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HOW TO: Cut Back on Accumulating ‘Stuff’ With Your Family
Posted By Francia McCormack On April 11, 2010 @ 8:00 am In education,green family,parenting | 4 Comments
Saying no to ‘stuff’ is a hard thing to ask parents wanting the best for their children. But in a culture which equates purchasing things to being happy, parents need to stop, pause, and think about what they are teaching their children when they choose to buy, buy, buy more and more stuff, stuff, stuff. Accumulating seems to be the most favorite family time activity in many households. Ask yourself if items you’re considering are truly necessary purchases, or whether you could simplify situations and your life without spending money on ‘things.’ For your childrens’ development and best interest, here’s how to get a handle on your home’s stuff situation, and how to say “no” to too much stuff.
When we fill our homes with piles of stuff we think our kids need, we end up with households stocked with mindless kiddie accessories, most of which have nothing to do with the most important ways we relate to our children. We are going to have to take a minute, look around, and see how useful the things we buy to care for our children really are. It is fun to see the creativity people use to impress us to buy their products. The pictures look glamorous. The item seems high end. We know for sure certain parents will notice, maybe even envy, our choices. We believe we are doing the absolute best for our children. The truth is, we may inadvertently instilling in our children a sense of entitlement that psychologists point out may be harmful to them. “When almost all your energy is indiscriminately devoted to fulfilling your child’s desires, it’s no wonder that they’ll come to see the world as revolving around them. As such, they’re unlikely to give much consideration to the wants and needs of others,” says psychologist Leon Seltzer, PhD .
As parents striving to teach our children how to live well on this planet, we must instill in them healthy ideas about ownership and possession. As we teach them to conserve the planet, we must also teach them to conserve Mommy and Daddy’s pocketbooks. Remind them before entering a store what they last received and ask them when was the last time they played with it. Be clear that the goal of the outing is not to add to their plethora of things. The pretty, expensive toy that only holds their attention for a moment, just adds to the collection of instantly gratifying whatnots which clutter your house with toys rarely utilized.
“It’s not about the toy, it’s about what the child does with the toy. It’s much better to have one toy that the child plays with 10 different ways than the child has 10 different toys that the child plays with in one way,” says Pamela Paul , author of Parenting, Inc.  “One interesting thing is that the more buttons and batteries the toy has means the less sounds and noises the child is making. How are you pushing your child to be creative and teaching them to grow if their toys do everything for them?” Our guilt from hearing them complain of boredom sometimes urges us to change their state of discontent as soon as possible. We try to fix the problem. Most times, this is a problem they need to fix for themselves. If they are sitting around bored, eventually they will correct the situation on their own. If not, suggest tangible solutions to them besides, “Go play.” Remind them of the coloring book still unopened Aunt Sally gave to them for Christmas. Sometimes they just need a reminder of all the cool things waiting for them in their rooms or backyards.
Imagine what your child will be like as an adult. Imagine if you allowed your child to think that the best way to get what they want is to either buy it or have someone buy it for them. What if they believe that yelling or whining is the best way to get people to do as they are told? Imagine if we never taught our children how to share or give to others. We set them up to have fewer positive relationships down the road. We set them up to be that impossible person in the office everyone finds highly annoying. And that, of course, is not our goal. So we do have to step back and think about all the stuff accumulating in our lives and whether it represents the values we are trying to teach.
One of the biggest messages in the conservation and eco-friendly communities is about teaching others to go green. Many think that going green means forking over scarce finances for a cause unrelated to our everyday survival. We have to change that mentality by showing our neighbors and friends our green lifestyle isn’t an expensive feat. When we see the latest greatest gadget, widget, whatnot and thingamajig destined to make our life easier and our families happier, think about it before buying it. One tip for those who just love shopping, virtual shopping is a great way to get the buzz. I boast sometimes 50 items saved for later in my Amazon.com shopping cart. Some things sit there for months, a few years, because deep down, I don’t really need it or want it that badly. And when it just sits there, the need for the item slowly dissipates. And eventually, most of the items saved for later are deleted and forgotten.
We can see from the reality shows that we are a culture growing a clutter problem. We see it, we want it and we inevitably buy it. We no longer remember that we already have one just like it or that it is going to mess with the budget if it is purchased. And the message of conservation and restraint get lost in the pile of receipts. We all have lessons to learn in the financial crisis hitting our nation in these times of recession, foreclosures and unemployment. And we all can teach our children how we cope under such stress. Get creative. We find new ways of entertaining ourselves. We give those dog-eared books another read. Make shopping outings special and unique, not an every weekend extravaganza of new stuff. In the process of removing the excess stuff cluttering our lives, our minds and our relationships with our families will improve as well. And from us, our children will be learning the lessons we want them to take into adulthood. We don’t need a ton of stuff to be happy. We just need a healthy, life-sustaining planet and each other.
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 Leon Seltzer, PhD: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bloggers/leon-f-seltzer-phd
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 Pamela Paul: http://www.pamelapaul.com
 Parenting, Inc. : http://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Inc-Billion-Dollar-Business-Children/dp/0805089241/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269035212&sr=8-1
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