A couple of years ago, I came across an article on treehugger about how certain parenting styles lead to more materialistic adults. I naturally clicked over, because hey, I wanted to know what sort of gluttonous parenting was causing a spike in materialism in the later years. Honestly, I was a little bit shocked to read the three parenting tactics that were supposedly leading to the need for grown children to surround themselves with stuff:
- “Using gifts as a reward when children have accomplished something, such as good grades or making a team.”
- “Giving gifts as a way of showing affection.”
- “Taking away gifts or favorite toys as a way to punish children.”
I have honestly done all of these at some point in my tenure as a parent. Every. Single. One. I mean, Christmas and birthdays pretty much embody #2. I have taken away video game privileges and cell phone privileges. I have rewarded the kids with this or that for this or that.
It got me thinking, did I just send my kids speeding down a one way street to their debut on Hoarders? Ultimately, I think the answer is NO. I don’t think those actions alone lead kids into a pattern of over-consumption. I think consumerism is inherently built into our culture. We are encouraged to go forth and spend our almighty dollar. By in large, we don’t know what else to do with our time and money, except spend it on stuff. So, while I did use the stuff as parenting leverage, I’d like to hope that I also taught them the value of the work they put in to earn a dollar…and that I gave them ways to fill their time with activities instead of stuff. I’d like to hope that I balanced it all out with teaching them to be grateful for what they HAVE and not what they DON’T have.
It is easy to blame parenting for everything that goes wrong with us as adults, but I think in this case, the blame needs to be more broadly shared. Our over-materialistic tendencies comes from our economy requiring us to be in a state of constant growth and consumerism. We have learned to use stuff as a distraction to feeling bored, depressed, etc. Commercials convince us we will feel a certain way if we buy a certain thing. We are constantly bombarded with the latest and greatest stuff.
I guess my takeaway from the article is that the underlying cause of materialistic adults goes much deeper than three little parenting tactics. What do you think? Would changing these three parenting strategies change the product, or does the problem go deeper?