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Attitude Makeover: Greedy

The "Don't Give Me That Attitude" Makeover
To eliminate your child's greedy attitude, take the following steps.

Step 1. Encourage Experiences that Nurture Strong Values, Skills, and Relationships
The first step to turning off kids' greed is by helping them recognize that having "stuff" does not provide emotional fulfillment. It must be replaced by a central life message: "Who you are is more important than what you have." Of course, merely reciting such lines won't change attitudes. Only through personal example and ongoing experiences that emphasize people over things and values over possessions will kids grasp the concept, and that comes only through your slow, consistent, committed effort. Begin intentionally looking for kinds of experiences that nurture strong values, skills, and relationships. Then encourage your child to try them, followed each time by helping him to see the value of the experience – for example:

"You looked as if you really enjoyed spending the day with Grandpa. He certainly loved being with you. Those are the kind of times you'll remember forever."

"Mom really appreciated your hand-made card. It's so much more meaningful than something you buy. Did you see her expression?"

Step 2. Tame The Gimmes; Then Don't Back Down
The next step to squelching your kid's greedy ways is simply not to tolerate the attitude. Always giving in to your kid's greedy desires doesn't do her any favors. Say no more often to your kid's whims and consumer demands, and do so without feeling guilty. Of course, if your kid is used to always getting what she wants, your new response will more than likely not be popular with her. So explain your concerns and the reason for your new policy, and then stick to it. Here are some other methods for taming the gimmes:

  • For a younger child, set a reasonable budget for major expenses like a back-to-school wardrobe, birthday parties and presents, and holiday gifts. Stick to it and don't cave in. For an older child, give him your dollar cap, and let him be responsible for deciding how to spend it.
  • Whenever possible, encourage family members to make gifts and presents instead of buying a lot of expensive stuff. Many times grandparents, other family members, teachers, and friends really appreciate something you've actually created yourself much more than a store-bought item.
  • Pass your "no frills" policy onto other immediate caregivers, particularly grandparents, relatives, and your partner.
  • Enlist the aid of friends and grandparents – who often delight in "spoiling" your child – by suggesting they buy only one gift at birthdays or holidays or give money for your child's education fund. The more you stick together, the more effective you will be in curbing your kid's greedy streak.
  • Never bribe or reward your child with material gifts just for doing something he should have done anyway.
Step 3. Monitor Media Consumption That Drives Greediness
Television probably wields the greatest influence on fueling kids' greedy attitudes, and commercials are relentless in trying to get kids to want, want, want, and buy, buy, buy. Limit your child's exposure to TV commercials by minimizing his TV viewing. (Hint: Children's public television, while not strictly commercial free, offers quality programs with much less advertising.) And when you are watching those commercials with your kid, point out that their purpose is not altruistic. They want his money. When kids are more tuned into the advertisers' motives, they are less likely to want every little thing they see.

Step 4. Praise Charitable Deeds, and Encourage Kids To Value What They Have
Praise is one of the oldest parenting strategies, but research finds that only certain kinds really enhance behavior and changes attitudes. Psychologist Joan Grusec found that kids who were frequently praised by their mothers whenever they displayed generous behavior actually tended to be less generous on a day-to-day basis than other children. Why? More than likely, the children weren't personally committed to the trait – in this case, generosity – that their moms were praising them for. Without their moms' encouraging words, there was really no reason for them to continue doing generous actions on their own, because their good behavior was guided by social approval and not their own internal convictions. Encourage your kids' charitable actions, but be conscious of how you praise and what you say so they understand the value of the deed.

  • Praise the deed, not the child. "That was so kind when you shared your toys with Mariettza."
  • The praise is specific. "You were a good host in making sure everyone got the same-size piece of cake. I think everyone enjoyed the play group much more this time."
  • The praise is deserved. "Grandpa loved your painting. You took such time, and he really appreciated it."
  • The praise is genuine. The best reinforcement is always sincere and lets the child know exactly what she did that was right: "I know it took effort not to buy the toy, but you used good judgment when you said that you really didn't need it."

Next: Steps 5 & 6 >>

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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