Are You Raising Materialistic Kids?



    This evening I spent at least four hours cleaning out my sons’ closets and weeding out any clothes that do not fit them anymore.  By the time I was done, I had three large garbage bags full of clothes that they have outgrown and their closets and dresser drawers are still full of new clothes and old clothes that are the right size. It really got me to thinking that perhaps it is time to cut down on buying clothes for them because it just seems like they have too much of everything. 

    My husband and I take full responsibility for overindulging both of my sons with material things.  It’s not that we are very materialistic ourselves or that we value material possessions over abstract things like character or integrity.  Our children are very well mannered and we spend a lot of time talking to them about being humble and appreciating everything that they have.  They don’t spend time talking about all the things they have and they get excellent grades in school to earn many of the things that we buy for them.

    The real problem is not them, it is us.  You see, my husband and I both come from very humble beginnings.  There were many times during our childhoods when we had to go without or where there wasn’t enough to go around.  As a result, we want to give our kids all of the things that we didn’t have growing up.  That’s not such a foreign concept as I’m sure every generation of parents wants better for their children than the generation before.  It’s normal to want to give your children the very best of everything isn’t it?

    There is such a thing as going to far in trying to give your children the best of everything.  I often will forego buying things for myself just to spend the money on my boys.  Sometimes I will even put off buying new underwear just so my kids can have the things that they want when they want them.  It’s almost like you create a certain lifestyle for them and then it is your responsibility to keep them living within the confines of that privileged life. 

    Don’t get me wrong, we are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination.  I will say that we lead a comfortable life and are both very fortunate to be gainfully employed during a time of economic uncertainty.  We make sure that we instill values in our children and that we expect nothing but their very best efforts when it comes to school and academics.  My boys are aware that all bets are off if they fail to meet our academic expectations.  I have no qualms about taking away privileges or even taking away their cherished toys or electronics to drive home the message whenever I need to.

    Yet, I still find myself asking if all of this is enough.  How could all of our children, who live in a society of excess and privilege possibly understand the sacrifice that goes into maintaining such a lifestyle?  I’m not convinced that it is enough that we tell them how important it is to be humble if we don’t exemplify this through the way that we live.  The old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” really doesn’t work.  Anyone who is a parent knows that you must lead your children by example if you want them to follow in your footsteps of prescribe to your theories or ideas.

    This is easier said than done and I am learning how to do this as I go along.  I think that it is important that we continue to provide good lives for our children while practicing some restraint as consumers from time to time.  Believe me, I realized this exact thing this afternoon as I looked around at the obscene amount of clothing that I have purchased for my children in the last year.  Obviously, they would have been perfectly fine with even a third of all the clothing that I bought them.  At the end of they day, I recognized that overcompensating with my kids for what my husband and I didn’t have when we were growing up is not going to change our past.  Teaching them the value of a dollar, however, will change their future.

© 2011, Tough Cookie Mommy. All rights reserved.


  1. Great Topic!  It really makes you think how much we’re taking care of our kids or just spoiling them. 

    I’m a new follower through Terrific Thursday Blog Hop.

  2. I tried not to spoil my daughter. When she was younger I would say no sometimes just so that she wouldn’t think that she was supposed to get everything she wanted all the time.  Now she’s 15 and she’s materialistic, despite my best efforts 🙁  She’s not a brat, but she still has the “gimme’s.” I think it’s generational…or something.

    Great post!

    New follower:

    • Hi, Stacey. That is a great point, this generation is definitely more materialistic than we were when we were coming up. Also, as a rule of thumb, I think young people have that sense of entitlement anyway so they always feel like they deserve to receive things. Thanks for passing by and following.

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  4. It’s normal to want to give your children the very best of everything isn’t it?No, it’s not! I too go without a lot just because I want my son to have things – whether it be something silly or necessary. Just the other day I thought about buying some new undies (yep, I said that). Did I? Nope…I spent the money on the kid and I’m okay with that.

    I also recently for the 3rd time in 4 months went through my sons clothes to pack up things he could not wear. He asked what I was doing with his clothes and I told him…giving them to so and so. So now he understands that when there’s that bag of clothes sitting by the door they are going to a certain friend…and that too, I definitely don’t feel bad about.

