Posted on 21-06-2010
Filed Under (Simplifying, Values) by admin

The latest rage – at least in elementary school circles – is those colorful silicone bracelets in gotta-have-‘em shapes and special effects (glitter! tye-dye! glow-in-the-dark!). Retailers urge kids to collect them all and trade with friends. Advertisers taps into kids’ burning desire to own those special, limited-edition packets, creating a pre-teen frenzy and draining all those piggy banks.

I don’t have anything against the companies that manufacture these bracelets. In fact, Parker owns about a dozen bracelets, using his own allowance money to buy his contrabands from a friend at school. They’re fun, harmless and inexpensive, so what’s my problem?

My problem is the “more, more, more” mentality this creates. (Think Pokemon cards, Webkinz, etc.) If one is fun to own, than six is more fun, and a dozen is even better. And if your mega collection balloons into the hundreds, then you’re King of the 4th Grade! What nine-year-old doesn’t want that title? 

Obviously, I don’t always win my kids over with my “less-is-more” philosophy. Although I explained to Parker why I wouldn’t buy him any bracelets (he already has too much stuff, the fad will die out soon, they’ll get sucked up into my vacuum cleaner within a week, etc.), I told him he could use his own money to buy some bracelets. What can I say? He’s nine. He wants to fit in.

It’s hard to overcome this must-have mentality, even for adults. (Yes, I, too, want an iPad. No, I don’t own one…yet.) And I can’t solely fault the manufacturers or the advertisers, although their products and messages stir up the consumer itch in all of us. But ultimately, as parents, we’re usually the ones who buy these trendy products, shelling out a few bucks just to make sure we meet our kids’ need for instant gratification and social acceptance.

As parents, we need to clearly explain our values to our kids. If we constantly complain about the clutter in our house, yet we rush to buy the latest must-have kiddie trends, we’re sending mixed signals. If we’re fighting hard to resist the materialistic pull of “more, more, more,” we can dodge the consumer bullet by not buying into (literally) every latest fad, even at the level of a sub-$3 purchase.

My kids might not be ready to jump on my just-say-no bandwagon yet, but they’re beginning to learn they don’t always “gotta have it.”

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