Pondering Parenting: Avoiding Getting Sucked In

Ever been to Ikea? If you're trying to avoid spending money and prefer to just browse, going into Ikea is like walking into an extra-overloaded minefield with clown shoes on... it's next to impossible not to be stopped from your mission without getting blasted (i.e., it's next to impossible to walk out of Ikea without having purchased something).

In my mind, that's similar to what's happening in our culture... our children are getting blasted from the excesses of our culture- and it's extremely difficult to avoid having them "buy in" to it. They are growing up amidst more overt materialism and rampant immorality (from Enron execs to NY Governors to Colorado mega-church pastors) than any generation in recent memory.

And yet many parents continue to sit back, send their kids through the cultural "machine" and then seem surprised to find themselves with a Matthew-McConaughey-"Failure to Launch"-type-kid -- an over-grown child who doesn't ever grow up and go out into the world to find a wife and a life. These "kidults" or "adultescents" have been talked about many times, both here at Making Home and many other places, before, so I'm not going to go there today.

But I want to "rewind", so to speak, and just consider one thing, asked by a thoughtful mother in Rod Dreher's book, "Crunchy Cons":
"It's hard enough for an adult, mature in faith and with a coherent moral and political philosophy, to withstand the barrage of sexuality and materialism she encounters every day. How can we begin to hope that our children can sift through that on their own and come out unscathed?"
It (sometimes) shocks me to see the way Christian parents buy into this have-it-all, 'have-it-your-way' culture for their children but then expect their children to turn out differently. When I hear (or read) Christian parents say things like, "you can't fight it-- every kid has x, y, and z, so we bought one for Blake too.", or "Every kid these days watches moves like blah-blah-blah; Brenna would feel left out if she didn't get to see it.", I find myself wondering: whatever happened to parents who said things like, "if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?" Where did those parents go? Are we so intimidated by and entrenched in this "Disneyland" of American culture that we feel powerless to stand up against it?

Dreher also quotes E.F. Schumacher who noted, "It takes a good deal of courage to say 'no' to the fashions and fascinations of the age..."

So my question for you (and for me) today is this:
What are you doing in your family life to instill in your child(ren) the courage to say "no" to the fashions and fascinations of this age? And what things are you intentionally not doing in your family life to instill in your child(ren) the courage to say "no"?

Or, in other words, why would your children not get sucked into indulging in materialism and immorality? Why will they be any different?

It's not necessarily about eschewing video games, TV, or personal laptops, cell phones, iPods, and Wii's for every child in the family, although it might include avoiding or limiting some of those things. I'm not aiming to compile a list of rules-- but rather, I'd like to hear from you what your family philosophy is about materialism and the morals presented in American culture. What are some of the (specific or broad) ways that you seek to instill different values in your own children?


Denn said...

I think the biggest factor in deterring the worldly wants in my children is that they have to work for their own money and work hard. When a child earns their own money they are much more careful how they spend it and also realize the value of it.

Johanna said...

My kids are still really young, so I haven't had to deal with this too much yet. Even so, we have done a few things to hlep with that. First, we monitor closely what they see on TV. We don't let them watch the commercials (or most of the shows) on kids channels so they are not getting the messages that "every kid has to have this toy to be happy." We also took a very unpopular stand at Christmas and told the grandparents to limit the total number of presents. We gave them ideas for some bigger items that would be useful to them so that they could still spend the same amount on our kids as the other grandchildren. Additionally, we are careful not to display those qualities ourselves. We try to fix what we have before we go buy something new. We don't just grab a bite to eat because it would be convenient and talk to our kids about how it doesn't make sense to spend money on eating at the golden arches when we already have food at home. Finally, with our almost 5 year old, he can earn small amounts of money for doing extra chores. When he really, really wants something when we are out, I ask him if he has enough "bonus bucks" to get it himself. He is learning that he has to save and budget, not to mention work hard, to get the things he wants.

Great topic! I'm really looking forward to seeing what others say.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for, Jess, but this is what we do. (Disclaimer: Our children are only almost 3 and just turned 1).

