"I want my kids to have the things I never had." How many of us have said this repeatedly in our head or out loud to our spouse? It's only natural, but sometimes our desire not to get our kids upset (and avoid that guilty feeling) can often mean buying that new toy even when he doesn't need it. We probably can't help it because, as clinical psychologist Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of The Conscious Parent, puts it, “We have learned and we have been conditioned to fill our void with things -- all things beautiful so we can feel whole and complete.”
In an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul Sunday, Dr. Tsabary says parents probably don’t even realize they're passing on this desire for material things to their kids. That's why we need to keep in mind that “children don't come into this world longing for things,” Dr. Tsabaray pointed out.
Instead, Dr. Tsabaray expounded, true value can be found in meaningful experiences with loved ones, not in shiny new gadgets. How do you achieve this? By being a fully present parent, said Dr. Tsabaray.
You have in your hands an upset child because you can't or don't want to buy him a new toy. What you do, explained Dr. Dr. Tsabaray, is “instead of entering a place of guilt, we could enter a state of full-on presence and say ‘I can compensate through my presence.’ That can be the most valuable gift you can give your child.”
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Avoid empathizing and mirroring your child’s sadness when the family budget doesn’t allow for a new gadget. Spend quality bonding time instead. It sends the message that you value them, and you find happiness in being together. This way, you show her that true intangible worth lies in people and experiences.
“Your child may not realize it then, but you are building his sturdy inner foundation,” concluded Dr. Tsabaray. Material possessions can be replaced; it's not the case with friendships and memories. It's why investing in an experience like a family vacation is worth it. You're building memories that they will take to their adult life.
1. Instill gratitude. Materialism happens when a person looks for happiness outside of himself and towards things that can be bought -- which comes from a feeling of dissatisfaction and unhappiness, explainedNancy Shah, a psychologist specializing in parenting. “If we focus on creating kids who are happy and fulfilled, by definition, they won’t be materialistic.”
A good way to practice gratitude with the kids is to ask them to name three things they’re grateful for every day, she suggested. 2. Reward with experience and memories. For hard work and achievements, instead of promising a trip to the toy store, reward your child with an activity instead, Fran Walfish, a child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond With Your Child told LearnVest.
These can include a visit to a children’s museum, a day at the park, a family picnic or even a day out with her favorite cousin. Your child will learn to value interactions with loved ones and grow a fondness for trying new experiences.
3. Role model. As it is with parenting, our kids learn a lot from how we live our lives. Monkey see, monkey do. If you want your child to not grow up with an unquenchable itch for the latest iPhone, you have to keep from doing the same as well.
Little things matter too. Avoid envious comments on a neighbor’s new sports car or a relative’s extravagant clothes, especially when you're within earshot from your child.