Raising Children on a Budget Part 1: Issues
We see it all the time, children throwing tantrums in stores because their parents refuse to buy them an item. Some parents give in so the child will stop crying, and others stand their ground and allow the child to scream all the way out the door. Raising children on a budget can be hard, gut-wrenching work. You don’t want to spoil them, but you also want them to experience a great childhood- so where is the line?
What matters most?
I went on a mission trip to Mexico one year and what I witnessed was amazing. The kids, severely impoverished, were the happiest, most fun-loving and grateful children I’ve ever encountered. In retrospect of my own childhood, the toy I remember most was a secondhand electronic jeep without a battery. My little sister and I would ride in it while my two brothers pushed. It’s funny, but that is one of the fondest memories I have with my siblings. This proves that it doesn’t take the newest gadgets and toys to create a happy childhood for your children.
As a parent you’re responsible for providing basic material needs, consistently giving children more and more after that doesn’t do them any good. The iPads and Playstations aren’t what really matter, family relationships, the emotional tone of the home, quality time spent together and positive interactions are the most important factors.
Research has shown that we appreciate things most when we wait, work and save for them. Teaching your children how to have a balanced and reasonable view of what they need will help you stick to a budget and start saving.
Many parents overcompensate for what they didn’t have growing up by buying their children the latest name brand fashions, newest toys, gadgets and video game systems and likely digging themselves into debt. Overcompensating, more often than not, does more harm than good because children begin to expect material things and become unappreciative. It also deprives them of the chance to build the skills they need to navigate life’s ups and downs, like budgeting, money management and financial responsibility.
Our society in general is very materialistic, and we tie happiness to our possessions. We’re so happy with a new purchase, but when the shine fades the longing resurfaces; it’s a cycle that plagues both children and adults. How to avoid materialism goes back to what matters most- the non-material parts of life.
In his article Parents and Children’s Material Needs Dr. Jeremy Shapiro said, “Something as basic as old-fashioned, sit-down family dinners –which have been shown to lower depression and improve school performance in children – do more for kids than Xbox and designer jeans put together.”
A great tip to help children become appreciative of what they have is to volunteer together. This Children’s Volunteering Resource Guide will help find opportunities for you and your children. Volunteering teaches compassion also, so when they realize how fortunate they are they may have the urge to donate some of their toys and clothes. That would be one proud moment for most parents.
Limit the advertisements
According to the sociologist Juliet Schor, the average 10-year-old has memorized about 400 brands. Commercials and branding efforts now directly target your children because they significantly control your spending by pleading and whining, and according to Schor, children lack the critical thinking skills necessary to resist advertising’s influence, so they’re no match for sophisticated marketers.
Try to limit your children’s TV watching to one or two hours a day at most. If they’re used to watching a lot more, introduce the new rules with positive interactions like crafts, board games or outdoor family activities. Also, talk to them about the commercials and shows they are watching, explaining marketing ploys and helping them grow into educated and sophisticated consumers.