Passing on Values vs. Items of Value

Father and Son

As a new parent, I’ve been thinking about how I’d like to raise my son, and what kind of person I’d like him to be.  The answer I keep coming up with is: NOT SPOILED.  It is a terrible irony and tragedy for parents to work hard in trying to provide a better living (more money) for their children, only to find the excess money counterproductive and spoiling them.  Why drown your kids in a sea of money when others are dying of thirst?

If spoiling a child results from giving him everything he wants, then the obvious antidote is to wisely withhold them.  Here are some thoughts:

* Fewer toys, more time with family and friends
* Less TV, more library books
* Exposure to many people, of all different wealth levels
* Avenues to give and serve as a family and with a church community

One of the hardest things about a consumerism diet is modeling it myself.  There are a lot of areas for improvement in eating habits, shopping, surfing, and time spent on tech toys.  I’m hoping the pain will be worth it, as I’d much rather raise a child who has compassion, generosity, and honesty rather than a new car, a private college trust fund, and mad video game skills.  (That last part is really close, though.)

Since I’m writing from the idealistic perspective of a new parent, I’d appreciate any words of wisdom who have been through this already.  What have you done to raise your children in a non-spoiled way, and what might you do differently with your years of experience?

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6 thoughts on “Passing on Values vs. Items of Value

  1. My own (untested) theory is pretty simple: 1) be a good role model, 2) find even better role models to be his heroes, 3) don’t let him befriend spoiled kids.

    “spoiled”, by the way, isn’t a well-defined trait. But these three basic rules are my answer every child-raising question. (Not because I think they’re particularly powerful, but because I’m actually clueless.)

  2. i like ang’s theory. defn still learning. i try to limit stuff, involve k in borrowing and sharing (accept hand me downs, donate toys), help k think of ways to give to others (like drawing pictures, making cookies for ppl’s bdays or when we visit them) bring her along on service projects, focus on Jesus on Christmas, focus on a fun time with friends and family on birthdays and for both holidays ask families and friends to limit gifts.

    but as much as i try not to spoil, k has a lot of choices, choices everyday, about what she wants to eat, what she wants to wear, what she wants to play with – we are still very privileged and she knows she has choices. so defn still working on how to raise her to be not spoiled . . .

    • Ed: It is a broad question but I think you have to start at the 2 year old level if you’re hoping to raise an unspoiled teenager.

      I like your 4 thoughts, as well as Ang’s and Joann’s. Here are some more to add to the mix, which seem to work better on our older child (7).

      * No commercials. If you have a TV, mute the commercials. Or better yet, only let them watch DVD’s and videos you approve of.

      * I try to not take the kids shopping with me (even to the grocery store). If they really want a special treat, we set up a way for them to earn it. For ex, our 7yo wanted to go to the movies so we set up a reading chart and after a month, he earned Toy Story 3.

      * Sort through their small clothes and old toys WITH them and talk about how excited the other kids will be to get them, just as we’ve been excited when others passed on their toys and clothes.

      * Praise them like crazy when you see them share.

      Course, they still get sucked sometimes into the constant stream of consumerism messages targeting them specifically. But we do see glimpses of them getting it. Here are 2 recent events/conversations in our house:

      * 7yo – comes home with a Hershey’s miniature from a classmate, cuts it into 4 tiny pieces, and gives one bite to each family member.
      * 5yo – tells her classmate that we only have one more semester at our school because the prices are going up and we want to give that money to “poor people”

      • Thanks, Jodi. I especially like the idea of getting them involved early, such as the donating of their old clothes and toys. I also never thought about the idea of keeping them out of stores, but now it makes sense. Stores = “adult-only entertainment”?

  3. Great question. I feel that most of what kids pick up is due to modeling & exposure. Enough has been said on good modeling. But it’s extremely difficult to monitor/limit all the stuff they’re exposed to. So we take a more proactive stance & deliberately expose them to “alternative” life realities. We’ve been lucky to be able to raise them in an inner city context and now in a poor developing country. I know growing up in Cameroon completely shaped my own world view for the better. But since moving to those areas isn’t for everyone, I would both model & expose by having friends who are “different”, ie lower class, different ethnicities, etc…

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