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Attitude Makeover: Greedy

Antidote: Frugality, Altruism, Generosity
"Gimme, gimme, gimme!"
Dear Dr. Borba,
I'm hoping you can help me with my nine year old: he's become so greedy! I've tried to always make him happy and give him what the other kids have, but I think it's backfired. Instead of being satisfied, he just wants more! And he always wants more than anyone else. Now that I created this greedy, selfish monster, can I change his attitude?

– Karen P., a mom from Orlando, Florida

Have you noticed that we seem to have a lot of greedy kids these days? The general public agrees and feels that increased numbers of today's youth are self-centered, spoiled, greedy, and materialistic. Instead of being appreciative of what they have, these critters seem to want more, more, more. Kids' ravenous, never-satisfied manner certainly drains a checkbook, but something even more dangerous happens: greediness vaporizes their hearts and souls.

Think about it: if you incessantly prioritize your own wants and desires and put others' needs and feelings on hold, your life outlook is inevitably affected. More often than not, the message learned is that relationships are far less valuable than self and material possessions acquired. The bottom line is that steady dosages of greediness are shattering to our kids' character.

Raising kids in such a materialistic, greedy world doesn't help matters. It isn't easy resisting advertisers who taunt kids to buy-buy-buy, which perhaps is why data reveal that many kids are becoming more consumer driven and at much younger ages. There's big pressure to buy everything that their friends may have bought, as well keeping up with trends that require that they get the latest styles of shoes, cell phones, DVD players, and other electronic gadgets. We're even told that we must buy more to improve our economy, as if consumerism were a crucial part of patriotism.

One of the biggest causes of greediness is the one we hate admitting most: too often we parents have obliged our kids' every whim. Sure, we want our kids to be happy and have what they desire, but motivating them with bribery is a destructive style of parenting, and giving them more than they need just to keep up with the Joneses is equally toxic. In the end, we must keep true to one real parenting goal: raising kids who are satisfied with themselves and recognize the joy of others. So if your child appears to have a case of the "gimmes," always puts himself first, and isn't appreciative of what he has, it's time for a serious makeover. Start today by beginning a long-term commitment to inspire frugality, altruism, and generosity.

Emergency Attitude
Launch a short-term period of denial and deprivation to show your kid that he can actually do without having more of everything. Agree that you – and other family members – will make no nonessential purchases for an agreed-on time. For example, for younger kids, you might eliminate daily treats like candy or toys. For older kids no CDs, DVDs, cute things to wear, accessories, sport shoes, or makeup. The point is to show that constant material acquisition is an addictive habit, and you can get along perfectly well without all this stuff.

Bad Attitude Alert
Quick! Nip that greediness in the bud by starting right now to figure out how it got started.

First ask yourself these questions:

Why. Why does your kid have a greedy attitude? There could be a number of causes. For instance, is there an emphasis on materialism in your home? Have his whims and desires been too easily granted? Are you bribing him with stuff every time you want him to do something or behave right? Are you bombarding him with things he doesn't need because you see your friends doing the same thing with their kids? Does she feel that the way to gain peer acceptance is by having the latest fashions or gadgets? Might it be to affirm his relationship with you? For instance, if he is jealous of a sibling or a relationship you have, when you feel guilty and give in to his wants, it "affirms" your love. Has a grandparent or other member of the family overindulged her? Why? By whom? More important, is there one thing you might do to stop it from spiraling further?

What. Are there particular things she is usually more greedy about? Does she want toys, entertainment, clothes, sports paraphernalia, computer gadgets, CDs, or cash?

Who. Does he display the same greedy attitude to everyone? Are there some individuals he does not use his greedy ways on? If so, who? Why not?

When. Is there a particular time he is greedier than others – for instance, on a particular holiday, before school starts, or his birthday? Is there a reason? Do you alleviate your guilt about being away from home, spending too much time on other people or projects, or just plain feeling bad about not being the perfect parent by buying your kid stuff, stuff, and more stuff?

Where. Are there certain places he is more likely to be greedy (at school or day care, home, the store, Grandma's)? Why? For instance, is Grandma an easy target for buying special treats she knows no one else will buy him?

Now review your answers. Are you seeing any predictable patterns? Do you have any better understanding of your kid's greedy attitude and where it's coming from?


From Don't Give Me That Attitude by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2004 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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