Want to Deprogram A Materialistic Kid? Here are 8 Proven Ways

Am I Spoiling ThemOkay. You admit you have a materialistic little critter on your hands. Take comfort. There are proven ways to deprogram a materialistic kid. It will take time and commitment, but the benefits are profound for your child and your family. Kids who are less materialistic are more “we” oriented, than “me.” They are more concerned about others, and less worried about how they look and what they own. Their self-esteem is more authentic. But perhaps most important, research clearly shows that these children are more empathetic, caring, collaborate, compassionate and morally courageous.

Here are a few of the best parenting solutions from my latest book, UnSelfie to help you succeed:

1. Watch those TV commercials!

Research shows that the fewer commercials kids see, the less materialistic they become. When kids’ TV viewing was cut by one-third; they were 70 percent less likely than their peers to ask parents for a toy the next week.

Solution: Hit the mute button on your television remote and talk whenever those commercials are on. Turn your child toward more commercial-free television shows or even TVO his “have-to-see” favorite so he can cut out the commercials all together.

2. Spend more time than money on your kids

Materialistic kids go on far more shopping outings with their parents. So be honest: How many outings stress non-material values?

Make a conscious effort to spend time together doing things that don’t cost a dime: Go to the park and the museum, talk, take bike rides, build forts, bake cookies, watch the clouds, and play Monopoly. Show your kid the “other” side of life.

3. Rotate “stuff”

Instead of letting your child view his stockpile of matchbox cars, action figures, CDs or whatever, store some away in a closet for a week or month.

Your new rule is when stowed, items are returned, while new ones are stored in their place.

The simple solution of rotating stuff makes bedroom cleanups easier, and helps kids learn they don’t need so much to have a good time. Best yet, the returned items are more appreciated and treated like new.

My girlfriend was master at this. She figured out quite early that her kids didn’t need all those toys and so she would simply “store” items her kids didn’t play with as often in a closet. Then a month later she’d rotate the toys – taking out the stored items and putting away toys that weren’t so popular for a later day. Most amazing – her kids were elated to find the “new” toys!

Try it!

4. Curb those $$$$$ rewards

I’ll do it if you’ll buy me those jeans.” “How much will you give me?” “But I wanted the X-Box!”

If you’ve heard those words from your kid chances are he’s been reward with monetary prizes and material possessions for behaving, working or just plain breathing. And materialistic kids keep upping the ante, they want more. From this moment on your new response is to just expect your child to do the job or behave without compensation.

Instead put away your wallet, and give praise, hugs and pats on the back whenever they are earned.

5. Stop hoarding

Materialistic kids tend to be pack rats and the more stuff the better. So take a Reality Check. Might your child be the next poster kid for the reality show, “Hoarders?” If so, it’s time for serious action.

To break your child’s hoarding habit provide three boxes labeled with one of these words: “Trash” (for ripped, torn, or broken items; “Memories,” (items with special meaning); and “Charity” (gently used toys, accessories or clothing that other kids may appreciate). Then encourage him to go through his drawers, closets, and shelves.

Explain that he should keep what he really needs, uses and wears, and put the rest into the specified box. Make sure that he helps you take the “Charity” box to an organization such as Goodwill or Red Cross to help him realize that not everyone is so fortunate.

6. Teach “Needs” vs.Wants”

Materialistic kids often want things “N.O.W.” and don’t stop to consider if the item is even necessary.

Solution: Whenever your kid pleads for some nonessential thing he just “must have” ask: “Is it something you really need or just want?” Consistency is crucial…don’t back down!

Then outlaw nonessential, “have to have it” NOW spending.

7. Teach the habit of “giving” not “getting”

“Hands on” giving helps counter materialism more powerfully than almost anything else. So take your kids with you to bring dinner to a sick neighbor or to volunteer in a soup kitchen together.

Require your kids give part of a weekly allowance to needy kids. To stretch empathy, have your child shut his eyes and visualize the recipients’ reactions to the child’s gift.

Choose a cause as a family: adopting an orphan through Save the Children; befriending the lonely neighbor. Let your kid feel the power of giving.

8. Model restraint

Research shows that parents who are materialistic raise the most materialistic kids. You’re the best role model for helping your child cope with our complicated material world, so what kind of example are you setting for your kid?

Or just use the simplest parenting solution: the next time your kid says “I want….” say, “Honey, I want to boost your self-esteem and decrease your chance for depression, so NO!”

On this note, research is clear: money does not buy happiness. In fact, the wealthier are exactly less happier. Don’t think you’re doing your child any favor by buying to think it will create a more content critter. Instead, help your child learn constraint and to monitor “impulsiveness” by not spending ASAP. And focus your efforts on boosting your child’s “inside” qualities. Who she is on the inside, matters far more for self-esteem and happiness than the brand she wears.

For more solutions, signs of materialism, the latest research on how to curb it, or dozens more practical and proven parenting tips on 101 hot-button topics see The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries

Meanwhile, what are you doing to help raise a less materialistic kid in a materialistic world? If you have ideas you’d like to pass on, please post your best tip! I’d love to hear from you.


UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured. UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours. It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching! UnSelfie is AVAILABLE NOW at amazon.com.

About the Author

Michele Borba, Ed.D. is the author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World, and is an internationally renowned educational psychologist and a recognized expert in parenting, bullying, youth violence, and character development and author of 23 books including her new release, THRIVERS: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine. She is a regular NBC contributor who appears regularly on TODAY and has been featured as an expert on Dateline, The View, Dr Phil, NBC Nightly News, Fox & Friends, Dr. Oz, and The Early Show. She lives in Palm Springs, CA with her husband, and is the mother of three grown sons. Dr. Borba is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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