During the holiday season, I was sitting in a local coffee shop, casually people watching while waiting for my next meeting. It was lunch time and a number of high school students began to fill up the coffee shop. I was amazed! It appeared that this establishment’s lunch time rush consisted of teenagers buying $4.00 beverages, instagraming on their respective smart phones and facebooking on their laptops. These young folks had the latest and greatest in designer gear, personal electronics, acrylic nails and hair extension — and, I suspect, none of these kids had jobs.
When did all of these things become necessities?
Now, I like nice things. And, I truly believe that you should have what ever you can afford. And, our kids believe that to. They should have whatever YOU can afford!
Frankly, as my children were growing up, I couldn’t afford much. Added to that, we spent a lot of time around people who could. So, as time went on (kind of like a pre-emptive strike) I developed a list of operating principles regarding stuff and the purchasing of stuff.
- People who don’t have jobs shouldn’t have anything that requires constant maintenance.
- People who don’t have jobs don’t need smart phones or laptops
- People who don’t have jobs don’t need video games unless their career plans require them to have the eye-hand coordination of a fighter pilot because the mere presence of one will probably prevent them from actually getting a job.
- People who don’t have jobs don’t need their own t.v., computer, or mega-stereo system in their own room.
I mean, why should you have to work the requisite number of hours to pay for these things, when your children won’t even babysit to earn some extra cash!
I know this is hard. I have often been tempted to violate my own principles — particularly when Christmas or birthdays come around and I realize that I don’t have a clue was to what to buy for them because they have everything they need or want – minus the things exempted from the list. I have been tempted to buy one of the forbidden items just to experience the look of pleased surprise on their faces. I have been tempted by young and sharp minds to make exceptions to my rules because I didn’t have a good argument and I refused to succumb to the fallback “because I said so.”
But I remembered, I am smarter than they and surely I can justify this buying (or lack buying) decision. So, to help our parents out as they prepare for the ritual totally dedicated to conspicuous consumption and unchecked consumerism, I have compiled a list of common requests with some suitable comebacks.
Requests regarding hair extensions, acrylic nails, etc,
“Do you have a job? People with no job shouldn’t have ________ (fill in the blank).”
This will stop them from asking or motivate them to get a job.
Requests for smart phones and laptops
“People who don’t have jobs don’t need ________ (fill in the blank)”
They will avoid spending their last dime on junk food, make sure they have friends with cell phones and/or be motivated to get a job.
Requests for video games
“It’s against my religion.”
You will have some time before they begin to ask which religion is that because you don’t go to church anyway. On this one, I don’t care if they have a job, they will never be able to hook up a joystick to my t.v.
Requests for personal electronics that they can use in their rooms
As much t.v. as we watch, we would never see one another. I also like watching t.v. with my children so that I can monitor the content and interpret what they are watching according to my values. Besides we all spend too much time isolated from one another. This simple principle will require that we interact, even if it just enough interaction to negotiate which program we will watch.
When they use the ultimate guilt trip “All of my friends have one.”
“They have one because they are not my kids.” Or “Why do I have to buy one when you can go to so and so’s house and play with theirs.”
Requests for designer anything.
“I am not paying $150.00 to advertise that person’s clothing line. They need to be paying me for advertising their brand.”
Take a few moments to come up with your own. They can work. My children would shop sales, take the time to figure out how many nights of babysitting, how many hours doing extra chores and, yes, how many hours at work it will take them to pay for whatever whim they desire – and many times decide they don’t need it. Because we know that it is always easier to spend someone else’s hard earned money than it is to spend the fruits of your own labor.
It is almost as though our kids feel as though we go to work for the sole purpose of fulfilling their material fantasies. I am convinced that they did not arrive at this assumption on their own. We helped create this sense of entitlement and we can fix it.
I knew that conscious consumerism had become a way of life with my teenagers, when I told my senior that she probably needed some new clothes for school and she replied “Mom,” as though teaching a very slow parent “there is a difference between want and need.”
When all is said and done, your children will remember the time you spent with them more than the money you spent on them.