“Mom, I’ve just got to have a new pair of shoes.” “But we just bought the ones you have last week.” “That’s right. They are so last week. No one is wearing these anymore. They’re lame.” Your child then proceeds to tell you how all his friends have these new shoes. He even mentions that they’ve made fun of him, saying he wears clown shoes.
Most parents have had some variation of this conversation with their children. Having the right clothes, accessories or electronic gadget can sometimes mean the world to our children. And dealing with those requests for the newest, latest, most popular can sometimes present a challenge for parents. We hate to think that something we’ve done, even something as innocuous as picking out shoes, could cause our child pain. But, at the same time, we know if we give in to every trendy whim we may be setting our children on a path that leads to enormous credit card bills and a life ruled by materialism.
Demands for new things open the door to talking about a number of character traits, including contentment and resourcefulness. Contentment means realizing that true happiness does not depend on material conditions. Being resourceful means finding practical uses for things others would overlook or discard. Putting these traits into action
is not only good for our relationships; it is also good for our planet.
The never-ending demand for newer, better, faster has taken a toll on the earth’s resources and the factories that churn out the products also raise pollution levels.
In her book, Living Simply with Children, author Marie Sherlock cites research that indicates the creature comforts available to Americans today may actually be contributing to discontentment. In a 2007 study, 30% of participants considered themselves very happy. This is down from 35% in 1957. She goes on to say, “Research shows that those individuals who value helping their communities, being close to people, growing as a person, and making the world a better place experience more well-being and a higher quality of life than those who don’t value these things.”
Some parents may worry that by curbing materialism, their children may suffer. Sherlock insists that just the opposite is true. “Children need love and time more than anything else. Toys break and get boring…. Give them yourself. They don’t really need a whole lot more than that.”
To read more about contentment and resourcefulness, check out Living Simply with Children: A Voluntary Simplicity Guide for Moms, Dads, and Kids Who Want to Reclaim the Bliss of Childhood and the Joy of Parenting by Marie Sherlock.
Teen readers will enjoy Flush by Carl Hiaasen, author of Holes. Pollution and the environment take center stage in this mystery adventure set in the Florida Keys. And remember, borrowing these books from the library is a great way to be resourceful.
Gayleen Rabakukk is a freelance writer who spends her time in Edmond keeping up with her teenage and preschool daughters.