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Guilt: Not buying something my child wants

There's no getting around it: we live in a consumer society, and kids, even many four- and five-year olds, feel they simply have to have the right clothes, shoes and so on. It helps them feel like they fit in with their playmates. Younger children may be after you for the latest game or breakfast cereal - because they see it advertised, or because their friends have it.

Here are several ways to help your child understand why he can't always have everything he wants:

  • Explain to your child that you can't afford everything, and so you have to spend your money on the important basic things that you need just to live, like housing, food, clothes, heat and the telephone. This doesn't leave much money to buy things that aren't necessary, but would just be nice to have.

  • Help your child understand how it's more important to be a good person than to have expensive things.

  • Talk about how TV, movies and magazines don't show how people really live and explain that not everyone has all the things you see on TV shows.

  • Talk with your child from an early age about the commercial, consumer-driven society we live in. You can explain that people who make toys and clothes want us to buy the ones they make, but that we have to pick and choose the ones we want and can afford very carefully. Tell your child about the values that really matter.

  • You can also try to involve your child in choosing items that affect him, such as breakfast cereal, so that he can have some feeling of being in control. And talk to your child about ways to work to earn some extra money for things he really wants.

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