We are constantly being seduced by materialism. We are made to believe that our lives will get better and we will be happier the more things we acquire and consume. Our sense of self and place in society is determined by how much we can amass in our lifetime. A person is judged not by their humanity but rather by what they wear, where they live and by what type of car they drive. When we carefully examine this value system, we soon realize just how warped it is.
At the heart of materialism, you guessed it, is money. Our current world structure revolves around money. All religious institutes, all non-profit need money to function. Every topic, every issue is has a monetary component. Money differentiates rich from the poor on level in society. Rich countries for instance have more to invest in their defence systems and more to share in humanitarian ventures as well (perceived balance). Even those who fight on ideological grounds need money. The more money they have the better they can fight for their cause.
There is clear evidence of the dire consequence of an overemphasis on materialism. It is reflected to us in the personal debt and bankruptcy statistics. These are a very good indication of how deeply this materialistic value system is engrained in us. “Keeping Up with the Jones” takes on a whole new meaning. This has nothing to do with vanity, but a lot to do with fear. We are afraid to be left out, we are afraid of not fitting in, we are afraid of being alone. This is usually an unconscious fear that manifests itself in the need to be like everyone else so that we are not excluded. I suspect that if you took a moment and to think about it, you may be surprised to see how many of your decisions were actually motivated by others.
The “others” comprise of marketers who convince you that you need something when you really don’t, friends who get an upgrade of something and you feel that you need too as well, so that you are not left behind. And don’t forget those engrained expectations of what you should do and have to be “somebody” in society. Are all these ideas and perspectives really yours? Have you ever asked yourself what YOU think about all this? Most of us just accept what we have been taught and never imagine that something else is possible.
We try to protect our children from many things, germs, bullies, rude people, and bad environments and sometimes we forget we need to protect them from misaligned value systems. As parents, we have to teach our children the difference between valuing themselves and valuing things. Children who are taught this lesson early on will learn to manage money a lot better and make better life choices (most life choices have a financial component) because of their innate sense of self. They will be less likely to base their sense of well-being on material accumulation. They will have a better appreciation of the actual role that money plays in their lives. When they can draw their self-worth from who they are, and not from what they have (own) they are well on their way to becoming financially savvy adults.
Here my top three tips for helping kids to have a better sense of self-worth:
- Be a role model. Our children mimic us. We have to practice what we preach. So the onus is on parents to understand themselves, the difference between their self-worth and their net worth and demonstrate this to their children.
- Take every opportunity to teach them how to value themselves, show them that material possessions do not define who they are. When they demand that they need a particular item, start asking them why. This may not be an easy process and it will require monumental amounts of patience from parents. However, all the hard work will bear its fruit as your child flourishes into a self-assured individual.
- Give them the opportunity to make choices and resolve problems on their own. It will allow them to see that they have control of the things in their life and when they are conscious of their actions they can effect change for themselves.
Our relationship with money and money management is more than just about dollars in and dollars out. Money is such an emotionally charged topic. It is intricately woven into every aspect of our lives. Every emotion or idea or ideology results in a default monetary venture, unless we consciously choose differently. What do you do when you are sad, or happy or in love? We always find a way to express these emotions in material ways and for us to do that we need money.
As parents, we have to be clear that we are giving our children the right “money script”, that is our core beliefs about money. How do you know what money script you are handing down to the child? Well, you have to examine your own unconscious belief about money and the role it plays in your life. If it’s a positive one, then you can be sure your child is also learning that. If it’s not a positive one, then you have some work to do both for your own sake as well as for your child. When our children are young we have the greatest opportunity to influence them deeply and powerfully and it is our responsibility as parents to do the best we can for them, especially in helping them understand what is truly valuable in this world.