How to Turn Your Child Into a Materialistic Adult — or Not

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According to a new study, parents who bribe their children may get good short-term results with some unpleasant long-term consequences.

You may want to think twice before you reward your child with a new PS4 game for earning straight A’s on their last report card. You could unintentionally be paving the way for your child to become a materialistic adult.

That’s according to a new study, recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that parents who reward good behavior with gifts could actually be teaching their kids to value and define success in terms of material possessions. The study said:

“Using material possessions to express love or reward children for their achievements can backfire. Loving and supportive parents can unintentionally foster materialism in their children despite their best efforts to steer them away from relying on material possessions to find happiness or to judge others.”

The study defines material parenting as moms and dads using “material goods to express their love or to shape children’s behavior.”

It’s common for parents to use possessions to reward (or punish) their children. Interestingly, the study found that warm and supportive parents use material rewards the most.

I often find myself bribing my kids with small toys or treats for good behavior. Of course, the last thing I want to do is nudge my children toward becoming materialistic adults. So, is there a better alternative to reinforce good behavior?

Dr. Lan Chaplin, co-author of the study, told The Huffington Post that rewarding children with time and attention is a good option. HuffPo said:

When a child finishes a chore, for instance, a big smile and 30 minutes of playtime might be better than money or new toys.

When children are rewarded with attention and positive feedback, rather than material things, “the kids see how their actions can make others happy,” Chaplin told HuffPost.

Time and attention are certainly a lot cheaper, and in this case, more rewarding (for both parties). After all, who wants to raise a child who grows up to be materialistic, judging themselves and others by their accumulation of goods?

What do you think of the study’s findings? Do you use material goods to reward or punish your children? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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