Welcome Guest | Register | Login

I came to the conclusion recently that my children simply have too much. A Saturday afternoon where I helped them clean their rooms and clear some clutter gave me a lot of perspective. In the process, I recognized something becoming increasingly apparent. The more stuff my children have, the less they seem to respect those material possessions.

My three children may be able to identify a tiny piece of plastic (which could be separate from the original set of toys to which it belongs) with the same precision a paleontologist uses when examining a rare bone. They can even tell me exactly when and where they received these flimsy pieces, evoking memories for all of us. I’m thrilled they recall the happy, little details that make up their young lives. I also realize the blessings our family has, as many don’t have the ability to give their children essential needs, let alone the extras.Photo: www.npnparents.org

The problem is, my children don’t actively care for these items or seem to respect their value.

Shame on them or shame on me?

Similar to other parents, I love my children very much. Yet over the years, my husband and I have taken that love and joy we get from seeing their happy faces light up with a new toy or gift to a sort of routine, perhaps extreme.  Love, although we both know this, should never be equated with material things. Like a few other well-meaning parents we know, we have given our children mounds of craft items, Legos, and other small toys they often stash under their beds. I try to ignore the basement, as it too is a haven for all things that seem to constitute kid clutter.

So if I had to do it all over again, here’s what I would recommend to my younger mom self about to embark on the parental journey for the first time:

-Set rules from the beginning with regard to toys and other children’s belongings. Decide where they will be played with and stored, and do your best to stick to the plan.

-Talk to your spouse or parenting partner about which occasions children will receive gifts and toys. Are they just for birthdays and yearly religious holidays, or are they going to be given freely throughout the year for any occasion? Will you bring presents to them after vacations or business trips?


-If your child breaks a precious toy, don’t rush to replace it. Let her experience that loss. With time, she will learn that these items require care and attention.

-As children get older, teach them to give back. Have them help you donate their used toys to younger children, preschools, churches or to other charitable organizations. They may even learn something about business from selling them at a yard sale. Give them the money received for these items, and maybe even open them a bank account.


-If your child continually asks or something, have her explain why it’s so important to have that item, and make her wait a reasonable time for it (future birthday, holiday or school accomplishment). Delayed gratification has numerous benefits, while teaching children who are developmentally ready (usually around six or seven) to value and appreciate a good thing after waiting.


In parents’ busy lives, it’s often easier to acquiesce and make our children happy immediately. Yet studies have continually shown the benefits of delaying gratification. In a culture that almost demands immediacy, this may remain a challenge. So many of us want what we want now, and I’m finding my family isn’t much different. I can’t change the past mistakes we’ve made with respect to over indulging our children. All the while, I can model behavior and communicate clearly with my children the importance of saving, sharing and donating. They’re starting to get the hang of it so much so that when I ask them to go through their old toys and make a sell or donate pile, they’re excited to help. The answer to whether they’ll become philanthropists or entrepreneurs may be another exercise in waiting—this time for their parents!

Julia Sherwin is a freelance writer and mother of three who lives in Chester County. She is a former college journalism instructor who enjoys running, biking, swimming, traveling and cooking.

Email her at jsherwin73@gmail.com  and followe her on Twitter @JuliaSherwinPoPYou can also follow her other parenting articles at juliasherwin.wordpress.com.

Register NOW with Philly2Philly!  

Follow us on Philly2Philly's Facebook page!  And, don't forget to "like" Philly2Philly

Follow us on Twitter

Photo: www.npnparents.org