Friday, January 29, 2010

Do you have what it takes to turn off that TV???

8 year-old: But moooom.. I proooomised  you that I will give away 3 stuff animals if you just get me this really cute one!
Me:  Sweetheart, you already have at least 10 different puppies and you don't even play with them!
8 year-old:  But this one is soooo much cuter than the other ones! Pleeeease! I would do anything to get this one!(as the pitch on the voice gets higher and whinier!)
Me: The answer still is no. I told you we are not buying another stuff animal for you. We have to be very responsible with our money, you know? It's very important  to make good choices and I am choosing to use our money differently.
8 year-old: You are such a meanie! I wish I was the mommy and I could tell YOU how to spend the money!

From then on, it was sigh after sigh, rolling of the eyes and finally crying. You get the picture, right? I thought to myself: "how old do kids need to be before you can leave them
in the car by themselves?” I took a deep breath and remember Rule#1: Only one of you can be having a meltdown at a time. I took another deep breath: Rule#2: Never forget rule#1.

I decided to be curious instead of angry. She knew I wasn't happy with her response and I let her know that there would be consequences once we got home: No television or playing Wii for today.  I had to seriously wonder, where was this constant need for material stuff coming from? It seemed like every day she was wanting more and more things, regardless of the fact that I continued to make trips to the local thrift store to unload things she no longer uses! Why were we not able to go anywhere without her asking for me to buy something? My husband and I have been really mindful about not getting caught in competing with neighbors and friends and remind each other regularly of all the blessings we have to be thankful for.

Then it finally hit me: I had been allow this impressionable 8-year-old to have unsupervised TV in the last 3 weeks as I spend time in search of a part-time job. I had stopped sitting with her while she watched TV and reminding her how the advertising agencies wanted to make sure to create in her head the idea that she needed all these things she saw in the commercials. I had gotten complacent about my responsibility to guide my child through the maze that is discerning what she needs vs. what she wants when she's bombarded every 7 minutes with the call to shop for something new!

I came across a statistic that says that the average American child is expose to forty thousand advertising messages each year and that corporations spend nearly $15 billion annually to market to kids under 12! Doesn't that blow your mind? Our children are the proverbial "canary" in the coal mine and as I lost my way (temporarily) focusing on the immediate needs, she was there to remind me. It was clear that I had missed the mark this time so I decided that it was time to cut back on the amount of time she spends in front of the TV!

As a family, we also decided to do a gratitude journal: More than going around the table and telling each other what we were grateful for, we each are going to write 5 things EVERY night that we were grateful for. Whenever we are disappointed or feel we don't have all the "bells and whistles" we want, we will take a minute and look at the list. I know.. It sounds so simple yet, it really speaks to refocusing our attention to what really matters: our family and friends!

I invite you to start right now asking your kids what they are grateful for and what makes them happy. I be you it won't be "things". Share Suze Orman's mantra: PEOPLE, MONEY and THEN things!

I'd love to hear how you handle the materialistic impulses of your children! 


  1. We had an episode similar to this recently, wanting something, tears, etc. A bit frustrating considering Christmas was only a month ago! I wanted to give my child the opportunity to still have the item so my answer was that he EARN it. A reasonable allowance, not so small that it takes a year to earn enough to by anything...and a doable amount of age-appropriate chores. Now he's calculating long it will take to earn the item...and we'll see once I ask him to take out the garbage, how much he really wants that toy! I hope he follows through. I have an amazing friend that when she gives her son an allowance, 25% has to be saved, 25% goes to the charity of the child's choice and 50% goes toward whatever the child would like. Saving, giving back and a little treat--I thought that was a great balance. :)

  2. Thank you Jodie!! I think you are on the right track with "earning" the money he needs to get what he wants.. It's a little taste of real life, don't you think? There's some critical thinking, some math and some lesson in patience and perseverance!!
    At home we have a few paid chores not many. Just like your friend, we also divide her allowance money into 3: give, share and spend. There's an excellent little saving box called the Moonjar that helps starting with saving that way.. When we open our account at our local credit union, they even gave us another one!
    I guess the bottom line is responsibility and accountability and it sounds to me like you are instilling both on your son!! Great job!!
    Thanks for sharing Jodie!!

  3. We have SO got to start the gratitude journal! We have enough of them around here, it really wouldn't be hard to start.

    What got me thinking is so often we have discussions with our children when "NO" needs to mean "NO." Not let's discuss the situation. It's the 123 Magic approach I guess. I find myself engaged in a discussion with my 9 or 6 yo when I don't need to be.

    Good observation on your part about the tv and how it impacts our children. I'm guilty of that one, too. Let me know how the gratitude journal goes.

    Just told my kids about the gratitude son asked if he could do more than 5 things. This may go well. :-)

  4. That's exciting Lara!!! I have to say that the whole gratitude journal seems to be working.. at least right now!
    And I agree... I figured that if I was to engaged with our 8yo in a discussion, the battle is already lost.. Amazingly, if I am not carefully, I can get "hooked" into trying to "reason" with her.. And then I remember, I AM THE PARENT!
    Thanks again for your insights!!