Although the American economy is still recovering from the Great Recession as of 2012, many families still have a high standard of living. Kids in the United States might not be able to go to the movies once or twice a week, for example, but they might be able to enjoy movies through services like Netflix. The combination of available goods/services with kids’ natural emotional response to marketing is a recipe for gluttony that needs to be cut at the quick.
Recognizing the Child Glutton
Gluttony means that a person has a tendency to take more than what they need. Personality and biological traits both come into play regarding how egocentric a kid is and how willing she is to be aggressive about getting something. Even so, access to items or services matter. When a child always is able to get what she wants, she gets used to being able to take. If the desire to take or consume isn’t put it check, gluttony develops.
Now, it’s normal for kids to ask for things. That’s just what the curious little creatures do in order to explore and learn boundaries. Gluttony applies more when a child will not let the issue of having something go. She may not share well and may exhibit an exaggerated sense of entitlement. When she does get what she wants, she might not stay satisfied or interested for long, and she may waste a lot of what she receives because she’s merely putting ownership, not value, on those things.
Gluttony, Kids and Money
Gluttony and money are connected in that money typically is the gateway toward whatever a child wants. The more money a child has, the more access they have to various activities, goods and services. This means that the more money you let your child have, the more imperative it is that you teach them how to handle it responsibly with restraint. Saving becomes essential but is the biggest challenge the child glutton faces.
One way you can fight your child’s gluttony is to get your child to think about how much they really will use of a purchase. For example, they might be able to afford the Biggest-Size-Ever milkshake, but the odds are pretty good they’ll only drink a quarter to half of it. Even though the small size might be a little pricier, you can teach your child that the slight increase in cost might make sense if it means less goes in the trash.
A second option is to introduce your kid to the idea of frugality. Frugality doesn’t mean cheap. It means finding the service or good that is of the highest quality or efficiency for the lowest cost. To be frugal, kids must investigate items and think critically about how features and prices compare—that is, they can’t buy based on emotional impulse. Using this option often allows kids more because frugality results in savings that can go toward other purchases. Here, you teach your kids that it’s not having a lot that is an issue—it’s not thinking through purchases and spending mindlessly that’s the problem.
As you teach your kids to be aware of their use and exercise frugality, you also can fight gluttony by having your kids donate to charities on a regular basis. The general rule can be that, while it’s fine and even laudable to plan ahead (e.g., buying nonperishables you know you’ll use in bulk when they’re on sale), extreme excess automatically triggers giving. This tames the egocentric viewpoint that so often goes hand in hand with gluttonous behavior and gives your child perspective about much is acceptable to use or have.