US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Drop how you shop

Are you teaching your kids that having fun means buying things?

By Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck | Print this pagePrint |
Article Lifestyle

Samantha, an executive for a Fortune 100 company and mother of two, loves to shop. While her job requires her to be nicely dressed, Samantha admits that she also often uses shopping as recreation. She brings her children shopping with her, and as a reward for waiting patiently while she tries on clothes and looks at jewelry, she’ll buy them a new toy, gadget, or outfit. 

“Just lately, I’ve started to wonder what I’m teaching them,” she says. “Are my children learning that having fun means buying things? My husband and I don’t have a lot of time to spend with the kids, and the time we do have, we’re often at the mall.” 

Children watch the decisions their parents make about their furnishings, their cars, and their clothes and accessories. While too young to articulate it, on every trip to the mall, Samantha’s 10-year-old son was observing the time his mom gave to purchasing things versus the time she gave to her relationships. Samantha was right to question what her son was learning. 

“I’ve heard it said that people spend for who we want to be, not who we really are,” says Denise, mother of three, who tries to be intentional about leading a lifestyle simpler than she and her lawyer husband, Arthur, might be able to afford to give their three children. 

“So many adults see nothing odd about a new dress for every occasion, a new car every two years, a new phone with every upgrade, new restaurants to try, new gyms to join,” she says. “It is hard to tell a kid they are loved for who they are—and not what they own—if we as parents are still spending our money on a chance at acceptance.”

For Denise and Arthur, faith drives their decision not to overspend. “Christianity gives us a great head start on rejecting materialism because of our belief in God’s love and acceptance for us,” she says. “If we’re clued in to this grace, we’re most likely to surround ourselves with friends who don’t charge admittance for acceptance.” She says she hopes her kids “see the peace of being, and not buying.”

In order to help children lean away from materialism and toward a life of purpose and meaning, parents need to be thoughtful about how they respond to their children’s requests. 

Fill the need, not the brand name.

When Maureen’s daughter wanted boots that cost about $200 a pair, Maureen found a similar pair at a local discount store for about $25. 

“I told my daughter that I would buy the $25 boots, because I recognized she needed boots,” 

she says. “But if she wanted the brand name ones, she could put my $25 toward those boots and make up the difference herself. She chose the less expensive boots.”  

Give it time.

Nancy, mother of two, has noticed that simply putting a day in between the child’s request and the parent’s response decreases the urgency of the request. “Addie constantly wants the newest app and, of course, not the free ones,” Nancy says. “I ask her if she will want it as badly tomorrow as she seems to want it today. Many times, a day of waiting makes her realize it’s not that big of a deal.”

Redefine wealth.

Brigid and Bob, parents of four, verbalize to their children how much the family has, in this way: “We often remind our children that we are very rich indeed; we have everything that money can’t buy: good health and healthy relationships.” 

This article appeared in the April 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic, (Vol. 79, No. 4, page 49).

Image: Unsplash cc via Gyorgy Bakos

Published: 
Wednesday, August 7, 2019

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