Dr Richard C. Woolfson
There are few things a child this age would rather do than head to the shopping mall to buy the latest gadget, the newest trainers, the coolest clothes or the most fashionable sports item.
And these don’t come cheap. Children this age also want the real thing, not the look-alikes without the designer names. The demand for materials goods by kids drives parents to distraction.
For many families, however, money is tight these days. But your child was probably just as demanding when the economy was strong. This materialism is fuelled partly by the media. Naturally, she wants what she sees advertised because these promotions make the products extremely exciting and desirable.
Her materialism is also partly fuelled by peer group pressure. Your six-year-old doesn’t want to be teased by her pals because she doesn’t have the latest toy or the cartoon character sandals. And chances are it’s also partly fuelled by you. Don’t you feel good knowing you have a big enough income to give your child what she wants?
Making the change
Be honest with your child. She’s old enough to understand basic economics – she watches television and hears the news on the radio. At the age of six, your child has some grasp of the real world.
Explain that you just can’t afford all the wonderful toys, clothes and gadgets that you’d like to buy for her. Try not to present a picture that is too depressing, however, or she may start to worry about the basics in life, such as where her next meal will come from or about the roof over her head. Give her some insight into the financial realities without terrifying her with the prospect of poverty.
But don’t expect your six-year-old’s materialism to vanish completely. She’ll still want the latest accessories, even if she realises her requests might not always be successful. So your first response when she asks you for a new item should be to ask why she wants it.
This forces your child to think more deeply about her motives, and also gives you a starting point for further discussion. You may find that she already has an older version of the same gadget and conclude that this is good enough for now.
Try to reach a compromise at times. For instance, tell her that she can’t have this particular item because you bought her something new last week.
Remind her of those recent purchases. She won’t like it, but if you adopt this strategy consistently, she’ll gradually realise that sometimes she gets what she asks for, and sometimes she won’t. It’s also worth pointing out that many (maybe all) of her friends’ families are in the same boat.
If your child is terribly keen to have the new accessory, suggest that she pays for part of the item with her hongbao money. Or recommend that she earn an allowance from doing extra chores, which she can put aside to help meet the cost of her next “I want”.
(Photo: Александр Савченко/123RF.com)