We only buy gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and the focus of those events are never, ever the gifts. It is a rarity that we just randomly buy them something at Target. Occasionally my son asks for a toy, but I say 'no' once and it is not asked for again. He already knows he is probably not going to get it. And it is not that we are trying to be mean or stingy....we just have a tight budget so I can stay home with them. This translates into my children not thinking that everything is owed to them. Or at least so far it does!

Now who knows what later years will bring...! Only God, and I trust He'll give us some strategies!

-Lauren in NC

Janel said...

Funny you should mention this today... My kids were just running around, laughing and singing the cleaned up version of a song a Christian singing group we knew eons ago, sang:

"Blow up the TV, throw away the paper, move to the country, build you a home..."

My parents ditched the TV when I was 10. DH & I only had a TV for the first year of marriage and then we hardly ever watched it. Although now we watch DVDs on the computer, we are very choosey about what we bring into the house for the kids to watch.

Spending time at my folks in December and having access to current TV was shocking. I had forgotten the ads and how much they push you to buy, buy, buy. The morals being paraded around on popular shows are horrid. Simply unplugging is a great start.

After that, we explain, explain, reason, explain and provide fun, alternative activities. You can't just take everything away. If you do, you'll create a vacuum waiting to be filled with whatever comes along.

Although I have issues with the Pearls, Mike's jumping ship articles were right on the money. My parents lost my brother to a less than moral lifestyle because they removed the bad and didn't replace it with good and enjoyable. DH & I are trying not to do the same. So far, it's working.

Hope you're enjoying that new sweet bundle of yours, Jess! :)

Polly said...

Great post! (I read Crunchy Cons a few months ago and really appreciated it.)

My son is only 10 months old now so we haven't had to deal w/ this yet but it is something I think about A LOT. We already limit TV (in other words, we really don't have reliable TV access and have NO plans to get it), which should help some. I am a bit worried about our culture as a whole as well as my micro-culture; we live on a farm in an area that is rapidly spreading into McMansions. We haven't decided what to do about school, but I am very open to homeschooling. Teaching money management will be very important--we are on the track pay off our mortgage in 2-3 years (God willing!) and being debt-free in the midst of a culture of great debt should provide some teachable moments. Saying "no." And my parents were of the "would you jump off a cliff too?" variety, so I think my husband and I will be that way too.

A big thing for us too is that I stay home and my husband doesn't have a job that demands extraordinarily long hours. He's working about 50 hours a week, and otherwise he's HERE, WITH US. I'm here all the time!! ;) I don't foresee us having the guilt-giving that often comes with parents who both work long hours outside of the home. Being around, being available, establishing relationship, modeling behavior, and praying--I think these are the big things for us.

Kelly said...

Hey Jess!

I read your site frequently but usually am one-handed (20 month old who owns my lap, LOL) so I don't always get to comment. Your thoughts rock, and I couldn't agree more. An attitude of gratitude, work ethic and humility isn't the norm in today's society - only gratitude for your own accomplishments, work ethic as it applies to getting ahead of everyone else and humility when it's in the person who you've just trodded over. Not that things are so extremely bad as I'm suggesting, but oftentimes they are. Kids are so bombarded with sinful and mixed messages today that even the Christian media doesn't always do them justice by buying into social mores that seem acceptable but are really damaging behind the scenes.

P.S. Ahhhh, your IKEA analogy hit the nail right on the head - I'm...way...too...addicted to that place! LOL!

Have a wonderful week, mama!

Mrs. Bethany Hudson said...

Thanks for bringing this important discussion to the fore, Jess.

Well, our Sophia is only 8 months, so I don't have a ton of examples, yet. But here are a few things that we're doing even now to teach our daughter to be in the world but not of the world:

- I dress modestly and femininely as an example for her to follow. We are careful even now about what clothes we select for her.

- We cut waaaay back on toys. Even though she's already 8 months old, we have been consigning and giving away some of her toys, and we're keeping the amount she has down to what fits in a basket in her closet. If they don't all fit, something has to go.

- We make birthdays and holidays more about the friends and family that we spend them with and less about presents.

- Church is non-negotiable--for us as well as for our children. Every Sunday, rain or shine, we're there in the pew...Well, if our church had real pews :) But, in any case, we're there.

