Why “Giving Not Getting” is Best for Kids

Posted by Phil

by Dr. Michele Borab

University of Minnestoa study shows hidden dangers of materialism for kids. Here is parenting advice to help you tone down the gimmes and stress giving.

If you ever had even the slightest bit of guilt about saying “No” to your kids materialistic whims during these next few weeks, you can kiss that guilt away. A University of Minnesota study confirmed what every parent has instinctively known deep down: We’re not doing our kids any favors by giving in to their every whim and spending urge. Profound eh?

Deborah Roedder John and Lan Nguyen Chaplin, the lead authors of the study (published in t Journal of Consumer Reasearch) found that materialistic kids are less happy, more anxious, feel less secure, have lower self-esteem, less able to handle adversity, and are less generous and charitable.

Wow! And if that doesn’t convince you to hide that ATM card, read on:

The study also found that materialistic kids have lower opinions of their parents and argue with them more.

So now all you need is a plan halt the gimmes, and stick to it! Just think of the benefits: You’ll be saving money, be less stressed, save hours not having to shop, and boost your kids’ self-esteem! Sounds almost too good to be true. And what a perfect time to start than during the holidays.

6 Tips to Tone Down the $$$$ and Tune Up the Giving

Now I’m not suggesting you do a complete about face and cut out the presents altogether. Every kid will be out waving white flags come Christmas morning. But here are a few tips to help you put a little less emphasis on the $$$$ (i.e. “getting”) and a little more on “giving” this season and still make things reasonable.

1. Give things that boost “togetherness.” Think of gifts you do “with” one another. Board games, certificates to a movie, skating rink, tickets to a concert, exercise equipment.

2. Set limits. Put a dollar limit on just how much you’re going to spend and stick to it.

3. Require prioritizing. Set a cap on the number of gifts per kid. But warn the kiddies ahead. Tell them to think through what they really, really want and need this year. They must prioritize their wish list into their top three (or whatever number) wants. Young kids can draw their wishes.

4. Get grandparents on board. Pass on your new policy to grandparents. Suggest they give presents that will nurture their relationship with their grandkids such as a trip together, a digital camera to exchange pictures. They could also contribute to the child’s college fund.

5. Nurture a strength or skill. Instead of giving a dozen items that end up in the closet, think of gifts that could nurture your child’s strength or talent like a musical instrument, art materials, or horse-back riding lessons.

6. Be a charitable family. Find a needy family your kids can “adopt” for the season and buy presents for; bake an extra batch of cookies for the lonely neighbor next door; go caroling to a nursing home.

There are dozens of ways to rethink the holidays so our kids can learn that the real spirit of the holidays is about Giving not Receiving.  What are you doing this year to bring back a “giving spirit”?

Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

For more Practical Parenting Advice follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba or refer to my daily blog, Dr. Michele Borba’ Reality Check. You can also find dozens of research-based and practical tips to raise strong kids from the inside out in my latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.


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