In this edition of 'Teenage Sins', we spell out what greed can do to your child and how to weed it out.
By Kannalmozhi Kabilan
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed.” Although this was said several years ago, its importance is more valid today than it was then.
There’s one word that all children love, whether it is playtime, chocolates, TV hours, allowance limits, bedtime stories or texting time. And that one word resonates through the household at the end of every indulgence: MORE.
Like the punch line of a popular cola drink, children too always seem to be saying ‘Yeh Dil Maange more’ (This heart wants more). To a certain extent and for a few things, the ‘more’ madness is healthy. It indicates a thirst, a budding curiosity and inquisitiveness. But more often than not, the attitude transcends the borders of need and enters the territory of materialism and vapid consumption. That’s when it turns into greed.
Welcome to the big bad world of greed!
As much as it is hard to believe, greed does not creep in overnight. A number of lifestyle factors can influence your teen’s growing greed.
Parental guilt: Thanks to 24/7 work culture, modern parents find it difficult to spend quality time with their children. Granting the children what they like or what they ask for, becomes the easiest way to compensate for their absence. Over time, it gets increasingly difficult to shake off this habit. It results in children being accustomed to getting what they want, which is why they keep asking for more.
Unfulfilled wishes of parents: Parents also let in a certain amount of wish-fulfilment to induce the greed. Says Karthik Lakshmanan, a counselling psychologist, “In an effort to provide for their children all that they themselves were denied in their own childhood, parents end up overindulging the teen’s insatiability. It is nothing but ‘I should get for my child what I didn’t get’ attitude.”
Mainstream materialism: We live in a world that constantly propagates consumerism and advocates it as a recipe for happiness and contentment. The primary characteristic of contemporary society is personal happiness . Growing up in such an environment, children, especially teens, automatically feel entitled to their share of happiness. Says Karthik, “Brand identity plays a key role in our decisions. Children see their parents in such a light and naturally follow in their footsteps and continue the trend.”
Mirror mirror: As with almost every other behavioural issue, you could be playing a role in your child’s greedy ways. Children are most influenced by their parents and peers. So, if you tend to show a hint of greed in your ways, your teen is sure to follow.
It's all about self-image: Teens are constantly striving to keep up with their peers and appear cool. They believe that one way to achieve this coolness factor is by having more and better things than their peers. This is most often seen in teens with low self-esteem.
It’s not always easy to pinpoint the signs of trouble and exorcise the evil spirit of greed in time. But, if you can watch out for these red flags, you might just be able to nip the tendency in the bud before it turns into a habit:
Exceeding weekly allowance: Does your teen always tend to overshoot his allowance? Is he constantly asking for more money to meet his needs before the time is up? That is surely a cause for concern.
Mindless eating: Do you see a pattern here with your child? Is she constantly asking for more when she’s already had her fill, even at the expense of denying another family member’s rightful share? Watch out.
Peer competition: Your son just asked you to get him a brand new video game that’s out in the market. You realise that the boy living next door recently got the very same video game. And, maybe, this isn’t the first time you’ve had such an episode. Be concerned.
Helping a teen shed a habit is no easy task. But, a few conventional practices can help you handle the issue with relative ease:
‘Less is more’ attitude: In a world driven by consumerism and materialistic desires, it is important to impart lessons of reduction and sustainable lifestyles. Teens should be taught to differentiate between wants and needs. They should also be equipped to live within their means. The practice of not consuming more resources than what you require takes time and diligent thought. Let the habit begin from childhood.
Money management: Start with your child’s allowance. Give him a set amount of money for a month and let him handle his personal expenses within that budget. Managing his own money would help him value the need to prioritise and spend accordingly. Handling things on his own will instil a sense of responsibility that no amount of preaching or censure will do.
Lead by example: What better way to instil a value than by practising what you preach. Children naturally look to their parents to lead and set an example. When you refrain from giving in to your greed, your child is most likely to hold back too.
Monetary lessons: Let your child be aware of the family’s financial capacity. From a very young age, talk to him about how money works, how the family handles funds, how you plan your expenditure according to your income, and how a shortage can affect the family. Let him understand that what he gets now is what you can afford and in future, he’ll get what he himself can afford.
Children are not born greedy; but they fall prey to it, picking it up consciously or otherwise. So, it’s essential to take a step back and consciously evaluate the lessons you teach your child.
As Friedrich Koenig, the German inventor, said, “We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognising and appreciating what we do have.” Let us give our children happiness.
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