About Me

My photo
I am a stay-at-home mom of two sons, 12 and 10. I used to be an advertising manager. I love my new career and have thrown myself completely into it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Trying To Teach My Kids To Be Less Materialistic and More Grateful

This is a topic I've been struggling with for awhile and have talked to a lot of other moms about. My sons, like many other children, always want more stuff. They always want new lego sets, new DS games, new whatever they see on TV or hear about through their friends. It gets so bad that sometimes they want to go to the store to buy a new toy a week after they have received one. My husband and I have talked extensively about this and feel that they don't value enough what they do have. They are developing a sense of entitlement that is becomming troubling. We don't want them to grow up feeling entitled to get anything they want when they want it. We want them to be grateful for what they do have and not take it for granted. We also want to teach them that their comfortable lives are not what everyone experiences.

Like many parents, we always wanted to give our children many opportunities. We focused mainly on giving them experiences that would enrich them and also to introduce them to different activities so they could decide what their interests were. They have tried all kinds of sports and activities like soccer, tennis, swimming, softball, basketball, tae kwon do, guitar lessons, cello lessons, violin lessons, acting lessons, etc. We've also tried to broaden their horizons with different trips like taking them skiing, river rafting, going to Yosemite, Hawaii, the desert, etc. In addition to all of this, they have a number of aunts, uncles and grandparents who have always been very generous with them for holidays and birthdays.

My husband and I have talked to the boys about how fortunate they are and the fact that not everyone is so fortunate. I feel,though, that it goes in one ear and out the other - it just doesn't sink in. So I've been thinking about what I could do to try to SHOW the boys what we are trying to teach them. I remember visiting orphanages near Tiujana, Mexico when I was 13. That trip changed my view of the world and left a deep impression on me. However, I'm not willing to take my sons down to Mexico to show them extreme poverty because of the current dangers. Trying to show them images of poverty, like on TV or the internet, doesn't get through because they can't really relate to it. I realized that there are examples of people struggling to get by in our own community and if I could show this to my sons, hopefully they can relate to it better. So I decided that we would donate food to a local food bank in our city that serves about 500 families per month.

I collected a box of food, then brought the boys with me to the food bank. I explained to them that some families don't have enough money to eat three meals a day, even in our community, which is in an affluent area. I talked to the boys about how they would feel if they couldn't eat three meals a day, let alone having snacks. Then when we dropped the food off, I asked if we could look through the warehouse so they could really get a feel for how they were collecting and distributing food to needy families. One of the most impressionable sights we saw were shopping carts that the families come to get. They can come once per month and the cart has a box and a couple of bags of food and one bread item. As we went home, we talked about how that was not a lot of food for a family for a month.

I think actually seeing everything helped make these ideas sink in. Only time will tell. It was definitely very different than just bringing in canned goods to school during food drives. That's a very useful thing to do, mind you, but there isn't much of an emotional tie to it. To see what these families are actually getting and to see that some of the shelves of the food bank are getting low on food really brings home the point that there is a real need right in our backyard.

Have any of you done anything to try to teach your children to be grateful for what they have? What have you tried and was it successful? It would be nice to get some other ideas.


  1. I think that's a great idea and I've been considering doing the same thing. I have discussed with my son that other children do not have as much as he does. I asked him to pick toys to give to other children and we took them to a charity. He was disappointed that he could not see who got the toys, so now I need to look for another place. Looking forward to more ideas!

  2. I did also recently take the boys to a charity to donate some of their old clothes. Although they didn't get to see the children who will benefit from it, one of the women who works there was really nice and talked to the boys about the children who would benefit from their donation. She mentioned that some of the kids might go to their school and they just don't know it - that surprised them and opened their eyes a little wider.