Monday 5 December 2016

Are parents today succumbing too much to children's demands for the latest clothes, toys and gadgets?

Children learn valuable life lessons when parents learn not to give in to their every demand, writes Olivia Willis

Olivia Willis

Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30

Do parents today think it is necessary for modern children to have it all to be socially accepted?
Do parents today think it is necessary for modern children to have it all to be socially accepted?
Saying ‘no’ is an important lesson in life which could help ensure our children are prepared for when they’re much older and have to make ends meet for themselves. Picture posed. Photo: Getty Images/Blend Images

Are parents today succumbing too much to their children's demands for the latest and greatest clothes, toys and gadgets whenever they ask for them? Are you nodding in agreement right now?

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Maybe it's because mums and dads feel guilty for working long hours. Perhaps it's because they think they don't want their children to be bullied at school for not having the latest 'must-have' item. Or could it be culture-borne? Perhaps we are all 'give in' parents now.

The kids are back to school and I bet there are a lot of parents who would quietly admit that they don't want to disappoint their children if they are under peer pressure at school to have the best of everything. The pressure to buy our children items because other children have them is very real.

As parents we are all naturally concerned about our kids having good, healthy friendships and feeling part of their peer group, both in and out of the playground. But do some parents think that they can help their child become more popular by providing them with the latest jerseys, computer games or figurines?

There will always be an endless supply of playground crazes and collectables, but does this have to mean an endless amount of expenditure by parents to match?

Personally speaking, I think this instant gratification culture could have consequences in the future as our kids will grow up without grasping the real value of money, or learning how to manage it effectively.

Saying ‘no’ is an important lesson in life which could help ensure our children are prepared for when they’re much older and have to make ends meet for themselves. Picture posed. Photo: Getty Images/Blend Images
Saying ‘no’ is an important lesson in life which could help ensure our children are prepared for when they’re much older and have to make ends meet for themselves. Picture posed. Photo: Getty Images/Blend Images

If we start giving in all the time when they are young, this trend will continue into their tween and teenage years. Right now the tweens and teens want the latest phones, games consoles and smart devices, but when our babies and toddlers are bigger, what's it going to be then?

Read more: Psychologist David Coleman on spoiled children: 'I think over-indulgence is an easy trap for parents to fall into'

I'll admit to spoiling my kids, and also admit that they are much more spoilt than I was at their age. In the past, my parents would only have treated my siblings and me to new toys and games for birthdays and Christmas.

But do parents today think it is necessary for modern children to have it all to be socially accepted?

As with many things in life, these quick fixes might provide a temporary solution to an issue, but it could also give rise to greater problems in the future.

Every day I see parents of young kids dressing them in the latest designer gear. Soon, without even realising it, they'll find out that they've unintentionally nurtured and grown their own demanding little fashionistas!

And what about pocket money? I've discovered that children as young as four are receiving more than €10 a week. That's over €500 per child a year! Where is the earning in this, and what can a child as young as four do to earn €500 a year?

Read more: Dear Mary: I cannot stand my demanding and spoiled adult stepchildren

It's not just toys, clothes and gadgets that parents feel under pressure to buy their kids. Birthday parties are getting more and more elaborate, even for very young children. Some families are throwing ostentatious parties just so they can have the same as their children's friends and acquaintances.

While peer pressure often has a big influence on a large portion of our society's purchasing decisions, so too is keeping up with the images that we are all (kids included) exposed to every day in the media.

Constant marketing of the latest 'must-haves' on TV, the internet and social media has helped fuel a 'keeping up with the Joneses' mindset which may be rubbing off on parents today. If you can't afford to buy them a certain something, guilt naturally ensues.

So don't give into the guilt, and try to see through this veil of consumerism and make an effort to release yourself from the pressure to buy. As parents, we know that saying 'no' can be really hard. Kids are persistent and nagging and annoying when it comes to trying to get what they want. And they know all about 'pester power'.

But saying 'no' is an important lesson in life which could help ensure our children are prepared for when they're much older and have to make ends meet for themselves.

Ask yourself, how important are fancy clothes? As part of building up their balance and strength, kids need to roll around and run a lot. This usually means worn-out knees and a few tears and rips, so don't waste your money.

Kids can learn a valuable lesson about getting off the consumerism bandwagon while they are at a very young age. Why would we want to burden them with the pressure to keep up with others?

How to cultivate a less-is-more attitude at home:

1. Reason with your kids. Explain how much you can afford and, maybe, give them a choice between having one thing or the other, but not both. Explain that they can only have one of them so put the ball in their court.

2. Consider buying second-hand. If they desperately want a new bike and you can't afford it, look on sites like Gumtree, Adverts or DoneDeal. For tiny ones, you might even find free stuff by keeping an eye on your local social media pages.

3. Explain the difference between wants and needs. For example, explain that "we all need food but you don't need the latest Messi boots, even if you really want them". Your child may not get it at first, but with persistence, they will.

4. Be a role model. Show that you can delay getting things so that they learn from you. For example, when you see something on the TV say, "Wow! That's a fantastic bike. I'm going to save up for it so that I can buy it someday."

5. Teach them to sometimes give and not have. Together pack up some of their old toys and clothes, and take them to a local charity shop. I was amazed at the reaction my eldest son had to giving to others who are less fortunate than him. He even started to explain to my pre-schooler how they both have to learn to appreciate all the things they own. It was magical!

** Olivia Willis is the co-founder of www.familyfriendlyhq.ie, an Irish family website with information for parents, family things to do, daily blogs, reviews, competitions and expert family advice

Irish Independent

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