Monday, December 29, 2008

Are "they" trying to guilt you into spending?

Have you ever stopped to think how often we spend money on something not because we really need it, but because we are made to feel somehow inadequate if we don't buy it? If you wear the same shoes for two seasons, you don't look good enough. If you haven't changed your cell phone in such and such amount of time, you aren't up to date with the latest technology. If you never eat out, you are a cheapskate. All of which, of course, is a crime!

Not long ago, I was contacted by a lady who wanted to buy a certain gift for her children, but because she felt it would mean spending a bit too much money, she ended up using some resourcefulness and creativity and making it herself. Her children loved what she did, but later she felt guilty for refusing to open her pocket and buy the brand-new, commercial, perfect-looking version.

There is a whole industry built around children, from babies to teenagers, with a seemingly endless stream of products and services - which we are supposed to buy, if we want to be good parents. Or so they would have us believe.

But you know what? The people who are behind promoting sales of brand-name children's toys, clothes, and various "development enhancers" are interested primarily in your hard-earned money! Wrapping us in guilt for not being able to afford this, that and the other material possession for our children does not serve us or our children - it serves the interests of those who work within the industry.

For many generations, children have developed just fine without having their own private rooms, fancy toys, and new clothes. They had simple home-made toys and games, many siblings and cousins, and early, active involvement in family life. Have you ever thought why today, when so much effort is put into "child development", it takes so long for people to become mature? In my opinion, this is at least partly due to children's early separation from their mothers, lack of siblings, and early institutionalization.

Children need mothers who are ready to put in time, effort, love and devotion, and actually be there for their children. A simple toy you make for your children, or a game you make up together, is much better than buying a fancy gift you can't afford.

My observation is that children get tired of toys pretty quickly, and it doesn't matter how expensive they are. When we are talking about something you made, your children will know Mom made it just for them, and they will know the time and effort you put into making a gift for them. This will teach them, from an early age, to appreciate the value of work and everything that goes along with it. When I was a child, a hat or sweater that Grandma made was worn with extra care, because I remembered all the time she spent with her pair of needles, knitting away. It also taught me a link between a ball of yarn, a pair of knitting needles, and an item of clothing. No such kind of educational experience is attached to store-bought products.

"The best" is not the shiny, new, brand-name things sold in stores. Not if you would have to go out to work and spend less time with your children in order to buy those things, or put your family under a financial strain. I believe with all my heart that love, nurturing, family time, creativity, contact with nature, good reading and simple entertainment are the best - but of course, it's not a popular choice, and not one that is promoted by those who would otherwise have your money in their pocket.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

In general, I agree. However, I would be wary to assume that kids naturally appreciate gifts 'mom made'. Most don't....at least not until they are past the teen years. They want the shiny new version like all their friends. One has to lock a child up in their room for 18 yrs if one wants to totally avoid this kind of peer pressure....it's just inevitable, and I'm not sure it's a new phenomenon. I'm sure kids 50 yrs ago would also have preferred a new scarf bought at Macy's to one mom knit.

Of course, not all kids are alike. But I think it's not realistic to expect your average kid to appreciate a homemade sewn outfit. She would probably much prefer to wear what her friends are wearing...again, unless she has been isolated from her peers from a very early age.
Tammy
ps.This does not mean that I think parents need to cave in to the excessive consumer demands made by the average child. It just means they should acknowledge them and find ways to deal with the issue (such as having the kid earn money for brand name purchases).

Tracy said...

I think you are so right. My children know some of the stuff they see on tv or the neighbor kids have they won't get because mom trys to work as little as possible. My children know we feel family is more important than stuff. They don't always like it but it's a lesson to be learned. I see so many of my neighbors push their kids aside for career or material possessions or they took on more debt then they can handle. It's sad cause those kids tell my children they are lucky to have their parents around and to be homeschooled. So all those fancy toys don't mean much in the end anyways. MY GOD BLESS YOU

TheRetroHousewife said...

I do agree with Tammy, although my daughter is only almost four. She really doesn't see the difference in store bought or homemade...however, I believe that she wont remember me buying her a toy at Walmart when she is grown but I think she will remember when she wanted a superhero cape very badly and I just stopped what she was doing , lugged out the sewing machine, let her pick our some fabric and whipped one up for her.

Neuropoet said...

My boys learned early to appreciate home-made toys because we've always lived frugally out of necessity. They do look longingly at some toys that friends may have, but the feeling passes when they aren't around the toy anymore, :) and they know that for us family is more important than things. It helps that we don't expose them to a lot of commercials and other "child -focused" advertising though! :)

~Jenny

terry said...

