Christmas and the Pressures of Materialism

Last year around this time, I sat in a Standard Three class observing and listening to a conversation between some Standard Three boys.  One student was boasting that he was going to get an iPhone X for Christmas – a present I knew his parents could not afford. A student’s response was that the boastful student was lying and he could not afford it, in not such a nice manner. The boastful student then said that his uncle was going to buy it for him. Another student then proceeded to state that the iPhone X came out last year so he was lame for receiving this present. I then saw the student start to spiral in his lie, he started to say well he didn’t know exactly what iPhone his uncle was going to buy him, all he knew was that it was an iPhone. The student was laughed at, jeered, called a liar, which obviously embarrassed him. An argument ensued because he was, “Not lying!”, and a physical altercation of pushing and shoving occurred. These were nine-year-old boys, why was a phone so important to them? Or more importantly why was this brand name such a big deal? One word – Materialism.

Nowadays it seems that the focus is on a materialistic life, you get what you want and not what you need – the only way to live a good life.  The materialism pressure seems to be especially present among the younger generation and seems to be a big problem in schools. Children are now part of a society that gets harder and intimidating when you don’t wear or have designer shoes, or the latest technology devices just out. I even witnessed a Standard Four student who came to school in Nike Air Jordan’s and proceeded to show every student his shoes (which were of course not the colour of the mandated uniform), literally down to the five-year-olds, for no other purpose than to show he had this brand of shoes. It seems that children from the age of 8+ are more conscious of what they have, what they wear and what other people have and don’t have. In schools no matter whether it’s primary or secondary the children who have the more expensive items and that flaunt it, are the more popular within every age group. What parents don’t seem to realise is that this makes the children who don’t have the money for these things feel left out and made fun of. This leads to them finding extreme means to get certain items – stealing from parent’s wallets or having physical altercations, fighting with peers to get the attention off of what they don’t have. It’s better to be feared than made a fool of.

The pressures of materialism comes into play especially around this time of year in the big lead up to Christmas. Parents feel as though they have to buy their children the most expensive toys/gifts in order for them to have a great Christmas. Instead of spending the big bucks on a gift that may lose its lustre after a week, here are some considerations to make for mindful spending when purchasing gifts for your children:

  1. Why does the child need this?
  2. How long do I expect them to use /own this item?
  3. Do they already have something similar?
  4. Are they old enough to use this item responsibly?
  5. Can I create the same joy they will feel buy purchasing something less expensive with the same use?

Lastly, encourage you child to make a wish-list and a need-list for their gifts. Then, choose one item on that list after considering the mindful questions. If you, the parent, are still feeling generous after purchasing a wish list item, purchase an item from the need-list. This list not only allows the child to be mindful of what is a privileged item compared to an item of necessity, but it balances out the gift giving to be more of useful items, rather than materialistic needs.