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Pull the Plug on Material Access with your Kids

By Mary Simmons, M.A.
Author of Discipline Me Right, with Bert Simmons, M. Ed.

A few Teen Commandments about what we should provide for our kids:
"Take me shopping."
"Thou shall give me what I want."
"Thou shalt spoil me rotten."
"Thou shalt leave everything to your kids when you die."
"Thou shalt shower thy youth in riches."


These are the same teens who wisely ask parents to set rules and enforce them, provide discipline, hold them accountable, and be role models. However, when these same kids start thinking about money, different things come out of their mouths. Suddenly they sound like shallow, petulant brats.

We have arrived in the 21st century with an attitude that our kids deserve everything bigger and better than what we had, including the latest electronic gadgets. Parents feel pressure to provide the material goods - the visual proof - that they have "made it" and their kids have the best. But where is the consideration of how this materialism really affects our families?

Say No. We know our kids respect us when we say "no." Just say no if you can't afford it, don't like it, or don't like the way they asked for it. Stand your ground. Remember, you're the parent, and you are standing for something. Be honest about why you won't finance the new iPod, the car, the $200 prom dress. You can do this respectfully, calmly, and with "I" statements:

"I'm sorry, Kaitlin, but I hear a tone in your request that I don't appreciate."
"Ryan, I feel like you don't understand how hard I work for the money I make, and that we live on a budget for a reason."
"No, Mike, the iPod (cell phone, computer, etc.) you have works just fine. I'm not buying you a new one."

Once you have laid down the law, if they continue to argue:

  • One thing you can do is walk away.
  • The other thing you can do is say, "You have a choice. You can continue to argue with me but there will be a consequence (then name it - "You won't be able to drive the car" - "You won't be able to go to the game/party," etc.). Your other choice is to stop arguing and accept that I have made my decision on this matter."
Make them work for it. We know that working for things creates character. However, sometimes parents find it easier just to give in than teach a lesson. But these are our kids…what could be more important? Stand your ground. Remember, you're the parent, and you are standing for something. The next time your 6-year-old or 16-year-old asks you for a hand-out, calmly state that you might help them if they work for it. The terms are completely up to you. Here are some suggestions:

Jobs for 6-year-olds:
Making their bed
Picking up their toys/clothes
Clearing the dishes from the table
Spending more time reading than watching TV
Remembering to keep water in the dog's dish

Jobs for 16-year-olds:
Washing your car
Weeding, Painting, Sweeping, Mowing, Dusting, Vacuuming
Keeping their room orderly
Keeping the grades up
A job outside the home for pay (as long as it doesn't interfere with study time)

We know that material things cannot compensate for a lack of love and attention. Kids with healthy self-esteem have parents who spend time with them and enjoy it; these kids know they are lovable. Interestingly, kids who are bonded to their parents have a much easier time accepting their parents' "No" answers and understanding the reasons why. They know other kids have parents who throw material things at them to compensate for their absence in their kids' lives. Kids want to know that you, their parent, expect them to grow up to be people of substance, not mindless consumers.

~Stand your ground. Remember, you're the parent, and you are standing for something.~

About the Author:
Mary SimmonsMary Simmons is a teacher, parent, and author. Her father, Bert Simmons, is an educational consultant in the area of school discipline. Together, with the insights of Mary's teenaged students, they have put together a powerful, comprehensive guide to instilling and reinforcing positive, respectful behavior in children. Discipline Me Right is available through Amazon.com and your local bookstore. For more parenting tips and information about the book, visit www.disciplinemeright.com.

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