Why do so many of us, as parents, think the toy industry knows what will teach and entertain our children better than we do? When my daughter was three and my son was five, I taught them how to sew buttons onto fabric. I have some beautiful memories of the three of us sitting with some candles glowing, lovely music playing and just sewing.

I would put together craft baskets for them with fabric scraps, yarn, beeswax, pipecleaners, paper and crayons and they'd be happy for hours.

If they were really bored, I put them in their bathing suits and pop them in the tub for some water play. They loved it. Better than sitting in a coma like state in front of the tv.

I'm happy to say that today I am the mother to a well adjusted 13 year old and 11 year old, who rarely say they are bored and love to be outside!

Love and peace,

Terry

Bethany Hudson said...

I wrote a post on this topic a few months ago called, "When Did Caring Become Commercial?" Here's the link if you're interested ;-) http://applecidermama.blogspot.com/2008/09/when-did-caring-become-commercial.html

I agree with the first comment that some kids don't always enjoy homemade gifts. For example, unless you are a computer engineer, most moms won't be building video game systems :) But, that doesn't mean that you should feel compelled or guilted into buying EVERYTHING rather than making it. In fact, don't even make it all! I was an only child from a well-to-do family and one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me was imposed denial: refusing me something even when it was easily affordable for us. In that way, I learned patience; I learned to earn things; and I learned that sometimes you don't really want or need that which is denied. I feel that I am a more contented adult for these lessons.

~Bethany

Sarah K said...

Equally children (including those of the grown-up variety) can make presents for parents! This Christmas I had no idea what to get my mother, and I ended up in the habedashary department of a department store where I bought material to make her a jewellary roll. She loved it, all the more because it was very personal and also unique. I did go through some worry beforehand over whether it was special enough.

A. said...

I don't think it is *as* extreme as you propose. I've never felt like a "criminal" for wearing the same shoes for two seasons or using older electronics.

But I do think that homemade gifts can bring just as much delight to the giftee than, say, a new store-bought cashmere sweater. My co-workers definitely appreciated that I gave them loafs of whole wheat and parmesan cheese bread instead of commercially prepared sugar cookies during the holidays. And I think that those who received my handmade holiday cards enjoyed them just as much as I enjoyed making them!

My mother made all my clothing growing up. I was the most well-dressed and fashionable kid on the block! But today, it can sometimes be more expensive to make a skirt than it is to buy one, unfortunately.

Allison

Dessi said...

Hi thank you for your post!!1 I have been looking for your answer . I have been praying for you and you baby and also your husband that you all be safe and may God keep you safe and close to him!!!

Lillian the Ponderer said...

Quite right Anna,

I think it is very easy to get pushed into the whole you must buy this or that thing, as a child there were toys I wanted but we couldn't afford but I certainly don't feel I had a deprived childhood because I didn't get them.
Even as adults we are told that buying a certain type of gift for someone is what will show our love, but this is simply not true. I have just finished making a first anniversary present for my husband and I know he will absolutely love it more than anything money could buy simply because it took my love and time to make it for him and because no-one else has anything exactly like it is an added bonus.

Joanna J. said...

When I was a child, Cabbage Patch Kids were the latest popular doll. My parents could not afford to buy one, so my mom made me a doll for Christmas that looked very much like a Cabbage Patch Doll. She spent so much time and effort into making this special gift, and it is still one of my most precious possessions. My daughter plays with it now and it brings such sweet memories when I see her playing with it. How thankful I am for a smart and talented mom who could make such a wonderful present for me!

Rose said...

Anna if you haven't already, I recommend that that you read the "Little House" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Ma and Pa Ingalls would heartily agree with this post.

So glad to know that you and Mr T are safe at the moment. Thinking of you, Rose

Anonymous said...

No offense to you, but I prefer new clothes for my kiddos. Thankfully, I get the brands I like for cheap at discount stores. However, I know some people (perhaps yourself) do not have access to a variety of stores. And others can better afford thift prices or free items than discounted items.

homemakeratheart said...

You are so right!~ When I make something for my daughter, who is 2 1/2, she loves it and treasures it. It's special because Mom made it. She's already getting bored with her Christmas gifts. But guess what, she takes her "new" bear that I made to bed with her every night.

MarkyMark said...