- We do not watch TV. Oh my gosh!! I know. But, seriously, it's been great for all of us. If you think you can do it, I highly recommend ditching the TV. We do have an actual television set, though, because we enjoy watching movies together as a family.

- We tithe. This isn't a brag by any means. But, we set aside 10% of our income--and that includes things like bonuses--to be used for God's Kingdom. This has been challenging at times, but it is essential for our family in keeping the perspective that our wealth and possessions are only our on loan from God--we are stewards, only. This attitude has helped grow us in so many ways, and it is one that we are excited to pass on to our children.

I can't wait to read what some of you, more experienced mamas have to say!


Tim & Richelle said...

Teaching and reteaching that God's priority is always people and one of the best ways to demonstrate that priority is loving service - every opportunity we get and especially to those in our family. Thus, the object or the activity does not become "evil" or more attractive as a forbidden fruit - but rather a tool in our hands through which God can bless us and others.

Terry said...

Tuthfully, Jess, I've seen enough in recent years to know that there are no guarantees. However, in our house we are focused on leading by example, which is a biggie. It would seem obvious, but many families live in "do as I say, noy as I do" land. Secondly, too many young people from "Christian" homes are Biblically illiterate. We are making a concerted effort to teach them to hide the word in their hearts. Third, build relationships with your kids. My parents were good people, but I'm pretty sure they have no idea my favorite food or favorite show growing up. They were focused on keeping us clothed and fed. But kids are more apt to listen to a parent who've spent some time listening to them. And lastly, pray, pray, pray, and then pray some more!

Gina@Chats With An "Old Lady" said...

Set up a Biblical Standard for your home. Ask, "would this show please God? Is this the best use of our time or money?"
Be an example.
Live it out.
Don't talk AT... Talk WITH!
Build close relationships with your chldren.
Don't expect them to be as spiritually mature as you are. Sometimes you just have to enforce rules, even though it may not have "made it to their heart" yet.
And remember it is all a process of growth. We are seeing much of the fruit of our labor in our children...especially our oldest who is 18...it takes time.

Mrs said...

So glad I found this site from Beautiful Days!

I feel like I should be the voice of experience here since my kids are 19, 15, and 11, but I just love what all of you have written. Thank you for giving me reminders and tips!

We also have done away with TV (it's been 6 years now) and limit the things we watch as a family. We live on a budget and are basically debt-free, so the children see us waiting and saving for things instead of instant gratification.

Since we home school and live a learning lifestyle, my kids have become very aware of how media and even store advertisements try to draw us in to spending unnecessarily. (I confess; one time when my son wanted something and I carefully explained why it wasn't a good deal or needed item, he lamented, "Mom . . .they fooled all the OTHER moms, can't they fool you just once?") :-D

It has been our goal to teach our children that every paycheck comes from God. While He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and certainly doesn't need money from us, it's our privilege and act of worship to not only be good stewards of what He has given, but to support our church, ministries, and missionaries.

We have let them buy cheap things that break instantly to see the futility and feel the disappointment. We have also supported and prayed for missionaries from when they first enter the field through the sharing of the gospel to growing a tribal church - the comparison of using our dollars to hope to change the eternal destination of others has been priceless!

I agree with others who write of the importance of modeling wanted behavior. When we parent on purpose, we rest in the knowledge of having done all we can. I've also learned that I can trust God with my children . . . their outcome is not dependent on me alone. Despite our parenting flaws, our son is a man of integrity, honor, and gentleness. His sisters are growing in the Lord and making wise choices daily. Thanks be to God.

Mrs said...

I just noticed the "immorality" part of your question and had to come back!

We've made it clear to our children that they will not date/court until they're out of high school. We have many, many reasons we share with them, but most importantly is that when teens begin a relationship with the opposite sex so early, it's a long time to safely carry purity and integrity until they're at a marriageable age. This was fine when they were 9 (eeewww! Dating?) but had to be re-explained at 16. My son sat me down and said, "Ok, no dating? What are the reasons?" After we went through them, he submitted (reluctantly) to our decision, and yet peace began to creep into his life. At 19 he still doesn't have a girlfriend because he sees how much work he needs to do in order to be ready for a relationship!

