After the last blog, I started thinking about how parenting in America today means parenting amidst an onslaught of materialism. Not only do we fight our own temptations (I have to own a house that looks just so), we have the task of teaching children to become aware of something that they have been swimming in since birth. How do you teach a fish to be aware of water?
I certainly don’t have all the answers. In fact, as a parent myself, I’m often hoping that the things I try will work at least a little bit. But I read, I research, I look for what works for others and I think about what has worked for me. Here are a few of my ways to try to combat the materialism around us:
- Manage the amount of advertising coming into the house. One option is to reduce junk mail, catalogues, credit card offers, and other ads being mailed to you. The Federal Trade Commission highlights three websites that can help you do just that.
- Encourage generosity. Make it a point to model generosity, whether that’s donating a bit to the Salvation Army bell-ringers at Christmas, or working with your children to pick a charity and sending them a donation.
- Educate your family about social causes. Pick one or two books or other resources to use as a family. Some of my favorites are Everyday Justice and Material World: A Global Family Portrait.
- Reduce overall media consumption. While I love being entertained as much as the next family, it is undeniable that almost all forms of media come with strings attached. Try an experiment with your family to replace some of your entertainment time with a creative or recreational hobby – a sport, craft, board or card game.
- Teach financial literacy. There are a host of resources online that can be used to educate kids about better ways to use their money. Investopedia has a series for kids, tweens and teens. Here is a link to a nice lesson for kids on the difference between needs and wants. And for adults, I strongly recommend this book that has a little something for everyone. Understanding how to use money as a tool may help a family avoid being driven by the need for more and more stuff.
What works for you? Especially as we approach the holidays, how do you parent in a material world?