It’s the time of year when we talk about getting rid of clutter. There is so much ‘cred’ for kids in what they have, and it can be hard to persuade them to let things go.
There’s lots of information out there about cleaning our cupboards – if you haven’t used it for 2 years, throw it; if you categorise it, put it into containers and so on. But how about coming at it from the other side of the purchase?
As human beings we are hard wired to collect and gather ‘stuff’ to survive, such as food and wood so that we are warm and fed. However, some big marketing companies use (miss-use?) behavioural scientists who use their skills to increase the chance of hitting that ‘I want it/ I need it’ button in the brain when advertising their products. Fair enough, as adults we have cognitive defences, but kids don’t have many set up, and this makes them very open and susceptible to marketing. Fair enough? No, not really, they don’t stand much chance to defend against that ‘I want it / I need it’ button.
In fact a report on Children as Consumers by Calvert SL says “new stealth techniques can also undermine the consumer defences even of older children and adolescents”
So in a world of materialism and as our buying goes on and on, what can we do to help the kids?
We can start by being ‘behaviour changers’.
Neuroscience shows us that with application we can influence and change wiring in the brain. So, let’s start talking to the kids about what’s happening in the marketing. Explaining that the purpose of marketing and advertising is to MAKE them want something, so that we hand over our money and buy their products.
That if we can stop and THINK about what is wanted and why – if we already have similar things, the same thing, if we really like it that much, if we really need it, if it can really be afforded right now etc BEFORE reactively buying, it’s a great defensive strategy.
Look at your own spending habits
Whatever traits you see, you will probably see in theirs. Are there limits on your spending? Do you buy things or gifts at specific times like birthdays, or anytime according to your(?) fancy? Are there any encouragements for saving?
There is opportunity for qualities to be built here, by putting in some boundaries, encouraging the development of patience, and the satisfaction of achievement.
With the lessening of outright materialism, there is space for the inflow of value, for self and others.
If kids are positively encouraged to be grateful for what they have they become less materialistic. Gratitude induces sharing, so generosity joins the defensive strategy too. Generosity of mind spreads to generosity of actions, and children who are not so materially focused are more likely to develop a sense of the larger environment and be more open to conservation and recycling for example.
Last but not least in working together with kids to sort what can be thrown away and what stays is a great developmental tool, a chance for collaboration before they make the decision. When you’ve finished you can bring in social responsibility and take a trip to the local Op Shop together, where their previously loved toys can be loved all over again – just not in your space!
For guided meditations for children go to our Meditations page.