Christmas is such an exciting time of year – all those gorgeously wrapped presents filled with who-knows-what treasure, all those glittery cards, all those delicious treats. Why would you ever give them away? From your child’s point of view, being a little greedy makes perfect sense.
But before you make a hasty judgement about your child’s nature (and start debating which side of the family it comes from), you might want to consider a recent study that found that our survival-of-the-fittest instinct means we naturally want to keep everything for ourselves – and that sharing is a social skill that has to be learned and nurtured.
Nonetheless, with the children’s toy market now worth over £2 billion a year, it’s not surprising that 89 per cent of adults believe children are more materialistic than previous generations. “Children should be encouraged to value themselves for who they are rather than what they own,” says Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and patron of The Good Childhood Inquiry, which ran this study.
But with all those hypnotic toy adverts, it’s no wonder children find it hard to contain their materialistic streak. At Christmas time, 90 per cent of parents feel massive pressure from advertising – not to mention their child’s pester power – to ensure they get the must-have presents for their children. Yet, after weeks in the planning, your child’s impatience can seem a little ungrateful, especially since experience tells you that much pleaded-for gifts will be soon discarded, come January. “It’s important to choose one or two toys for your children to share and play with together,” says childhood psychologist Karen Jones.
“It is also great to choose a cause that the whole family can be involved in, so your child can experience the warm feeling that comes with giving rather than receiving,” says educational consultant Dr Michele Borba. “Adopting an orphan through Save the Children, for example, will help your child feel the positive power of giving.”
This article previously appeared in Junior magazine as a print article