Do your kids know how to window shop? I mean real window shopping, where they can wander through a store full of things they want, admire things in the store, and leave without asking for anything? Since first world countries surround people – including children – with ads telling them they need, need, need, I consider window shopping to be an important life skill! There is a certain art to being able to admire something that you would love to own without then leaving the store feeling badly because it’s not in your budget. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help your kids develop this talent.
Teach kids to admire toys without deciding they need them
Start by saying goodbye
This is a tip I learned from one of my uncles – sometimes dads really do know best! He explained that when his kids were small, if there was something in a store that they wanted that he couldn’t (or didn’t want to) buy them, he would admire the object with them, and then tell them to say goodbye as they left the aisle. It’s a trick I have used successfully with all of my toddlers. Sometimes they goodbyes have been bit tearful, but this ritual gives them closure while acknowledging that, in their world, that item was very important.
Openly admire things you like, but will not buy
Kids learn by watching. If they think that you buy everything you want, they will expect the same for themselves. If they see that you also want things that you do not or cannot purchase, they will have an easier time accepting it when they are in the same situation.
Give them opportunities to save up and earn things they really want
This approach puts the responsibility for acquiring the object on the child’s shoulders – and, in my experience, that often helps them to realize that it isn’t something that they truly need.
Have them serve others and donate to charity
Service can be as simple as reaching out to people they know with cards, thank you notes, and surprises. They can donate toys and clothes they do not need to charitable organizations, as well as money. Giving to others makes it easier to avoid focusing too much attention on your own needs, while often bringing into focuses just how superfluous those “needs” are.
When my kids admire toys and clothing, we often talk about ways we could make something similar. We talk about making things a lot more than we actually make them, but I think that is fine. My kids get at least as much out of planning projects as they enjoy using the ones we make, anyhow!
How do you work to avoid materialism while living in a materialistic culture?