Anna,

You're 100% right that marketers are trying to manipulate us into parting with our money. They use guilt, particularly with parents. Another angle is playing on one's insecurities. For men and women, these insecurities may be different, but they are there, and the marketers exploit them. Those reading this blog I think are smart enough to see through the BS though.

I have to tell a funny story about a letter Kawasaki sent me. At the time, I owned two, one of which was the ZRX1100. There's a online forum devoted to the bike, so I joined it. A few weeks after I joined ZRXOA, I got this slick letter from Kawasaki...

It was an offer for their then new ZX-14, which is the fastest, most powerful mass produced motorcycle on Earth. That's no joke, either! You can Google Kawasaki ZX-14 if you don't believe me. Anyway, the letter goes on about how I like to take the lead; if I were serious about staying a leader, then I'd run over to my friendly, neighborhood Kawasaki dealer, and buy a new ZX-14, and I'd be one-wow! Of course I saw right through their manipulation...

My first reaction to the letter was this: my ZRX1100 was more than enough bike for me; what BUSINESS do I have owning and riding that LAND MISSILE?! That's just what the ZX-14 is, a land missile. If not for the electronic speed limiter, that bike would do 190 mph (305 km/h) right out of the box! If my old bike kept my hands full, why on Earth would I want that monster?!

Then there was the matter that my old bike was paid for, whereas if I'd bought the ZX-14, I'd have had to make payments on it. I don't like to have debt; when I've had it, I make an effort to pay it off early. Kawasaki also have a financing division, which means they make money off you twice: once when you buy the bike, then again when you pay interest. Nice try, but I'm not bitin'...

One trick that car and motorcycle builders use is the model year. General Motors concocted that one in in 1926. It was an extension of the annual change in fashions, and it had the same intent: to make what you had seem dated or out of style, thus making you sufficiently dissatisfied to buy a new product.

One reason I come here is to continue my education on these tricks. It's good to be reminded that we seldom need the 'latest & greatest' of anything. I'd like to write more, but I'm getting tired. Thank you, and good night...

MarkyMark

Anonymous said...

I have to say that my experience with our children has been similar to Neuropoet's. When the kids were little, & they would see such & such a toy that their friends had or that was in a store, or maybe view a commercial on TV, it would get them going. Once removed from that situation, however, the longing seems to pass.

I have had very few disappointments making gifts for my children...honestly! They will proudly wear the knit items I've made for them, & a new pair of pajama pants at Christmas time is eagerly anticipated. A few things have even elicited admiring comments from friends, & though this isn't the response I hope for, I guess I have to say it doesn't upset me, either.

A lot of our children's attitude & opinions about homemade will come directly from us...their parents. If they see us pining away for this thing or that it is very likely they will do the same.

"I believe with all my heart that love, nurturing, family time, creativity, contact with nature, good reading & simple entertainment are the best..." Anna, this is so true. And if I may add, to what you've said, it is completely possible! It takes creative thinking, patience, & determination, but it IS possible. :o) Thanks for a post that is sure to make a lot of us think.

Brenda

p.s. I heard the news (just last night) about all the turmoil in Israel...more today. I have been rather worried for you, Mr. T. & your families. Thanks for the update, Anna. May the Lord protect you.

Mrs. Parunak said...

Lovely post! I remember debating this with a college roommate. She, the daughter of two working parents, educated in top boarding schools, the recipient of brand name clothes and music lessons, could not understand how I could be contemplating staying home with my family and not providing the money for all those "necessities." But I knew from my own experience what was far, far better than all of that. I had grown up with a mother at home. In elementary school it was hard at times because my family couldn't afford for me to have clothes like the other girls. But starting in sixth grade, my mother homeschooled me, and it was such bliss. I breathed a huge sigh of relief to be away from all the pressure to conform. And I reveled in the "make-it-yourself" culture of my new found homeschool friends. They all took great delight in sewing their own clothes, in knitting, cross-stitching, making decorations out of beeswax, etc. The beautiful vision of the value of the homemade never left me. Sure, kids can get bad attitudes about homemade stuff when their peers are constantly mocking them or even just showing off their flashy, shiny store-bought toys. But children who are wrapped in a home environment and culture that values the love and attention that go into a homemade toy or article of clothing will find that they, too, appreciate the surpassing value in the things that were made with love.

BettySue said...

Amen!

If you limit the media, (which isn't good for them phisically or mentally anyway) are careful with who they spend time with, they won't ahve nearly the case of the gimmes most children today have. Oh they might see a toy they like, but they won't obsess on it. And children understand not having much money...unless you are giving them so much they have never experience being broke.
Little ones (toddlers) seem to prefer helping mom to playing anyway:-)

Miss Rose Virginia said...

