by Olynda Smith, AMS Certified Montessori Teacher and Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach
“Pah-leeeeeeeeze… I really, really want it!” This is a sentence heard many times a day in nearly every establishment that sells items for kids. If you are a parent or guardian of a child I am 100 percent sure you have been on the receiving end of this passionate request. In fact, children’s ability to persuade their adults to buy them things that those adults do not actually want to buy is so common it has a special term - “pester power.” So what do you do when the item that has caught your little one’s eye is an item that doesn’t line up with your values? I’ve been thinking about this a lot as our family has continued to work to decrease our plastic footprint.
Learning to be a Conscious Consumer
Even really young children can begin to understand the impact of their buying decisions. You can start to have age appropriate conversations about your family's purchasing choices when your child is as young as three years old. These conversations are an important step in helping stem the tide of requests that don’t line up with your values.
Here are a few tips when sharing your consumer values with your young child:
- Keep it positive. Focus on the benefit that comes from a conscious choice. For example you might say “I’m going to get these apples that don’t come in a plastic bag. I’m taking care of plants and animals by choosing less plastic!”
- Keep it simple. Sustainability choices are often not simple. But, you can practice distilling your choice down to a simple phrase. “I am so glad we found these second hand! These toys have a lot of years of play in them still! I’m glad to keep them out of the trash.”
- Keep it light. Resist the urge to tell them scary stories about plastic killing sea animals or the impending doom of climate change. There is plenty of time for that later. For now, simply saying something like “We use reusable take-out containers because we are taking care of the plants and animals on our beautiful earth.” is enough. This gives them pride in what they are doing rather than fear for our planet. It also helps them manage situations when your preferred option isn’t available without feeling guilty.
- Timing is everything. If you can, begin introducing these ideas before you are being pummeled by requests. Ideally, you can thread your thoughts about being a conscious consumer during everyday life. Making your thoughts audible as you buy things for yourself or others is a wonderful way to do this.
What about children younger than three years old? Toddlers and babies are still absorbing your habits and attitudes—and these will powerfully influence their behavior as they grow. And all children, even when they know your values, can have a hard time when they can’t have something they want. Check your inbox for part two in this series, where we’ll share ideas for gently curbing pester power to help family visits to the store stay fun and value aligned.
Interested in one-on-one coaching for parents and caregivers? Book time with Olynda here!