Q: How do you stop your kids from begging for all the latest toys and electronics and clothes their friends have? How do you convince them that used stuff is better than the new stuff they see at the store?- Amy; Commerce, GA
A: Good question and one I'm frequently asked after I teach a frugal living class. I guess the short answer is I control the environment and I parent, but the long answer involves five helpful hints and some preaching, too. Let's go with the long answer, shall we, friends? You'll find this post prevention, not intervention. In other words, I don't "stop" or "convince" my Littles, I teach them.
Teaching them not to care what other folks think is a life lesson that will reach far beyond what they're wearing and what they have
Because the Littles are being raised by parents who don't give a flying flip what other folks think of our choices, they understand that frugal and fabulous aren't mutually exclusive lifestyles. To them, this is how folks live. They don't know about the craziness of consumerism until they're older. They see it through their friends and they think their friends are the weird ones. I'll never forget my middle-Little coming home from school last year just incredulous that someone cared at all what company made her shirt. She said, "I could see if I was wearing something hand woven by natives using naturally grown fibers, dyed with the berries of a sacred tree. THEN, I could see how it would be cool to talk about where I got it, but really? Where is Abercrombie and why is it such a big deal?" When people ask me after classes how I get my Littles to wear thrift store clothes, I bring up that story. My kids think thrift store clothes are cool beans and they're secure enough not to care if other folks don't.
Control the environment
Now, I know we can't control what they see and who they hang out with at school (and we shouldn't want to do that, but I know we all wish we could wrap them in a bubble sometimes). We sure can at home. I don't mean you should lock them in the closet. Controlling the environment is an effective way of parenting and teaching. For example: If your child tends to get in trouble with markers, only give him access to markers when he or she is supervised. Control the environment. How does that translate to creating thoughtful consumers who aren't driven by clever marketing and peer pressure? Well, friends, my Littles don't watch live television, so they aren't subject to all of those commercials for all the shiny crap that most other kids are convinced they have to have. That's a BIG part of how my family and my parenting works. If this isn't an option for you, it's gonna be harder for you to live a life outside the box. (See what I did there?)
Plus, there's this...
My Littles think kids who are caught up in brand names and shiny things are misguided goofballs parented by mindless adults who have screwed up priorities. You know why? I raised them up thataway. They generally aren't friends with kids who place a ton of importance on material things.
Don't get the gimmes
When the Teenager was very little, a friend shared a Bernstein Bears' book with us entitled "Get the Gimmes." The whole idea is for the little bears not to nag their parents for everything they see when they're shopping. I rarely have to say it now, but you may hear me remind my family not to get the gimmes when we are out shopping. That phrase means the "gimme, gimme, gimme" attitude that plagues are culture will not plague our family. Don't get the gimmes is a message for any time and anywhere.
Shopping isn't a sport... okay, it kinda is.
We don't shop like other people shop and we don't spend a ton of time in "regular" stores or malls. We spend time in thrift stores because it's enjoyable to us, but even then, it's not like a crazy amount of time. This is a little like controlling the environment. We just don't spend a ton of time in stores and when we're there, the Littles haven't been inundated with commercials or pressured by their friends to buy the latest doodad crap littering the shelves.
Teaching the value of a dollar
Everyone knows that I don't pay retail for anything. It's a family joke/source of pride/plain old fact of life. My Littles learned early on how to shop for a bargain; what to buy new and what to buy used; and to treat each purchase with respect because they have a finite amount of funds. Even my little-Little who is 7 years old can appreciate how much something costs and can weigh the pros and cons of making a purchase on her own. I think when children are taught these skills, there's a lot less gimme, gimme, gimme and a lot more thoughtful consumerism.
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