Is more “stuff” all our kids really want? Every time I see my neighbor’s kids, the first thing they do is show me their newest purchase. “Look, look,” they exclaim, “it cost…”
And many times, that’s it. Those kids will not look at that item again after they’ve shown it off. After the newness has worn off, they forget about it.
Want is the notion, the feeling, of not having enough. When we want something, it comes from a place of discontent and a feeling of lacking. Television commercials and other advertisements introduce us to a huge array of products that we never knew we needed. How is it that our children could live just fine before we knew about the existence of the newest toy, but now that they know about it, they just can’t live without it?
In Betsy Taylor’s book “What Kids Really Want that Money Can’t Buy,” Taylor discusses the research her organization, The Center for The New American Dream, has done into how consumerism is affecting what children really want. Taylor found that what kids want is just the big stuff in life. None of this Christmas season’s hottest toys can replace family and friendships, a spiritual connection, more free time and time in nature, good health or just the feeling of being accepted.
Many times, discussions with kids around purchases involve finances. We tend to focus on how much a toy costs and use that to teach our children the value of money. Instead, Taylor suggest that we go beyond the retail price of buying a toy and discusses the larger picture of purchases with our kids.
Put It In Context: Time, Environmental Impact and Inequality.
By discussing the work that went into creating a toy, from raw material, to manufacturing, to appearing on the store’s shelf and the transportation and resources used during this process, buying your children a toy is put into a larger context. This is information many of us might not initially know, but that we’ll find out when we have to explain it to the kids. Set this one Christmas toy purchase on the backdrop of the systems that were created to make it and thus, it’s impact on the rest of the world.
Kids love nature and are sensitive to environmental problems like pollution and fuel usage. This Christmas, show the kids how that “must-have” toy is impacting the environment. From the factory that may have been used to make it to the iridescent wrapping paper, every toy has an environmental footprint.
Finally, kids are especially sensitive to fairness and inequality. Explain how fortunate American kids are compared to those elsewhere. By focusing on how much more we already have, kids are less likely to feel deprived and more likely to shorten up that Christmas toy list.
Giving Kids a Real Gift This Christmas
Scaling back on buying toys doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate Christmas. On the contrary, use the Christmas holiday as a way to give kids some peace of mind, and the gift we all really want; love.
Create holiday rituals that go beyond a frantic rush to a pile of presents under the tree. Create anticipation and appreciation with an advent calendar. Enjoy an outdoor experience like ice skating or going for an after dinner walk together. Volunteer with the kids to help those less fortunate. Create rituals where you take time to share a real closeness with your children. Most of all, for those toys you do decide to buy, buy consciously, keeping in mind the larger impact that your purchase will make on the world this Christmas season.
http://www.newdream.org/newsletter/100holiday.phpby Bill McKibben The Center for the New American Dream. Hundred Dollar Holiday
What Kids Really Want that Money Can’t Buy, Tips for Parenting in a Commercial World by Betsy Taylor. Time Warner Books; New York. 2003