Who makes a material world?

Today’s guest post os from Donna, who can be found rambling, ranting and generally sounding off at Mummy Central. She is the mum of two boys, wife of Mr G and in the top four funniest people in her household. You can say hello on Facebook or on Twitter

anti capitalist graffiti

The moaning has started at the school gates already.

With thoughts turning to Christmas shopping, it’s the usual stuff you hear at this time of year.

I just don’t know how I’m going to afford it.

We’ve bought out the entire toy shop.

I’ve never known such a spoiled child.

The general gist is the same.

Mums and Dads complaining about how much they are being forced to spend on their offspring.

My youngest son is still in nursery. My eldest is six. I’m not hanging out with the parents of demanding teenagers here.

Nor are we from a rough area, where kids carry knives, or hold guns to their parents’ heads.

Yet all of us blame our primary school children for brainwashing us into overspending.

Have we lost our baubles? Are we a few tinsel strands short of the full tree?

When I really think about it, and take a good long look around my children’s bedroom, there’s not that much stuff they’ve actually asked for.

Most of their toys are things I’ve seen and thought they’d like. Or I’ve tried to keep up with what their friends have.

Then I complain if I give them gifts they don’t play with.

And I know I’m not the only one.

My friend Emma is a single mum. Last year, when her son was five, she got him a Nintendo Wii with loads of games to play. He got an Xbox 360 at his Dad’s house.

This year, she’s told me she wants to cut back.

But I know what I’m like. I always wrap his presents – then worry that it doesn’t look like much, so I rush out and buy more.

In a year or two, I’m sure our kids will be writing lists as long as our overdrafts for mountains of stuff they want Santa to bring.

But I can’t help feeling we parents set the precedent, by piling up the goodies early on.

A report by UNICEF agrees that our kids don’t want half the stuff we buy them.

They want time, attention…

And probably an expensive toy as well, if you’re offering. But if you’re not, they’ll settle for the first two.

This study on materialism states: “We observed within UK homes a compulsion on the part of some parents to continually buy new things both for themselves and their children.

Boxes and boxes of toys, broken presents and unused electronics were witness to this drive to acquire new possessions, which in reality were not really wanted or treasured.

UNICEF found kids in Spain and Sweden scored higher for wellbeing than those in the UK. Yet parents in these two countries don’t cave in to the pressure to keep up with trends and status symbols – preferring to put the focus on quality, family time.

So what’s the answer for those of us who get caught up in a spiral of spoiling our sprogs?

One mum who has a son in Brodie’s class has a novel way of teaching her kids a lesson about materialism.

She allows her boy and his big sister to ask for three things each – and they don’t get one of them.

It’s to teach them that you don’t get everything you want in life,” she told me, as my jaw dropped to the floor.

It’s an admirable idea. But not one many parents could bear to carry through – we’re so worried about disappointing our little ones.

So listen, old habits die hard.

I’m not suggesting we can change our compulsions overnight.

But at the very least, let’s stop blaming our children for clearing out our bank accounts on Christmas gifts.

Because that little voice that guides you towards the pricey presents?

It’s got nothing to do with the little person you tuck into bed every night.

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6 responses

  1. Bravo! BRILLIANT post and I am literally cheering as I read this. I absolutely agree that the compulsion to buy up all the presents in the world is one we bring on ourselves. My daughter’s only two but I know she’ll be excited by all the presents and wanting more and more if I go down that road. Her main present this year is a second hand wooden doll’s house and furniture bought for £10 from Netmums nearly new board. I’ve made her some rainbow lettered crayons out of the broken bits of crayon at the bottom of the box plus she has a homemade outfit my mum’s made and a few other presents I’ve picked up throughout the year. I know that, for her, the most special thing about the day will be 100% attention from her mum and dad. She’ll love her presents but she won’t miss the plastic tat I’ve avoided this year. It’s not a competition who can spend the most and any money I do spend on her has to be something I know she’ll adore, not just something bought for the sake of keeping up with the latest trends and what other parents are buying!

  2. When I was growing up, Me, my brother and my sister would take it in turns to be allowed to ask Santa for one ‘big present. So one year I would get a bike, and my brither and sister would just get little things and then the next year my brother would get a computer etc etc…..we were always reeeeally excited in the run up to Christmas when it was our turn for the big present……it made it better that A. we were the only one getting the expensive gift and B. It was special as we didnt get it every year…..

  3. Great post. This is the first Christmas I’ll have with two children which has got me thinking more than usual about the volume of stuff it’s tempting to buy. I’ve decided to start a new household tradition – the ‘shared present box’ (might to think of a more catchy title!). I’m going to make a special box and each year my girls will find a present or two to share in it – hopefully it will nip any ‘mine, mine, mine’ tendencies in the bud (I can but try!). Will also be regifting some of their toys to their cousins and suggesting my sister does the same. Variety is the spice of life and all that!

  4. Couldn’t agree more; spot on. I have this battle every year with my husband who simply loves buying new big things for the girls. I would rather they had a modest number of things they would actually appreciate. I hope I win this year, I might just show him this post!

  5. I think you’re completely right Donna and it’s easier to be persuaded by what other children have, but if you haven’t got the cash, so be it. Time and love are more important and when you’re giving them that, they don’t play with all the other stuff anyhow!

  6. Love this :) in our family we always stress over what to buy our parents, brothers sisters and all that. I’m sure they do the same in return. This year the husband suggested that we take them out for a (cheap) meal instead as we remember good times together but not what presses we got. To our shock they all loved the idea and now we’re all just putting in for the one meal together as our gift to each other, way nicer :)

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