The advertising industry constantly promotes the “need” to purchase stuff, trying to convince children (and parents) that we’re inadequate and that shopping is the secret to making ourselves whole. By turning wants into needs, this dangerous, powerful, well-oiled machine perpetually seeks to ensnare us in its many traps. Meanwhile, real needs for intimacy and connection have nothing whatsoever to do with worldly possessions.
Our deeply engrained desire for social acceptance has somehow become interconnected with material possessions. Advertisers target children; the one thing more lucrative than their naïve egocentricity is that they hold the longest lifespan for potential spending. Actors and actresses in commercials look so happy, excited, and popular, portraying the falsehood that happiness depends on buying what they are selling.
Through unprecedented levels of screen time, advertisers have unfettered access to the minds of children. Mothers must set screen time limits and encourage kids to play without the need for an internet connection. Mom has a duty to set limits and decree that family time is sacred. Is there a legitimate reason that children (or adults) need a cell phone during family mealtimes? Probably not. Advertisers know no bounds. Transitioning away from screen time can be difficult, especially when the family is used to indulging. With non-screen related activities, games, and hobbies, we reduce the onslaught of advertising messages.
Once they start noticing fashion, children tend to associate items as being “in” and “out.” Advertising makes the “new thing” outdated very quickly. When the next “new thing” comes out, those who bought the first thing aren’t “cool” anymore. The consumerism trap works around the clock, with no end in sight. Parents can ask children why some things are fashionable, while others are not, who makes the rules, and why we should listen to them. We don’t listen when someone tells us to change our favorite ice cream flavor, so why should we allow advertising to influence our style choices?
Admiration of talented performers and artists is natural. Athletes, celebrities, and even Disney characters are used to influence purchasing behaviors. Mind hack: take the face of a celebrity our children do NOT like and put it over the celeb’s face in the advertisement. Is the item still attractive? Shouldn’t we buy things on our own terms and not due to being manipulated? Instead of “He is on that cereal box; I want that cereal,” try “He was brave in that movie; I can be brave too.”
Decisions about savings, investments, and purchases involve trade-offs; we can’t have everything. Fathers can explain the scarcity of resources in ways children can understand and appreciate. As a family, decide how many clothes and toys are appropriate; consider implementing a one-in/one-out (or donate) system. Consider choosing times of the year to associate with the possibility of new clothes and toys. Reckless spending sends the wrong message; if a grocery run means the chance for a new toy, we set ourselves up for nagging children. Instead of purchasing magazines at the supermarket checkout, joke with children about how advertisements promote the consumerism trap!
Our Own Behaviors
Are we compulsive buyers? Do we therapy shop? If yes, it can be healthy to reevaluate our spending habits. Are our garages and attics jam-packed? If yes, the process of cleaning house can teach children that most of the stuff we buy is junk. By reducing frivolous spending, we demonstrate the importance of savings, investments, and the security of a good future.
Pitting Child vs. Parent
When children cry, “Mom, I need it! I NEED IT! Everyone else has one!” Mothers often say, “No.” In addition to the many direct consequences of consumerism, relentless marketing efforts can indirectly pit children against parents. If advertising has influenced our children so deeply that their latest fixation dominates their thinking, this can polarize the mother-child relationship to the point that the child views mom not just as an obstacle, but as an enemy. If the mother-child relationship deteriorates, the mother may become less involved—if even for just a short time—this can lead to negative consequences.
Disregard for the Environment
The amount of trash going into landfills and oceans is breathtaking. Today’s levels of pollution are not sustainable; our planet is being destroyed. When we buy junk, we don’t help with this problem—we contribute to it. Mom can and should explain the cause-and-effect relationship between consumerism and the rampant damage to Mother Earth; this profound lesson may foster a sense of social responsibility.
Protecting Children from Consumerism
Teach the difference between wants and needs. Explain dopamine release; the fleeting rush we feel when buying something is no different than the temporary delight we experience when we hear our favorite song. We can discourage consumerism by redirecting the conversation when the topic of “stuff” comes up—to things we truly appreciate: relationships with our loved ones, life experiences, and gratitude for what we do have. When friends and family ask about getting gifts for our children, encourage activities and events rather than things. Relative to the latest trinket or gadget, adventures can be so much more rewarding.
Make serving others part of the family routine. Consider designating a place at home for a donation box. When we no longer need something, donate it. When having conversations about money, remind children about the importance of sharing.
Advertising agencies know that humans strive for intimacy, connection, and feelings of approval, and they do their very best to convey that to satisfy these needs, we must buy whatever they are selling. They design relentless campaigns to squeeze every dollar out of every person. Let’s teach our children about the consumerism trap while helping them form and maintain healthy attitudes and behaviors toward spending.
“But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” —1 Timothy 6:9-10 NLT
Dr. Seuss’s beloved story teaches kids to treat the planet with kindness and stand up and speak up for others. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
An investigation on how living with less would change our planet, our society, and ourselves, while revealing how much we stand to gain: An investment in our physical and emotional wellness. The pleasure of caring for our possessions. Closer relationships with our natural world and one another. Imaginative and inspiring, The Day the World Stops Shopping will embolden you to envision another way.
Buyology is a fascinating and shocking journey that will captivate anyone who’s been seduced—or turned off—by marketers’ relentless attempts to win our loyalty, our money,
The Power of Less shows how you can streamline your life by eliminating the unnecessary—freeing up space from everyday clutter to achieve goals and find happiness in a more minimalist existence. Revised with new material social media addiction and the perceived need to be connected and available 24 hours a day, The Power of Less will inspire a shift from wanting everything to needing nothing, empowering you to live life fully and free from stress.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.