My daughter turned six a few weeks ago, and it was like Christmas in June. Our household unintentionally invented a two-week holiday of consumer glory and wrapping paper.
In the aftermath, my wife and I are genuinely concerned we’ve let things get out of control and it’s time for an intervention. Or maybe we just have a six-year-old? I don’t know. Maybe you can help me figure it out.
I have seen the face of evil, and it has decent production values
“And on the eighth day, the Lord created YouTube, ushering in the endtimes.” ~ Revelation, rough draft, 2nd rev. (eventually cut)
It started with the Princess ToysReview videos of LOL Pets. (Warning: If you choose to watch this video, make sure any children under the age of 12 are securely locked behind two solid wood doors with earmuffs on.)
OK. I’ll readily admit there are much more constructive things for kids to do than watch videos. If you’re a parent, you’ll also readily admit there are times when you need to get stuff done and finding an hour of uninterrupted time is a small miracle.
These videos at first blush seem like they have some positive qualities. The people are super excited about opening a new toy, seeing what it can do and playing with it. I would like my daughter to do the same thing. So isn’t her seeing an example of that kind of play a good thing?
Well, maybe in small doses, but next thing we knew she wanted to watch LOL videos all the time. And when it was time to stop watching she acted like a junkie losing a fix. We decided to severely limit the LOL videos.
But her birthday was coming up, and so of course she wanted some LOLs of her own. OK, cool, we didn’t have a problem with the toys, maybe having LOLs would let her do the thing she saw on the video and have fun with it.
The birthday month
We went to Grandma’s house on a Monday. My daughter’s first present was, you guessed it, an LOL ball.
It took 10 minutes to open this thing, which is about five minutes longer than she was entertained by the actual toy once it all got out of the packaging. Did she enjoy it? Yeah, I guess she did.
As much as she seemed to enjoy watching the reviewers open and play with the same toy? No way.
The “I hope I get an LOL” from a few hours prior became “I wish I got a different LOL” before the sun fell below the mountaintops. I obviously have to work on gratitude with this one.
Her actual birthday was on a Friday, and she opened several more presents from her other grandparents in the morning. Another LOL and some Barbie dudes (because her doll house is an estrogen-fest and she wanted more balance). She was really excited about opening the presents, and she has played with the dolls a fair bit, as long as her mom is playing along.
Later that night, we met up with her older brothers and she got to open three more presents.
Her friend party was Sunday. We saved one present just in case the small party didn’t yield much, but it turns out she got a pile of things from her friends. One even gave her an entire collection of My Little Pony figurines that must have cost $50 new. (We put on the invitation that used gifts were welcome, because ain’t nobody needs to spend real money on this stuff. This was a gently used collection, and that’s awesome!)
We didn’t pull out the one present we held back because it wasn’t necessary. But then Monday rolled around and she saw that wrapped box on a table and realized there was another present to open. Now, eight days after she opened her first present, she’s opening another present.
The gifts that keep on giving
Now that she’s opened something like 15 presents in eight days, she figures there should be something new every day. And also can she buy more LOLs?
We had a trip to Nashville planned for Thursday, and Grandpa was going to give her birthday presents in person there. The rest of the week was a chorus of, “I can’t wait to go to Nashville to see everyone … and get more presents.”
Three more presents, to be exact.
While in Nashville we went school clothes shopping with my parents, which isn’t a present per se, but it’s exciting for her to pick out a bunch of new clothes.
Back at home, her friend had a little yard sale and my daughter used some birthday money to buy five things for $1.75 total. Not an hour later, she wants to go to the thrift store and buy another toy.
It’s clear the acquiring of toys is much more fun than actually playing with the toys.
That’s what has us concerned.
What’s the point?
My wife and I try to keep the consumerism in check in our own lives. We’re far from minimalists, but we try to be intentional about buying new things. So seeing our daughter so fixated on just getting new stuff when she hasn’t really played with all the new stuff she just got jumped out.
But how should we react?
Maybe it’s just a short phase brought on by the crazy birthday present extravaganza. Maybe it’s just what kids do because they don’t really get the whole consumerism vs. intentional consumption thing.
I know I had a ton of stuff when I was younger, and I’m sure I enjoyed getting more. I probably didn’t play with all my stuff very much either. Yet here I am, at least aware of that not being a good idea.
Perhaps we’re just projecting our fiscally conservative fears onto perfectly acceptable child behavior. I don’t want to be that guy who doesn’t let his kid have things; I just want to make sure she doesn’t get a sense of entitlement about getting everything she wants whenever she wants it.
For now, the videos are out. I’m encouraging her to play with all the stuff she just got. I’m trying to talk about gratitude and being happy not only for things we own but things we have that we didn’t buy.
Hopefully that will yield results down the road.
What do you do for your kids, or what did your parents do for you, to help focus on appreciating what we have instead of what we want?
I think that any six year old would react the same way under the same circumstances and it’s not much to worry about. Demonstrating gratitude, especially for simple things that we take for granted, and serving those who are less fortunate are probably some of the best things we can do to help our children not feel entitled. That is something I was reminded I need to work on more with my kids as I read your post. And yes, cut off those LOL videos; no good can come from that. LOL
Thanks, Remy. The gratitude thing is something we’ve been trying to do a little each day. In fact, she reminded me yesterday that we hadn’t done it. She was thankful we have a nice house to live in, so that’s not bad! I was thankful we had a wonderful trip to Nashville with our family. I try to express gratitude for the non-monetary things as much as I can.
I came into the concept of FI/RE and minimalism after having kids and I’ve been trying to ‘deprogram’ them ever since (from the ‘consumer culture’). I talk with them about how commercials are always trying to get them to buy things. We laugh at some of the outrageous ones. It feels like a sugar addiction, one hit and you’re back fighting to get away from its thrall.
I think that every single kid is just a kid… without being a mindless consumer. Don;t worry! All kids are similar!