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I am learning how to deal with my kids' materialism meltdowns.

girl having temper tantrum

Ellen S.: I recently took my little girl, Sabrina, to the circus. There were trapeze artists doing amazing feats, elephants, tigers, crazy clowns and six motorcyclists flying around a cage. My 5-year-old's favorite thing? The merchandise stand. First, she begged for a $7 popcorn. I gave in. Then she wanted one of those whirly light-up thingies, and I said no. Then I took her to the bathroom and we walked by some snow cones in elephant souvenir cups.

"Mommy, I waaaaaaant one," she said, in her most pitiful voice. "No," I said. "You're never going to use that cup again." And then she leaned over and licked a snow cone. Yep, she licked it. I was horrified. Of course, I had to buy it. I probably should have tossed it on principle, but because I hate to waste food and money, I let her have it.

It put a damper on the event for me -- an afternoon I'd been looking forward to enjoying with my little girl. Because for her, it wasn't about the Greatest Show on Earth; it was all about the Greatest Snow Cone on Earth. After she got it, she barely looked up to see what the performers were doing. As I write this, she is sleeping with the cup next to her. Guaranteed, she'll be over it by tomorrow.

I struggle all the time with my kids' desire to have more, more, more. Both my 7-year-old, Max, and Sabrina regularly request stuff they see on commercials. She's especially dazzled by ads. Last week she tried Brussels sprouts for the first time. I asked what she thought of them. "Good!" she said. She paused, then her whole face lit up. "I think I saw them on a commercial!"


I'm doing what I can to deal. Besides firmly saying, "No, you can't have it" (assuming Sabrina doesn't lick anything), I've also quit taking the kids with me on trips to Target to avoid the "gimmes." After their birthday parties, I hold back about half of the presents and dole them out over the course of the ensuing months. And I recently did a sweep of their playroom and gave away about a third of the stuff they own to charity, to help other kids and also help my kids better see the good toys they already own. When there are too many toys cluttering a room, kids don't know what to play with first.

I highly suspect I am not alone here. Are your kids the same way? And how do you deal with your material girls and boys?! 

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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Imperfect Mom March 15, 2010, 10:45 AM

I hate holier-than-thou moms. I believe in never judging another mom b/c I hate it when it happens to me. So please don’t take what I’m saying as judgment. You asked for suggestions, so here’s mine, in regards to the snow cone incident (which actually made me laugh. Kids-licking-stuff stories are rarely not funny.) You say you didn’t want to waste food/money by throwing it out, but maybe you could have looked at it as “buying” a principle. Say the snow cone cost $5. If you buy it (b/c you have to) but don’t want to give it to her b/c that would teach her she gets rewarded for being naughty/disobedient, you still would feel bad wasting $5. Instead, think of it as, for $5 you can teach your daughter she won’t get what she wants that way. $5 for a good lesson sounds like a better value than $5 for a glorified cup of ice and sugar.

Sara March 15, 2010, 1:05 PM

The behaviors you’ve described are the behaviors of a spoiled child.

You need to teach your child that they’re not going to get everything they want. You need to take them to target and not buy them anything so they learn that they aren’t going to get everything they want. They need to understand and listen to your explanations and not throw a tantrum when they aren’t allowed what they want. By giving into the tantrums and giving her that snowcone you taught her that the way you get stuff is to whine and be bad to get it. You are encouraging her negative behavior.

I found that giving my daughter an allowance (she gets $5 a month) helped her to understand the value of money and to understand what too expensive means. If she really wants something she can save her allowance for it. The things she wants will be at the store the next time we are there.

aurhynn March 15, 2010, 3:35 PM

Rarely have Gimme-meltdowns with my daughter. I can literally go into a toy section of a store, let her hold the toy to try it out and have her put it back with no fuss. I just tell her to say “bye bye ___”. It’s worked since before she was 2. And Heaven forbid she licks food like your daughter did. It’s grounds for immediate we-go-home-now! and then immediate punishment when we get home. We taught our daughter “please” and “thank you”, “May I _____”. She’s been told no, when she’s asked, so now she understands that no means no and no amount of cuteness (and it’s cute when toddlers say it!) will budge either me or my husband. And if she whines too much about something, one of us will take her to the car and we will sit there until the other party done with the shopping. If I’m alone, she is told to be still and 9/10 times she will sit there because she knows Mommy is NOT HAPPY. Being happy is very important to her, so this works pretty well. She’s back to cheerful and bubbly as soon as I tell her the punishment’s over. My daughter is 3.5 years old and understands this. Don’t mean to nag or anything, just letting you know what I do to curtail the Gimme-mode.

Priss March 15, 2010, 6:11 PM

Say no and mean it. Consistently. Don’t give in, no matter how tired you are. Your daughter knows you’re not going to waste or be confrontational. By knowing this, she has control of the relationship.

I had to learn that the absolute hard way, and it was a battle to get through to my first two kids. My youngest is the one benefiting from those lessons now, though, and I’m grateful I learned them.

That said, you have a battle ahead. It takes a while before they learn that they can’t have everything, and you might have to tolerate watching the same videos over and over again to avoid the commercials. They are designed to grab a child’s attention and make it seem like the next greatest thing ever to them so they beg for it. Commercialism has moved to aggressively marketing to children, knowing the generation raising them is going to give because that’s how they were raised… getting everything they could possibly want, and then some.

It IS okay to say no, and they don’t really hate you.

And if you need someone to be a cranky body guard to remind people that you don’t “control” children, I’ll come butt the heads for you. :D

Anonymous March 16, 2010, 7:57 AM

wow - my kid licking a snow cone would’ve probably been the end of the trip. I’m a “mean mom” - meaning I don’t tolerate misbehavoir. I would’ve have paid for the snow-cone and thrown it out - otherwise your rewarding bad behavoir. And you had to stop taking your kids to target? Those are some spoiled kids then. As another poster said - say no and mean it. My kids don’t have “gimme meltdowns” since they know it ends the outing.

Anonymous March 16, 2010, 6:08 PM

the kid is a brat and the mom is a wimp

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