Managing your teens requests for ‘toys’

I hear your struggle in wanting to find a balance between providing for your kids' needs and desires, and not being an overindulgent parent.

As a parent of two teenagers, I find it so difficult to know how to manage their requests for new “toys.” Every day there is a new device, or computer game, or article of clothing that they just have to have!

How can I keep up when the popular demand keeps changing and my kids are worried they won’t be cool without the latest thing?

The question you bring up is extremely relevant in the current age of immediate gratification.

I hear your struggle in wanting to find a balance between providing for your kids’ needs and desires, and not being an overindulgent parent.

Many parents today grew up learning skills for how to be resourceful and conservative with their spending. Delayed gratification is a lesson that was highly valued in past generations, but appears to be diminishing with young people these days.

There are many reasons for why this might be.

For one thing, we are living in a technological age that is growing faster than we can keep up with. Today there are far more gadgets, and devices, and new technological advances than there have ever been in history.

Secondly, many current parents grew up in homes during tough economic times. Finances were tight and spending and saving wisely were necessary skills to survive.

Most people these days have all of their basic needs provided for, and have the time and the resources to spend money on frivolous things.

We live in a culture that prides itself on immediate gratification. This does make it difficult for parents to know how to manage the requests of their children.

Despite the ability that a lot of people have to buy what they want, when they want, there is still great value in teaching children delayed gratification. When you look at our current economy, you can see the devastating effects of people spending more money than they actually had.

It might help to dig deep into the motivation as to why your child wants a new toy.

Were they feeling sad or depressed? Were they bored? Were they seeking attention from another person? These types of questions help to identify the motivation behind the urge to spend.

Some people simply get addicted to the act of spending money. Buying something new brings a rush of adrenaline, which is quickly overtaken by the realization that they did not even want or need the item purchased.

If this behaviour is continually indulged, it can turn into an addictive behaviour. Instead, you can help to teach your kids the benefits of waiting. The act of waiting and longing for something can make the feeling of gratification so much greater when it is actually realized. That is why it is called delayed gratification.

But what do you do when your children are devastated and feeling like they won’t fit in without the latest toy?

First off, help your child to see the big picture. The item that is all the rage right now may not last longer than a couple of weeks. Teach them how to look beyond “right now” and to make choices that will benefit them down the road, too. If you do decide to get your child something they have asked for, give them a time period before you purchase, and check see if they are still interested in the new item after several weeks have passed.

This will help things that are truly frivolous to fade and help you to save your money.

Teach your children the value of saving money by setting up a savings account and helping them choose how to spend their money. This will set them up for success long after they have left home.

At the end of the day, remember, you are the parent, so don’t feel bad making decisions that are for the best interest of your children. One day, they might just thank you for it!

If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at info@pacifictherapy.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Thursday in the Record.

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