I feel our setting the ground rule gave him a net of safety and allowed him to relax. There was no pressure to woo and win and try to hold on to a girl, plus, he saw what turmoil his peers encountered and how limited their lives became when a relationship started prematurely.

I've also noticed he isn't in any hurry. I'm so thankful for the patience God has given him in an area that was such a struggle.

My girls have seen firsthand the downfall of immodesty, as well as premature relationships. We dialog continually and take "heart checks" on whom we're trying to attract; God or man? We also encourage them to honor their brothers in Christ by dressing in a way that won't cause them to struggle with impure thoughts. It's all about considering others before ourselves.

Jaime said...

Hmmm.... off the top of my head:

We too limit TV watching to movies - helps avoid all the advertising.

As far as my daughter is concerned... she naturally prefers dresses & skirts, so I make sure that they come down far enough to be modest. Her tops have sleeves - trying to keep skin appropriately covered.

I also liked what one of the PPs said about not going out to eat simply because it's convenient. We almost always restrict going out to eat to weekends so it can be a special family treat.

dcrmom said...

Great post. I am avidly reading the comments because I need advice in this area. There is a lot of wisdom here. Thanks for coming up with such thought provoking posts, Jess!

lee527 said...

Hello, Jess. I've been reading your blog off and on for awhile now and this is the first time I've commented. Your entries are so though-provoking and this one is no different. As the mother of four grown and almost-grown daughters, I know there are alot of things I would have done differently, but lots that we did right. One thing that is so important is to keep control of that box in the living room! It has way too much influence over us and our kids. Television can influence everything in our lives-our thought processes, our priorities, our spending habits, our time, the list goes on and on. Spending time with your kids in the Bible and talking about spiritual things during everyday activities are so important too.
Thank you for posting such a good topic.

Anonymous said...


Great topic today. My parents had absolutely NO problem raising us to be different.LOL

We don't have children yet, but if we are blessed with any, they will indeed be raised differently. After all, as much as children are loved, you eventually want them to grow up to be happy well-adjusted adults with families and a life of thier own.

It is clear today's parently standard does not get kids to that point.

take Care,


Katherine said...

Hi Jess,
I am another reader who seldoms posts but lurks frequently. :) We don't have a TV, though I am growing tired of the whole DVD on my computer thing. We'll see. My DH is set againt a TV. I'd like to get a bigger tv screen, and a VHS & DVD player, and then not plug it inot the wall.

Anyway, our girls are 2.5 and 10 months. I try to dress myself and them modestly. We talk about the missionary photos on our fridge and recently began sponsoring a WV boy. Writing to Lisandro has been such a great tool for discussing all kinds of Godly things. I am plesantly surprised by what a toddler comprehends.

Sometimes I feel like I am growing more mainstream with each child. Overall, I think what I'm feeling is the powerful influence of culture, whereas when I was nursing just one babe I was blissfully unaware of playground peer pressure and such.

On a side note, my adorable niece, who is almost 5 years old and an avid tv-watcher, told her preschool teacher that she and so-and-so were no longer friends because the other little girl "stole her imaginary boyfriend". Cute, but really, do I want my 4.5 year even thinking about that stuff!? Observing other children a few years ahead of ours encourages me immensely, both in what we're doing and what we're not doing.

We do a bunch of little routines, such as thanking the cook after supper, sticking to a short family workship time in the pms, and making b-day cards instead of buying them. I love Steve Green's Hide 'em in Your Heart series and Ginger Plowman's Wise Words. I grew in a Christian home wbut knew almost no scripture until college -both of these tools have helped me immensely.
Love hearing advice from all y'all out there!

Leigh Ann said...

More important than "courage to say no", it takes conviction. If parents REALLY believed this culture was destroying the spiritual fabric of our families & children, they would find a way to stop it in their families. I don't think most families really believe it. It's all well & good to talk about how terrible our culture is, but I find most parents not really willing to put in the time, effort, prayers, & personal sacrifice to keep their kids from floating down the same sewer waters the rest of society is floating. It takes a deep inner conviction to look & be different. It costs a lot. But the dividends are undeniable in the end.

