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How to Overcome Materialism & Selfishness in Children

by Kay Ireland, studioD

You may be struggling to break your child's attitude of entitlement, especially if the root of his materialism and selfishness started with you. Parents who want to give their children all the things they desire will quickly discover that giving too freely and too excessively can backfire -- in the short-term and long-term. If you are guilty of parenting that has created materialism or selfishness in your child, assess your behaviors and move forward by setting examples of gratefulness that will teach the value of hard work in your child's home and in his everyday life.

Before you do anything else, take a look in the mirror. As hard as it may be, you need to acknowledge your own behaviors if you have contributed to your child's selfish and materialistic attitudes. Perhaps you've fanned the flame by rewarding your child with gifts as a way to praise him for his good deeds or accomplishments. Perhaps you never say no when he begs for a new toy or treat. Maybe you are overcompensating for what you've missed in your own childhood by lavishing your child with the things you never had growing up. Either way, parents are usually the cause of materialistic behaviors, according to Clinical Psychologist Leon F. Selzer in his "Psychology Today" article, "Child-Entitlement Abuse: How Parents Inadvertently Harm Their Children."

Create a zero-tolerance environment for selfishness or entitlement in your home. If your child whines that he wants a certain object or you find him refusing to share, redirect the situation immediately by talking to him about his behavior and explaining to him why it is inappropriate. Do not indulge the behavior by giving in to it or by ignoring it. You may need to give your child some time to calm down. Let him know that once he can approach the situation with a positive attitude, he can come back to it.

Allow your child to earn the things he wants by working and saving, suggests Dr. Laura Markham, on her website, Aha! Parenting. Simply handing over whatever your child wants teaches him to place little value on possessions. Instead, figure out the cost of something he wants -- a new video game, for instance -- and map out a method for saving the money so that he can pay for it himself. Not only will you be teaching your child the value of hard work, but he will likely take better care of items that he had to work for.

Be careful not to use methods of praise by solely giving gifts or material things. This approach will teach your child to measure his worth based on the stuff he has, substituting objects for true confidence, warns a report by the University of New Mexico Carlson School of Management. Instead, focus on giving targeted praise, physical affection and quality time in lieu of gifts and presents for a job well done.

Volunteer with your family and include your child. Helping out at a food bank for an afternoon, organizing donations for a shelter or helping out at a local hospital can help your child learn the value of service and to be more grateful for the things that he has. Volunteering provides an excellent way to spend time with your family while teaching valuable life lessons.

About the Author

Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.

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