Young Parents (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

Your kids can’t get enough of the lat­est toys and gad­gets, but are you and your spouse to blame for their ma­te­ri­al­is­tic de­sires?

Your chil­dren can’t get enough of the lat­est toys and gad­gets, but are you and your spouse to blame for their ma­te­ri­al­is­tic de­sires? It may be time for a re­al­ity check this fes­tive sea­son, as SASHA GON­ZA­LES finds out.

When the lat­est iPad was re­leased in Sin­ga­pore, Patsy Koh’s nine-year-old daugh­ter begged them for one.

“Her birth­day and Christ­mas were com­ing up, so she wanted it as an early gift,” shares the 39-year-old pri­vate tuition teacher. “She al­ready has an iPad from a cou­ple of years back, so I de­nied her re­quest.

“But she wouldn’t stop plead­ing with me, telling me that she needed to have it. Af­ter months of whining and beg­ging, she nally got her wish. She wouldn’t let the mat­ter go and I didn’t want to dis­ap­point her.”

Does this sound fa­mil­iar? Per­haps you, too, have kids who will stop at noth­ing to get the new­est toys and gad­gets but, for some par­ents, the de­mands just never end.

“My eight-year-old son al­ways wants the lat­est game or toy that’s out there, while for my pre­teen daugh­ter, it’s clothes,” says ac­counts man­ager Juliet Wong, 39.

“I spend a cou­ple of hun­dred dol­lars a month on things they want, but then they get tired of these items af­ter a few weeks and ask me to buy them more.”

Liv­ing in a ma­te­rial world

There’s no doubt that kids to­day are more ma­te­ri­al­is­tic than ever. Ac­cord­ing to nan­cial ex­perts, that’s be­cause they have more choices. “It re­ally is about hav­ing too much to choose from at any one time,” says Keon Chee, who co-authored Bring­ing Up Money Smart Kids with Adam Khoo.

“It’s not only con­fus­ing for kids, but it’s also dam­ag­ing be­cause they tire eas­ily of what they have as they keep on ac­quir­ing and ex­pect­ing more and more new things.

“When I was grow­ing up, we had chicken once a week and hardly any beef at all. To­day, kids have chicken, beef, sh, lamb and prawns, all in the same meal and in un­lim­ited amounts.”

Just take a look at the TV com­mer­cials and print ad­ver­tise­ments around you – chil­dren are told to con­sume, con­sume, and con­sume some more. And it’s be­cause of this that many sim­ply do not un­der­stand and can­not ap­pre­ci­ate the value of things.

“Our kids are grow­ing up in a cul­ture of ma­te­ri­al­ism and wastage,” says Lee Cheon Loon, an as­so­ciate certied coach with Ex­ec­u­tive Coach In­ter­na­tional. “With so much to choose from and so many easy ways to get what they want, it’s lit­tle won­der that they can­not see the value of what they own.”

Money lessons at home

If you and your spouse like to re­ward your­selves with items like de­signer bags and fancy gad­gets, chances are your chil­dren will pick up the same habits.

“Kids are copy­cats,” says Keon. “They will be­have and treat them­selves much like how their par­ents be­have and treat them­selves.

“So if you are smart and condent about money, your chil­dren are likely to treat money with the care and re­spect it de­serves.”

Kids be­come money-aware as soon as they know that money can be ex­changed for things they want and need, says Adam. This usu­ally starts at the age of six, when they be­gin pri­mary school.

For the rst time in their lives, they have money of their own to spend in school. This is also when they start to learn how many cents make up a dol­lar, what a dol­lar can buy, and so on.

“Par­ents there­fore need to be good role mod­els,” he adds. “They need to learn about money them­selves. They need to be sav­ing, in­vest­ing, and spend­ing wisely. Their kids will then fol­low.”

Cheon Loon agrees. “Money re­mains very much a con­cept in a kid’s mind, un­til he re­alises how it can be in­cor­po­rated into his re­ward sys­tem,” he ex­plains.

“Some kids pick up on it ear­lier, while oth­ers may not re­alise the value of money till later. But they learn a lot just from ob­serv­ing how their par­ents re­late to and speak about money.”

The guilt fac­tor

How you man­age your money is one thing, but do you also use money or ma­te­rial things as a sub­sti­tute for the love and af­fec­tion you think you’re not giv­ing your kids enough of?

If the an­swer is yes, then you may un­wit­tingly be rais­ing ma­te­ri­al­is­tic chil­dren, says Al­fred Chia, CEO of Sing­cap­i­tal.

“Many kids these days spend more time with their do­mes­tic helper than with their par­ents. That’s just the way it is, be­cause most par­ents work long hours,” he points out.

“You might feel guilty for not spend­ing enough time with your kids, so what do you do? You buy them toys or give them money to make up for it. Some par­ents even show their chil­dren they love them by giv­ing them cash.

“This is a ma­jor cause of ma­te­ri­al­ism among kids. Chil­dren these days just have way too much stuff, and too much money at their dis­posal.”

Com­pare and de­spair

It doesn’t help if you’re the sort who com­pares your­self to other peo­ple, in terms of what you own. En­tre­pre­neur Maria Kong, 41, says she never knew how much her ten­dency to com­pare af­fected her 11-yearold son, un­til he asked her to up­grade his mo­bile phone and tablet com­puter.

“My hus­band and I are al­ways see­ing where and how we can do and have bet­ter, so we’re con­stantly up­grad­ing – our apart­ment, our car, our wardrobes,” she shares.

“It’s just im­por­tant for us to feel like we are keep­ing up with every­body else and not fall­ing be­hind. When I asked my son why he wanted new gad­gets when the ones he had were work­ing per­fectly ne, he said that he wanted what his friends had.”

Don’t fall into this trap, Al­fred warns: “When chil­dren see adults mak­ing such com­par­isons, they mimic that be­hav­iour and start to com­pare them­selves to their peers as well. This urge to com­pete with, or be ‘one up’ over oth­ers can lead to ma­te­ri­al­is­tic be­hav­iour.”

A life less ful­fill­ing

Par­ents who have ma­te­ri­al­is­tic chil­dren have a much tougher time bring­ing them up, says Keon.

This is be­cause such kids tend to be more selsh and self-cen­tred. They feel en­ti­tled to re­ceive things they haven’t earned and don’t de­serve.

And they tend to grow up to be­come un­happy, un­fullled adults be­cause they have been used to ob­tain­ing tem­po­rary hap­pi­ness through ac­quir­ing more and more ma­te­rial goods.

“Par­ents need to cut back on what they give their chil­dren or risk spoil­ing them,” says Adam.

“When these spoilt kids be­come teenagers, they are more prone to ex­ces­sive self­ab­sorp­tion, lack of self-con­trol, anx­i­ety, and de­pres­sion.

If you give kids too much early on, they get to a point where they can’t be satised with any­thing.”

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