We have a tv but don't let our children watch ANY commercial tv. Select PBS & occasional videos are enough. I have found just one innocent show with commercials reaps greedy, bad attitude kids. We talk about why we do/don't do what we do around here. We try to have a Biblical reasons behind everything which takes a whole lot of time & thought. We don't let them overload our family schedule with all kinds of activities no matter how good. We are a family for such a short time in the grand scheme of things. We guard that time like jewels. We don't assume what's right for another family is right for ours. Just because so-&-so is homeschooling or without a tv or lets their kids go to such & such a movie doesn't mean it's right for our family.

Gotta stop here - parenting calls. But this is a great post & topic. Thanks for getting the conversation started.

*~Tamara~* said...

Yesterday a major cable was cut in the city and we lost all our internet service. In the meantime I wrote a blog post about something that has been on my mind a lot lately, and was able to post it today now that the service is back up. Anyway, it goes right along with what you've posted here, which is interesting!

I haven't read all the comments here but I'll do that now. Great post, Jess! :-D

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your passion and conviction.
This is my first time reading your blog. I agree with many of your thoughts on saying no to materialism, media, and cultural conditioning of our society.
I have a question about something you say in your profile- why do you consider yourself a recovering feminist?
Do you find gender equality to be un-Christianly?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Steph VG said...

Hey! This has nothing to do with the post - sorry! - but I wanted to say I've been praying for you guys as you move from being a family of 5 to a family of 6, and as you recover from giving birth. AND, congrats on posting at CBMW's blog! :-) That letter to your daughter is so beautiful and honest. Love it.

alaskamommy said...

I enjoy reading these comments, but I've noticed something - it's all moms! Granted, we have a strong influence over so many daily choices, but daddy is home in the evenings and weekends and makes decisions too. What if mom and dad are not in agreement about things like TV/DVD's/etc? How has this been handled with your families? My husband is dear and sweet and loves God and would do anything for his little ones, but finds it easier to pop in a movie than to say No to that request.

Anonymous said...

I don't have kids (yet, hopefully), but my parents never had us write Christmas lists or anything like that. It really emphasized that people give us gifts because they love us and want to show it-- not because we want something specific. Does that make sense?

One Christmas I was really bugging my parents for a cd I wanted-- and they took it out from under the tree and said "This is it. And if you ask for it one more time, you are never getting it." That was the end of that!

Anyway, it's interesting to think about, because my husband and I are trying to cut our lifestyle down a little to build savings, etc.


Domestikate said...

I've been thinking about your post for a couple of days. I started to observe my family and pick out a few things we do differently than what the culture around us says we should be.

One thing I noticed, is that my DH and I always encourage the kids (ages 11,9,2) to find "treasures" in everyday things. When we go for a walk we point out wasp nests and sunsets. We find value in things that can easily be overlooked in a fast paced lifestyle. My DH collects old audio equipment (like record players... what's a record?!?) and we have a refurbished 1980's pinball machine in the basement, all things that have been deemed "out of date" and given to us for free. My 2 oldest (both boys) and I were talking the other day about all the latest gadgets their friends have. My 9 yr old said "I don't know why other families spend so much money on stuff when you can get really cool stuff for free!" Ahhhh like music to my ears.

But with that I noticed we also bring God into everyday things as well. We teach our children that everything we have belongs to and is from the Lord. We have taught them the scriptures that talk about possessions and hopefully have modeled the importance of giving over receiving. I think we as adults have a ways to go in this area! So, we pray, pray, pray!

There are so many more things that came to mind, I noticed I didn't address the part about immorality ~ sorry, but I need to get back to my life. There have been many great suggestions in the other posts. I was really encouraged, especially by the mom's with older kids. Also, Tamara, a hearty Amen to the post over on your blog as well.

Thanks again, Jess for the thought provoking subject... where are you finding enough brain cells to think so deeply after just having a baby? :)

Pepperpot said...

Great post and I got a lot from the other comments as well. I was dumbfounded last fall when my 8y/o DD began asking for a cell phone. I of course said no, but was even more surprised to learn that 2 of her closest friends already have them. I usually feel a twinge of guilt when I don't let my kids have something that the 'other kids' have, but this was an easy one for me. I loved what one of the PPs said about finding treasure in everyday life. Definitely something I will be thinking about, thanks!