Several parents have approached me recently in hopes of gaining some assistance on how to discourage materialism within their children.
They share how they have read a variety of resources, including the articles from our website. They also speak of how they have had heart-to-heart talks with their children and stressed the importance not being materialistic, but using money as a "tool" for improving the lives of others, not as a "means" for self-gratification.
Usually, when our conversation gets to this point, I wait for the speaker to pause and ask, "What do you DO to discourage materialism within your child besides speak against it?"
Generally, when I present this question, I receive a blank stare and a long pause, followed by another blank stare.
The reality is that we cannot discourage materialism among our children if we do not consciously encourage a new focus for them. Our first step is to provide our children (and ourselves) with a concrete definition of materialism.
Onelook.com defines materialism as "a desire for wealth and material possessions with little interest in ethical or spiritual matters."
We must stress that wealth, in itself, is not wrong. Material possessions, in themselves, are not wrong. How and why we obtain wealth and material possesions is at the root of the materialism issue.
Now that we have defined what materialism is, we must take every opportunity to promote all that it is not.
As we work to establish and build upon the ethical and spiritual components of our children, we must also work to create a partnership with them so that they are active participants in this process. Ask them what they are seeing, hearing, and thinking.
We do not become strong ethically and spiritually overnight. Some of us are still strugglng within these areas. Why do we struggle and more importantly, how can we support our children in this area?
The answer is simple. We must take every opportunity to think, act, and speak in an ethical and spiritually appropriate manner in all circumstances, at all times.
Modeling materialism produces materialism. Modeling ethical and spiritual behavior, produces children with these character traits.
Yes, there will be times in which we and our children fall short, but we must continue to work toward an ethically and spiritually responsible mentality that guides every aspect of our lives, including our finances.
It is not necessary to put our efforts, as parents, in fighting the endless exposure to materialistic mentalities via t.v., radio, internet, clothes, cars, etc. Instead, in order to be truly effective and to equip our children for the realities of our society, we must cultivate and nuture that part that can have an ethically and spiritually rich existence inspite of what society promotes.
"Managing Money is a Matter of the Heart"
Kandise N. Lucas, Phd.