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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Welcome to my first SPARK Parenting blog, which mirrors my journey towards a saner, intentional approach to parenting. SPARK means the Smart, Purposeful Approach to Raising Kids. It’s all about slowing down, finding balance, simplifying, being mindful, living out your values, focusing on your priorities, creating warm memories and enjoying family life more.

While my blog (and the whole SPARK Parenting website) focuses on intentional parenting, I am a realist. I strive for improvement, not  perfection.  This blog symbolizes the struggle between my head and my heart. I know what I should be doing, but, damn it, I don’t always live up to my own standards. I try really hard, but, like the commercial says, life comes at you fast. Sometimes I cannot believe some of the things that I say or do. Seriously, how can I write about “parenting with a purpose” when I regularly screw up myself? But then, I realize that is exactly why I can write about it. I’m just like every parent out there. I’m imperfect and so is my family. I understand the daily challenges, and sometimes I rise to the occasion and sometimes I fall flat on my face. But no matter how many times I fall, I get back up, dust my pride off and keep on walking toward my vision of what I want for my family. And that hope for the future makes all the difference.

When I write about my family and our experiences, I’m writing from the trenches. Our success and failures might be splayed out before you like road kill. The emotions will sometimes be raw. The way my husband, Kevin, and I have ineffectively handled a situation will be downright embarrassing. But every time we blunder through another “learning opportunity,” we just get up and try again. And again. And again. And that persistence makes all the difference.

Parenting, I’ve long-ago discovered, is a lifelong learning process. Just when I’ve finally figured out how to take care of my firstborn (Trevor, now 13) and help him thrive, he is now a tantrum-throwing toddler. Just when I’ve mastered potty training and time-outs, he is now a school-age kid. Just when I’ve figured out the homework battles and chore charts, he’s a yearning-for-independence middle schooler. God only knows what’s in store for me at the high school level. And the kicker? Just about everything that worked with our first son doesn’t work with our second son (Parker, now 9), so I’m back on the parenting learning curve again, trying to figure it all out. And that teachable spirit makes all the difference.

I love swapping parenting stories with other moms and dads. It helps to know I’m not alone and not the only one who messes up. It also helps me to put all those daily irritants and missteps in perspective and have a good laugh. For example, a few weeks ago, it wasn’t funny when I sat down with my 9-year-old to watch the Black Eye Peas’ video “I Got a Feeling” (thinking what a great dance song) only to see Fergie dancing half-nude in her thong. Whoops! What was I thinking?  Bad Mommy Moment! But now I can laugh about my latest gaffe.  And that sense of humor makes all the difference.

I invite you to embrace SPARK Parenting, and I hope that makes all the difference in your family.

Lisa A. Beach
SPARK Mom & Founder

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