You're so right, Anna! And the thing is, the kids who don't appreciate homemade gifts, toys, and games are usually ones who go to school, where they are influenced by other children, watch a great deal of television, and who are encouraged by their parents to be children until their 30s.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know I am praying for you, your family and Israel during this time.

Renie
Tijeras, NM USA

Kaitlin.Elizabeth said...

Children do usually want the shiny new (mostly to conform to what other children have), but it's sort of like in "Little Girl in the Prairie", where her family cannot afford to buy her a "real" doll like richer girls have, but her mother makes her a doll out of a corn cob that she is grateful to get and spends all sorts of time playing with. I also remember a part (unless I am mistaken-- it's been years since my mother read me those books :)) where she sees this other little girl wearing a fur hat and a matching muff and she just adores it. She really badly wants a fur hat and muff like that and one day, someone actually does buy her a set and she is over the sun with happiness!

I guess what I am saying here is while children do often desire the brand new toys/clothes that other children have, they don't need them, and oftentimes inexpensive gifts are treasured and enjoyed for more reasons besides that they are shiny. Also, when a child who's parents don't buy her every new shiny thing in the world does get something she *really* desires, it makes it all the more meaningful. There's a lesson in there.

Aelwyn said...

I have watched someone I dearly love give her boys everything, because she did not have much but hand-me-downs growing up. As a result, these young men have rarely been content, let alone happy. They get what they want, and then want more. They are young adults, but only one is even close to being responsible and self-sufficient. It is heartbreaking.

It is always a temptation to give your child "everything." But a wise parent once said about a student of mine, "I care more about her character than her happiness." Happiness is a momentary emotion. Character helps a child through a lifetime.

MarkyMark said...

Ladies,

I know that I've mentioned him before, but I'll repeat his name: Edward Bernays. Who is Edward Bernays? He's a psychologist who isn't that well known, though he should be, given his body of work. However, his uncle is known to almost everyone: Sigmund Freud.

Mr. Bernays' work dealt with using the mass media to influence and manipulate the masses. When Bernays was doing his work, radio was the first, instant mass medium, and businesses wanted to harness its power. Bernays showed them how.

He was responsible for the ad campaigns that got women smoking. Before that, it was mostly men who smoked. The tobacco companies, like all companies, wanted to increase their customer base; getting women in the fold would effectively DOUBLE their number of customers overnight-wow! Guess what ruse Bernays came up with to entice women to smoke cigarettes: liberation! They told women that, if they smoked, then they'd be liberated-wow...

I remember seeing a Google video series on Mr. Bernays; I watched a portion of Part I. There are four parts, and each is approximately an hour in length. I'd encourage all of you to watch them, so you can be better educated about marketers and their tricks...

MarkyMark

MarkyMark said...

Ladies,

I found a video about Edward Bernays, and I just featured it in one of my posts. It's about Ed Bernays and women's liberation-interesting stuff! This video is only a few minutes long, so it won't take long to view it. Over the coming days and weeks, I'm going to be doing a SERIES on Mr. Bernays, and his impact on our lives. Thank you, and have a great night... :)

MarkyMark

MarkyMark said...

Ladies,

I remembered where to find those videos I mentioned above, and I'll post a link here now. The four part series is appropriately titled: "Century of the Self". You'll actually find a plethora of links on this page, so you'll need to scroll down some. The links are below a book cover that says, "Propaganda for Sheeple", and they're above a picture of the WTC disintegrating on 9/11. Check out all the videos, as they are quite educational. Thank you, and good night...

MarkyMark

Karen said...

OK I have to admit this reminds me of something kind of silly I did. :) Well I wanted to get my newborn something for Christmas...not because she needed anything or, for that matter, would even notice if she did get anything, but because it just seemed like the thing to do to give her a gift on Christmas and for some weird reason I would feel guilty if I didn't. Well it was hard to think of something seeing as how she didn't need anything, so I considered how she didn't really like cold baby wipes so we got her this expensive baby wipes warmer. It is just the dumbest thing ever! This thing plugs into the wall and takes a full 3 hours to warm up the wipes, so you can't ever unplug it. Then when they are luke-warm, you take one out and half a second later it is cold again! I don't know who thought of this thing...but I'm sure they are sitting pretty. Too bad my baby's not...she can't really tell the difference!