GIVE ME…

                     GIVE ME…


Today's kids are really into stuff. Targeted by multi-million dollar marketing campaigns, kids are blasted from every angle with the same message: Buy more, spend more, have more.  According to Lois Morton, author of a series of Cornell University publications called Kids in the Marketplace, American children ages 4 to 12 spend some $9 billion annually and influence their parents to spend $130 billion; teens spend another $95 billion annually. Games, toys, CD players, clothes, skateboards, computers—you name it, they've got it.


Is it possible to raise well-adjusted, godly children when they are surrounded by materialism at every corner?


There's no doubt that kids are affected by materialism.   Often this is the case because they mimic behaviors they see in adults.    The important key is to take a look at ourselves and our families to review our level of materialist thinking.


An Epidemic

"I want what I want when I want it," seems to be the mantra among many young people today.  And Christians are not immune.


In a world that seems to revolve around money, Christian parents can have a tough time finding a balance between down-to-earth values and the comfortable lifestyles we've grown accustomed to.    Our current economic crisis has made all families examine what is really important.   Yet, it's easy to justify giving our children the best.   We love our kids.   We want to share the good things we have with our kids. Who wouldn't want that?

Many parents equate love with what they give their children.  Some would go as far as to say that if their children do not have everything they want then they are not loving them enough.  As I grow older, I am realizing it is not so much what things I give my children, but what I do not give them that better defines my love for them.


At the same time, many Christians feel guilty for living in relative wealth when so many of God's people live in poverty.   Many parents give gifts to their children because society expects us to, not because they need that new tricycle or that doll.


A Christian Perspective

Many Christians often assume that anything to do with money is evil, and yet we are as motivated by financial success as anyone.


In fact, the Bible is filled with verses that warn against the love of money, not against money itself.  It's our attitude that needs watching, not our bank balance. While Scripture is clear that we're to store up our treasures in heaven rather than on Earth (Matt. 6:19-20), it's also clear, especially in the Old Testament, that God often chooses to bless his people with material wealth. "The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy," says Abraham's servant in Genesis 24:35. "He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys."


Even though money and material possessions are not evil in and of themselves, it's easy for them to become central to our everyday lives. The real challenge for parents is to instill in our children an attitude of contentment for all they have, as well as the belief that their joy and happiness come from God, not from a cool bike or the latest video game. And that's not easy.


In this day and age, it's critical that we give our kids the tools they need to develop good attitudes about money and responsible spending, and I think it starts with the parents.


A Cure

If you feel like your family is caught in the spending trap, try these ideas for teaching balance and responsibility.   These are not completely original with me but were collected from several magazines mixed with some of my own practices.


Be a role model. Kids are quick to pick up their parents' attitudes toward money. Track your own spending habits for a month, then determine how much of your money is going to wants as opposed to needs. Through your example, your children will learn that having money doesn't necessarily mean you need to spend it.


Talk about money, a lot. Discuss finances with your kids, even if they seem too young to understand the finer points. Don't be afraid to admit the mistakes you've made in your own life.


Watch TV.  Sit with your kids for a half hour one Saturday, and you'll be amazed at the number of advertisements targeted directly at them. Glow-in-the-dark toothbrushes that sing, funky purple tennis shoes that magically transform into inline skates, plastic puppies that eat, sleep, and make messes just like the real thing—my kids are fascinated by it all.   As we watch the commercial they get a warning about how those things are not as good as they are in the commercials. 


Turn off the TV. You can't isolate your kids completely from all the cool gadgets begging for their attention, but you can keep the sales pitches out of your home, and this is one way to do it.


Shop with your kids. Use your weekly trip to the grocery store as an object lesson.  One magazine article recommended before you go, have the kids clip coupons and help write the grocery list.  Once you're at the store, talk to them about the purchases you make.  Compare the prices, quantities, and value of each item and work together to make wise purchases.   Sometimes you have to allow them to make their own mistakes and learn from the consequences.  Let your daughter buy that cheap plastic necklace even though you know it will be broken by bedtime. She'll soon learn not to spend her money on things that won't hold up.


Take advantage of special occasions. If your son has been begging for the latest  game or designer jeans, have him add it to his birthday or Christmas list.  This way, he appreciates the item more and learns a lesson in patience as well.


Give them a job.  I am not big on paying kids for their chores, but find something they can do for you.  While your child is not making much money, he is motivated to keep working because he sees his savings account growing each week. Even small jobs, gives kids a sense of pride, self-discipline, and a work ethic.


Set limits. If your daughter needs a new pair of jeans, decide on an amount that you feel is reasonable for the purchase, say $30. If your daughter has her eye on a pair of $50 brand-name jeans, give her the $30 and require her to earn the difference. This puts the power in her hands. She has to decide if the jeans are really worth the extra work and cash.


Go through the toy box. My kids and I go through their toys twice a year, usually before birthdays and Christmas. We box up the toys they no longer use and we give them away. 


Teach them to tithe their money … Encourage your children to give 10 percent of their allowance or job earnings.


Give your time. Get the whole family involved in community outreach. Deliver food baskets, clean up litter in your neighborhood, or spend some time at a local nursing home or homeless shelter. As your children learn to contribute to their community, they'll also learn lessons in compassion, gratitude, and selflessness.