Monday, December 11, 2006

Entitlement Prevention Measures

My kids are young. They are malleable. They can be shielded from the onslaught of consumerist messages simply by my careful vigilance.

For now, at least.

I'm more than a little worried about how to ward off The Gimmes in, say, 3 years or so, after they've experienced full-body immersion in the social movement known as Being around a Lot of Other Kids in School, Kids Who Have Not Necessarily Been as Isolated from Mass Media as I Would Have Liked.

(I mean, have you seen those scary Bratz dolls, for instance? They make me want to go right out and EMBRACE Barbie.)

I like to think that I am still keeping Sean and Allie inside our little No Commercials or Toy Catalog Bubble. Closer examination, however, would reveal that the bubble is not of industrial strength. Show them any commercial tie-in of their favorite videos (right now, it’s Cars), and they just about burst into applause. Going to the grocery store is more challenging now that we have to stop and gaze lovingly at each manifestation of Dora or Shrek on a package. Still, I feel like I am doing a reasonably good job at managing media consumption and toy purchasing.

Which brings me, most circuitously, to my point: my desire not to inundate the kids with gifts at Christmas and yet still make sure they have a fun Christmas morning. The last thing I want are children who take their good fortune for granted, who feel entitled to an endless supply of material goods and privilege. I don’t want a child who plows through a pile of gifts and then comments “Is that it?” I’ve tried to set sensible limits on how many toys we buy each of them for Christmas. I've been emphasizing the spirit of giving, of making presents for family members and of thinking of ways to be kind to others. I think they are young enough to be happy with a limited amount of stuff on Christmas morning, but will this approach work when they’re older?

How do you handle holiday gift-giving for your kids? If your kids are school-age, does peer pressure affect how your kids respond to the number of/type of gifts they receive? I just wonder how long the Bubble will hold...