    So keep doing what you do…just remember to always teach and enforce the value.

    • I think you hit the nail right on the head, Keia. It’s natural for us to want to give our kids the best of everything. As long as we teach them to be appreciative and that they have to earn these things by doing well in school, they will learn these values. Don’t worry, I also put off even buying new underwear sometimes just to buy things for my boys. I think this makes us good parents because we put our children’s needs before our own.

  5. I totally understand.  I want to give my son everything I never had…. 

    Here’s my thing, I went to a buddy’s house and it was overrun with toys.  The child never even played with them.  I’m taking a step back from making sure my son has all the stuff and give him what I know he’ll appreciate.  We’ve been decluttering for the last several months.  I’ve gotten rid of 1/2 my wardrobe, same with Mike and my son.  I’ve gotten rid of the toys he never plays with, outgrew, or toys that frustrate him. 

    We’ve taken anything and everything that we don’t use or that doesn’t give us peace and removed it.  We’re in the process of selling it or donating it.  I just want less… and what I do have, I want to be important.

  6. Cpak2000 says

    I understand. I see that my kids as my nephews that they don’t really appreciate things when given. I don’t know if it is just because they are young or just used to getting things. But I’m sure they will be fine because you are aware of it. There will be plenty of time for them to learn later. 🙂

  7. New follower from Bloggy Mom’s

  8. I am right there with you Maria!  I am on a house de-cluttering rampage and just last week I went through everyone’s closet (except hubs).  There is at LEAST 2 entire wardrobes from each of the 3 kids’ rooms that no longer fit them. 

    I do not spend much on their wardrobe bc I shop at Goodwill quite a bit and I justify buying them things by saying – “but it’s only $1 or $2”.  But here’s the deal – if they don’t need it and won’t wear it, that’s $1 or $2 that’s better served in their college accounts.

    I did not lack for things much when I was growing up.  I wasn’t overwhelmed with things, but never felt lacking either.  I don’t feel obligated or even interested in giving my kids everything they want, but I am guilty of buying things bc it’s a “good deal”. 

    One of the ways I’m teaching my kids the value of money is by giving them $10/mo allowance.  This allows me to tell them they can buy whatever they are asking for with “their” money.  Or I’ll offer to split it with them. It is helping them discern between what they really want and what is just a passing fancy. 

    Great post!  As always you have a knack for finding and artfully writing about topics and issues that affect us all. 

    • Thanks for your feedback, Daria. I haven’t started giving my boys an allowance yet. You are absolutely right, though, it will give them a sense of the sacrifice that it takes to purchase items when they are paying for it with “their” money. I think I will start implementing an allowance this summer and see how it goes. That definitely sounds like a future post. 🙂

  9. Wow, really great post amiga!  I think about this a lot too.  I’m a rather humble mom and I have mostly run our home in the same way, but by family and friends I am often made to feel guilty about not buying my daughter everything she wants or big, expensive gifts.  It’s been something that I’ve struggled with, because I don’t want my daughter to get the wrong idea, especially about what’s important during the holidays and on birthdays.  She gets wonderful things, but we spend more in the way of activities than actual items and I’ve always felt good about this, but it’s not received well by others. It’s like people are implying that I don’t love my daughter if I’m not providing all the toys and movies, etc that she craves.  In reality though, she’s three and there’s a new favorite something every week…so in order to have balance, I feel that some things are just not on my priority list.  I guess living on a tight budget really makes you think about those things and I’d rather spend $ taking her out to the zoo or saving for Disney, than buy a slew of unnecessary clothes and trinkets.  P.S. I totally get you on the undergarments…I often put my needs last…call it the curse of being a woman, but I’m learning and growing and realizing that I need to take care of me too…in order to be the best wife and mom that I can be.  😉

    • Chantilly, I think that you have your priorities in perfect order. There definitely has to be a sense of balance between indulging our children and making decisions about what material things they really need in their lives. I am also learning how to take better care of me in the grand scheme of being a mother, a wife, and a professional. As always, it is refreshing to hear your point of view on any given topic.

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