By Dr. Charles Sophy
Keep 'Em Off My Couch
It's the first day of the summer holiday. Five year-old Stephanie is shopping with you at Wal-Mart and picks out three stuffed animals that she saw in the movie Madagascar. "Oh Mom please! I want to bring Alex and Gloria and Melman to Kinder Gym with me!" she says and stomps off in disgust when you tell her she has to choose only one.
Your eight-year old, Alex, comes home from Summer Day Camp. "I need an iPod!" he declares, "Thomas has one and it's sweet!" Your first thought is, "What's an iPod?" Once Alex fills you in on the latest must-have gadget, you're floored by the ticket price and wonder why he needs one when he already has a walkman.
To top it off, your ten-year old, Tabitha, woke up this morning with a singular mission; to have pierced ears with diamond studs like her new best-friend Sarah by the end of the day, when last week she thought body piercings of any kind were gross. She has spent the entire day begging you to bring her to the Salon to get them pierced, ate her dinner in silence and retreated to her room to call Sarah and complain about how unfair her parents are.
You finish the day exhausted by the challenges of managing "gimme" requests from your children. Sitting down with your partner after the kids have been put to bed, you share your concerns about the day's events. You're both left wondering how your children became so materialistic, and worried that they are becoming followers rather than children who are secure in themselves and their values. A change is needed! But where to begin?
During the grade-school years, children grow more interested in the material world than they were back in kindergarten. Motivated by a combination of an increasing awareness of what other kids have and the desire to fit in by having the same things themselves, their acquisitiveness begins to become more apparent.
A child's age-appropriate progression from self-awareness to awareness of others is compounded by the society in which we live. We live in an age of affluence, at times one obsessed with status and possession. Evidenced by TV and other forms of media. One message is coming through loud and clear: You are what you buy and what you own. There's no doubt that it has become increasingly difficult to raise children in this world of materialism, distraction and temptation.
You can help keep your child's materialism in check by following these simple steps:
1) Back to Basics: Try to bring your parenting back to a basic level. No need to respond to the distractions that at times seem out of range on many levels and maybe out of your comfort zone.
2) Self-Awareness: Working along with your spouse, ensure agreed-upon family values, as well as the structures that support your beliefs.
3) Explore: Remember that the need your child may have for all these newest gadgets possibly camouflages a deeper problem.
4) Communicate: Discuss with your child the concept of earning, as well as alternative to their request. A less costly option may meet the need.
5) Don't fulfill every request: Children who get everything they ask for don't learn to handle disappointment, and they don't learn to work for the things they desire, or delay the need for gratification. 6) Spend time rather than money on your kids: It's not easy in our hectic lives to give children the time and attention they crave, but that's the best way to ward off the "gimmes."
Remember: No matter what your child says, he/she wants - and needs - a secure sense of family more than a roomful of possessions. There may be times when it's appropriate to fulfill a request and times when it's best to say no. You know your child best: listen, learn, teach and communicate in a respectful manner and do your best to focus your children on the lessons of giving as well as receiving.
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