The problem with kids and parents who are materialistic most often don’t think they are. Materialism is when we are focused on things we can buy our earn to bring us happiness. We live in a society that pushes consumerism. We in many ways are defined by what we buy. Do you shop at Gap, Goodwill, or Hot Topic each of those store say something about you. Our need as adults to fit in drives who we are and what we do, unfortunately it can spill over into our kids.
What are the causes?
1. Parental example. – The first place you have to start when you feel that your kids are materialistic is by looking at yourself. Do you compare yourself to others. Are you driven by a need for acceptance by a certain group of people that dress a certain way, that drive a certain car. When you get home from work what do you talk about with your wife in front of the kids? Do your kids see you constantly buying things that you want rather than need?
2. Cultural influence – Marketers are not stupid they know that kids hold much of the purchasing power for the family. Parents cave to parents on everything from food, to clothes to toys. Marketers market directly to kids bypassing the parents because they can so they do. kids today make more decisions that I believe is good for them. If your kids watch an hour of TV 20 minutes of that hour culture is telling them what they must have to have a happy life.
3. Friends – This starts off a non-factor and grows into the greatest of the three. By the time your kids are in HIgh School the influence to be like everyone else to have what everyone has to compare yourself to others hits full force.
How do you help your kids avoid materialism?
1. Help them have a proper view of material things. – Begin teaching your kids at a young age that their responsibility as someone who trusts Christ fully is to use the resources they have to help those in need. People matter more than things. I remember growing up hearing a song my parents would listen to by BJ Thomas it said we need to “Love people and use things not the other way around”. It was true in the 70’s and it’s even more true today.
2. Train your kids to compare themselves to the right things. – The problem with materialism is who decides who is materialistic and who is not. I can point to a family because they drive a certain car or dress a certain way and at the same time another family is pointing at me calling me materialistic. I have heard a definition of materialism as being “Where your paycheck stops and theirs keeps going.” It’s more than just a paycheck thing, I believe its a worship thing. Materialism is minimizing my idols by comparing my idolatry with my neighbors. So what then do we stop comparing ourselves all together? Actually when we first compare ourselves to Christ we see the things in our lives we value more than him. In doing so we see what He has done for us. We see the price He paid to set us free from the trap of things and are able to help others because of what Jesus has done for us.
3. Teach them to treasure Christ. – This is the reason materialism exists. We treasure something more than Christ. Help your kids see the value of Jesus the same value that Jesus expressed in his parable in Matthew 13. The reason our kids find their security in things is because they have a sin problem which CS Lewis discribes as a miss-ordered love. When we treasure Christ he reorders every love in our life. Ask for wisdom from God in identifying those things in your kid’s lives that they trust more than Jesus. As the Holy Spirit brings those things to your attention in the life of your kids, confront them every chance you get. Help your kids see the beauty of Christ in doing so the power of things loses it’s luster and supreme value of Christ is magnified.
The problem of materialism comes in when we hear the gospel in church but preach another gospel at home. We need to continually trust God with everything we have. Our kids see us respond, they never stop learning from our example for better or worse. Lets demonstrate to our kids the power of God perfected in the weakness of man.