It’s no secret that our society is obsessed with materialism. From the moment we’re born, we’re bombarded with messages telling us that if we want to be happy, we need to buy things. As a result, many children grow up believing that the only way to be content is to have lots of toys and other possessions.
But does having more stuff make us happier? According to a growing body of research, the answer is no. In fact, studies have shown that people who are grateful for what they have are actually happier than those who focus on acquiring more things.
So how can parents raise grateful children in a materialistic world? It’s not easy, but it can be done. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Model gratitude yourself
The best way to teach your children to be grateful is to model gratitude yourself. Our kids are watching what we do – and how we show up daily is the biggest thing our kids learn from us. This can be one of the hardest things to do because it may mean slowing down and being intentional with your time and your family. Thank your spouse or partner for doing something nice for you. Write thank-you notes after receiving gifts or acts of kindness. Express your appreciation for the good things in your life, both big and small. When you model gratitude, your children will learn that it is important and will be more likely to express gratitude themselves.
2. Help them see beyond stuff
One of the best ways to combat materialism is to help your children see that there are things in life that are more important than stuff. Spend time together as a family doing activities that don’t cost any money but are nonetheless enjoyable, such as hiking, playing games, or visiting a playground. Talk about why these things are important and help your child see that there are many things in life that money can’t buy. If your kids have a lot of toys then now might be a good time to declutter the toy bins and get rid of unwanted household items.
3. Encourage acts of kindness
Another way to fight materialism is to encourage acts of kindness. This will foster gratitude and grow your child’s compassion and empathy. Teach your child how good it feels to do something nice for someone else, without expecting anything in return. Help them brainstorm ideas for acts of kindness they can do and then provide opportunities for them to put their ideas into action. For example, you might have them make cards for people who are ill or send care packages to deployed soldiers through Operation Gratitude at www.operationgratitude.com.
4. Limit their exposure to advertising online
One way to reduce materialism is by limiting your child’s exposure to advertising and marketing messages that tell them all the stuff they need to be happy. First, limit screen time. Regardless of age, children need limits & guidelines for screentime. Also, monitor their media consumption and make sure that the programs they watch and the websites they visit are appropriate for their age group. You might want to consider using an ad blocker so they aren’t exposed to ads when they’re using the internet. Our personal preference is Bark – and right now you can get $25 off after you free trial when you use this link.
5. Decrease your shopping trips
Avoid taking them shopping unless it is necessary so that they aren’t bombarded with advertising messages while you are out and about. When you do go to the store, plan your shopping trips and stick to a list so you don’t end up browsing the store. I’m a big fan of the
6. Get plugged into church
One of the most important things you can do to raise grateful kids is to get plugged into a local church. Church provides a great community for kids to grow up in, learn biblical values and ultimately help your family grow closer to God.
7. Volunteer as a family
Volunteering is a great way to teach kids about gratitude. When you volunteer, you are helping others and making a difference in your community. And when you do it as a family, it can be a fun and bonding experience. There are many different ways to volunteer, so find an opportunity that is a good fit for your family.
8. Don’t give them everything they want
If you give your children everything they want, they will never learn to be grateful for what they have. It’s important to teach them to be thankful for the things they have and not take them for granted. One way to do this is to set limits on how much stuff they can have and what kinds of things they can have. For example, you might limit the number of toys they can have so they learn to appreciate each one more. Or you might not get them the latest video game console or device so they learn to be content with what they have.
9. Foster a spirit of giving in your home
You can do this by teaching your children the value of giving to others. Encourage them to donate their old clothes and toys to charity or to give gifts to less fortunate people. You can also model giving by donating your own time, money, and possessions to those in need.
10. Help them find other sources of happiness
Finally, help your child find other sources of happiness in other places besides stuff. Encourage them to pursue their interests and hobbies and to find things that make them happy outside of material possessions. Spend time with them doing things they enjoy and help them find ways to have fun that don’t involve spending money.
It isn’t always easy to raise grateful children in a materialistic world, but it is possible. By following some of these ideas you can instill in them a healthy attitude of gratitude that will serve them well throughout their lives.
What are some ways you’re already reducing materialism in your family? Share your tips in the comments below.