This is an excerpt from Dare to Discipline by Dr. James Dobson. I really need to put this down and take a minute to really soak it in because it just MIGHT be a problem in my home.
*pink text represents my personal input
4. Don't saturate the child with materialism.
Despite the hardships of the Great Depression, at least one question was then easier to answer than it is today: how can I say no to my child's materialistic desires? It was very simple for parents to tell their children that the couldn't afford to buy them everything they wanted; Dad could barely keep bread on the table. But in more opulent times, the parental task becomes less believable. It takes considerably more courage to say, "No, I won't buy you Wanda Wee-Wee and Baby-Blow-Her-Nose," than it did to say, "I'm sorry but you know we can't afford to buy those dolls."
A child's demand for expensive toys is carefully generated through millions of dollar spent on TV advertising by the manufacturers. The commercials are skillfully made so that toys look like full-sized counterparts: jet airplanes, robot monsters, and automatic rifles. The little consumer sits open mouthed in utter fascination. Five minutes later he begins a campaign that will eventually cost his dad $84.95 plus batteries and tax.
The trouble is, Dad often can afford to buy the new item, if not with cash, at least with his magic credit card. And when three other children on the block get the coveted toys, Mom and Dad begin to feel the pressure, and even the guilt. They feel selfish because they have indulged themselves for similar luxuries. Suppose the parents are courageous enough to resist the child's urging; he is not blocked-grandparents are notoriously easy to "con." Even if the youngster is unsuccessful in getting his parents or grandparents to buy what he wants, there is an annual, foolproof resource: Santa Claus! When Junior asks Santa to bring him something, his parents are in an inescapable trap. What can they say, "Santa can't afford it"? Is the jolly fat man in the red suit really going to forget and disappoint him? No, The toy will be on Santa's sleigh.
Some would ask, "And why not? Why shouldn't we let our children enjoy the fruits of our good times?" Certainly I would not deny boys and girls a reasonable quantity of the things they crave. But many American children are inundated with excesses that work toward their detriment. It has been said that prosperity offers a greater test of character than does adversity, and I'm inclined to agree.
There are few conditions that inhibit a sense of appreciation more than for a child to feel he is entitled to whatever he wants, whenever he wants it. It is enlightening to watch as a boy or girl tears open stacks of presents at a birthday party or perhaps at Christmas time. One after another, the expensive contents are tossed aside with little more than a glance. The child's mother is made uneasy by his lack of enthusiasm and appreciation, so she says, "Oh Marvin! Look what it is. It's a little tape recorder! What do you to Grandmother? Give Grandmother a big hug. Did you hear me, Marvin? Go give Grams a big hug and kiss."
Sadly that scenario is almost word for word an issue in this house, mainly with the Scientist.
Marvin may or may not choose to make the proper noises to Grandmother. His lack of exuberance results from the fact that prizes which are won cheaply are of little value, regardless of the cost to the original purchaser.
There is another reason that the child should be denied some of the things he thinks he wants. Although it sounds paradoxical, you actually cheat him of pleasure when you give him too much. A classic example of this saturation principle is evident in my household each year during the Thanksgiving season. Our family is blessed with several of the greatest cooks who ever ruled a kitchen, and several times a year they do their "thing." The traditional Thanksgiving dinner consists of turkey, dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, hot rolls, two kinds of salads, and six or eight other dishes.
Prior to my heart attack in 1990, I joined my family in a disgraceful but wonderful gastronomic ritual during the holiday season. We all ate until we were uncomfortable, not saving room for dessert. Then the apple pie, pound cake, and fresh ambrosia were brought to the table. It just didn't seem possible that we could eat another bite, yet somehow we did. Finally, taut family members began to stagger away from their plates, looking for a place to fall.
Later, about three o'clock in the afternoon, the internal pressure began to subside and someone passed the candy around. As the usual time for the evening meal arrived, no one was hungry, yet we had come to expect three meals a day. Turkey and roll sandwiches were constructed and consumed, followed by another helping of pie. By this time, everyone is a bit blank-eyed, absent-mindedly eating what they neither wanted nor enjoyed. This ridiculous ritual continued for two or three days, until the thought of food became rather disgusting. Where as eating ordinarily offers one of life's greatest pleasures, it loses its thrill when the appetite for food is satisfied.
Totally relating to that. You?
There is a broader principle to be considered here. Pleasure occurs when an intense need is satisfied. If there is no need, there is no pleasure. (memorizing this chant for the testing times ahead lol) A simple glass of water is worth more than gold to a man dying of thirst. The analogy to children should be obvious. If you never allow a child to want something, he never enjoys the pleasure of receiving it. (more to chisel in my mind as reference) If you buy him a tricycle before he can walk, a bicycle before he can ride, a car before he can drive, and a diamond ring before he knows the value of money, he accepts these gifts with little pleasure and less appreciation. How unfortunate that such a child never had the chance to long for something , dreaming about it at night and plotting for it by day. He might have gotten desperate enough to work for it. The same possession that brought a yawn could have been a trophy and a treasure. I suggest that you show your child the thrill of temporary deprivation; it's more fun and much less expensive.
There is more on this topic in the book, Check it out if you liked what you read. :)
The Scientist never responds to doing something (such as a chore) for a prize. All he needs to do is wait until our monthly trip to the Dollar Tree where it's so easy for me to say "Pick out one thing each" at a total of a mere $3 for me, and he gets a prize for doing nothing. I've noticed a few signs recently that this has become less of a "Thanks mom!" and more of an expected treat.
I think for our next trip to the Dollar Tree I am going to deny them each their item, not because I can't afford it or because I don't want them to have something fun, but because I am curious about the reaction, and wondering if any red flags will pop up alerting me that this problem is as serious as I fear it is. I do believe my oldest and youngest will pass with flying colors. Ms. Thang has matured a lot in the past couple of years and I believe she will have almost a "non reaction", the same goes for Cutecumber who is still too young and never begs for material things. But the Scientist...I think I'm going to have some work to do there. I really want to give the Scientist the experience of working hard and earning a reward he will appreciate.
I was extremely envious of a friend during the Christmas season for making a really low money limit per child for her Christmas budget. Her children receive many extravagant gifts from their grandparents (as do mine) and I really took something from her example and hope to emulate it soon. It's definitely an area I need to work on. I give my kids so much because I can. I don't want them to expect it. I need to be more aware of how they are reacting to material things and why.