a "core values credits" program where a child must show progress towards values goals and then is eligible to use money to make purchases.
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Ensure that children are exposed to those less fortunate through charitable activities and personal sacrifices. Materialistic children can have their perspective broadened by real life experiences that carve out an appreciation for their own circumstances. Join them as they serve others or participate in a charity drive for a worthy cause. Engage them in discussion of what they noticed or overheard with a eye toward opening their mind and deepening their heart. Tie these experiences to core values and distinguish them from the consumer culture within which they are being raised.
Ed. note: Detailed information on parenting skills here.
Visit Dr. Steven Richfield's site The Parent Coach, right here at HealthyPlace