Minimalist Lifestyle is Healthy for Kids, Parents

My out-of-the house son and I were recently discussing the minimalist lifestyle. We noticed how many people claim to be minimalists but in fact aren't. Case in point: money. It's easy to talk about living simply, but much harder to do it. And now that our son is paying his own way, he realizes why dad and I were so frugal when he was growing up. He sees first-hand how expensive things are and how easy it is get deep in debt. Avoiding debt is one reason parents should live simply. Here are others.

* Minimizing spending prepares kids for the real world. And conversely, overspending doesn't. Kids who are raised with privilege and excess are ill-equipped for reality. Paying bills on time, living happily with less, living within a budget–kids who have everything handed to them don't learn these skills. Our kids never went without necessities. They had plenty of toys. But they weren't immersed in possessions. Our lives didn't revolve around stuff. Each child now knows how to work, save, budget and stay out of debt.

* Indulgence breeds contempt. Having too much teaches kids to take things for granted. They don't learn to take care of things because they know possessions will be replaced (sometimes even upgraded!) when they break. When our son was careless with his bike and it got stolen, we didn't rush to replace it. He had to shovel snow for the neighbor to buy a new one.

* Possessions desensitize. Kids don't enjoy possessions when they have too many. They get overwhelmed. They say they're bored, not because there's too little to do but too much. They can't see an individual thing to play with in the sea of toys around them.

* Materialism disconnects. Children of big spenders often develop an attitude of entitlement. They think that because they have so much, they must be more deserving than the child with less. They value people over things; they treat friendships like commodities. Life becomes very competitive. Kids raised in this atmosphere do not relate well with others. Their possessions become a barrier. Instead of compassioin, empathy or generosity, indulged kids become isolated by their possessions.

* Pampering causes behavior problems. You've probably observed overindulged kids out in public.They're totally focused on themselves and are oblivious to the rights and needs of others. They'll go to any length to get their way: tantrums, screaming, sometimes even violence. Overindulged kids are effectively impaired, socially.

No parent is perfect. We all struggle with how best to raise kids. My advice simplify and scale down possessions. You'll feel freer and be better able to bond with kids without all the stuff in the way.


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