As parents, we always aspire to give our children much more than what we had or have and we always strive to do our best to make that happen. At the same time, we want to raise them to become well-behaved, respectful, responsible kids who can understand and appreciate the value of things they have. Getting this balance right is a tough task, especially for modern day parents. With rise of affluent societies and drastic changes in lifestyles, parenting has an all-new dimension today. In an affluent world of excess, teaching kids the value of things is a challenge for many of us.
If we look back into our own childhood, we can see how simple our lives were back then. Eating out was an occasional treat, and going for an exotic holiday an elusive dream. We could count the number of toys we owned and Oh! How precious they were! We shared the television with family (and neighbours!), just a couple of channels and limited number of shows. Theme parks we didn’t really know, but we had as much fun in our community parks! Yes, we had very limited options, but we were content with what we had.
Things have changed dramatically over the years. Today, we have a surplus of everything! From clothing to toys to electronics, there are far too many options for parents and children. We actually feel saddled by the numerous options we have today. When they ask for an eraser they get an entire box and when they ask for a bat, they get a kit! Exciting, but the excitement is short lived. There’s an aggressive lust for newer things as we are constantly bombarded with newer, better innovations every day. Things seem to grow old and outdated pretty soon. “Lifetime” doesn’t hold the same meaning anymore! Gone are the days when things would go out for repair; today, they find their way into the bin.
Well, as the world evolves, it’s prudent to adopt new lifestyles. Prosperity is always welcome as it opens up new horizons, brings in better opportunities and improves our living standards. But then, how do we protect ourselves and our children from becoming too casual and flippant? In today’s marketing world of excess, how can we successfully teach our children the value of things?
Here are a few practises that can perhaps make a difference:
Practice what you preach
Children learn from what we display rather than what we teach. They are constantly observing our practises and behaviours and any kind of inconsistency will encourage them to take our teachings for granted. We’re as vulnerable today as our children, so we need to get it right in the first place. We need to resist our urge to replace things frequently and we need to display how much we care for our belongings. We’ll end up confusing our children if we say one thing and do another.
Say NO when you want to say NO
Let children know that we may like many things but cannot have them all! Let them understand the difference between “wants” and “needs”, and why all their exuberant wishes cannot be fulfilled. A polite but firm “NO” will convey the message. Children should be able to face an occasional disappointment which helps them to become even-tempered. They will eventually learn to value what they have and become less snappy and adamant.
Be friendly not bossy
Imposing ourselves on our children will not work. Children are capable of thinking, reasoning and understanding; Lots of friendly and patient chats are what they need. We should be able to explain to our children that the things they possess are acquired from great toil, and so, they must take utmost care of their belongings. We can talk about the many underprivileged children in the world who don’t even have a fraction of what we possess. Everything we throw away or do not use may be precious to them. By talking to them time and again about the importance of money and other resources, we can help our children think and behave rationally.
Contributed by Dr. Lavanya K