I read an excellent article in Natural Life magazine called "Frugal Kids". It came precisely in the moment when I was wondering if my little one was watching too much tv b/c of the commercialism involved with it. That's the only thing I really worry about when it comes to things like that because both my husband and I are pretty aware of our beliefs and actions so that we can lay a good foundation down for her. What we want for her is to be content with simple things. I don't mean that if she one day - through working honestly and intently- has the money for a Mercedes that she should feel guilty or torn about buying it. And I'll be the first to take a celebratory spin around the block with her! But I want her to know that contentment and peace is found elsewhere- NOT in things.
Things are taking over childhood. And tv has a lot to do with things which is why I worry about her tv time. I used to be worried about it and then I saw other people's kids. And then I wasn't so worried anymore. But still, I don't want to create my measures of normalcy against what other people do. So, whenever I feel enough has been enough- and I always know when it's been enough- I make sure we go somewhere to interact with people, to see something new, or to at the very least just get some sun and fresh air. Sure, there are days when we're sick that there are not many more options and there were those crazy couple of weeks where I sat my daughter through waaaaaaaaaaaaayyy too many Mickey Mouse Clubhouses so that I could finish watching LOST (I was completely obsessed and overtaken by that island) but the norm is not to depend on tv as the sole source of entertainment.
The magazine article mentions a book titled "Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood" written by Susan Linn who teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Specifically, it mentions how the book explains that "psychological and neurological research is used to exploit the vulnerabilities of children." I mean, I knew this was true already but this never fails to infuriate me. It goes on to say, "The explosion of marketing aimed at kids today is precisely targeted, refined by scientific method, and honed by child psychologists- in short, it is more pervasive and intrusive than ever before."
"These strategies are not only employed in advertising itself but are embedded in Internet sites, video games, television, and movies. They're designed into packaging, implicit in many playthings, and nearly ubiquitous in schools. Young people have minimal defenses against such tactics. Children under the age of eight aren't even able to understand the persuasive intent of advertising. And studies show that a network in the brain necessary for many introspective abilities- forming a self-image, understanding the ongoing story of one's own life, and gaining insight into other people's behavior- is profoundly weaker in young people. Those brain networks aren't fully established until adulthood. Just at the stage when self-hood is forming, our children are most vulnerable to the messages of a consumer culture."
The article also writes about delayed gratification and how it relates to our culture of "have it now" and "get what you want it when you want it." It talks about study after study done where "children who were able to defer gratification grew into teens and young adults who were more socially competent, better able to deal with frustration, more dependable, reached higher educational attainments, and were effectively able to make and reach long-term goals." It says that delayed gratification is pivotal for success and related to impulse control as predictive of success even decades down the line. According to this article, it is important to begin to explain and practice simple, frugal living when they are 3-4 years old to really establish that foundation. I have already begun.
After reading this article, I was grateful that it was written because a lot of times I feel as if we have three heads with the way we are parenting and with the plans we have for our futures together. It's all so against popular culture and it feels like we are constantly swimming upstream. But inside I know that my little one will be so much better off and well adjusted in life for it. Her happiness, along with my and my hunny's, are the most important thing in the world to me.
I remember what it was like to do chores.
I remember complaining b/c my parents didn't want to take me to the toy store and then pouting on my way out the door when told to go "play outside". I also remember running around, smiling and leaping with joy in the sun not even two minutes later. I had forgotten all about that toy that I threw the tantrum for.
I remember what it was like to save up for a month to get a scooter. Sure, I thought it was senseless back then but now I fell it is emotional gold. I am thankful for having a sensible head on my shoulders. And thankfully I got there despite all the hours of tv and video games. So, I'm hopeful that all of us that put the intention and the effort to have our kids appreciate the simple and the truly valuable will enjoy seeing our kids benefit from happiness and fulfillment.