Monday, May 01, 2006

Spare the IPod, Unspoil the Child:
A Great Read

My friend sent me this most excellent article with a note that it had to be posted on Orthonomics. I agree that this article is excellent. While frum parents may or may not be suffering from the same demands addressed in the articles (IPods, video games, and cell phones), the issues are universal and you are welcome to fill in a more appropriate demand (Bar Mitzvahs or Weddings that compete with the Goldberg's, the right camp, European clothing, designer suits, and more).

I think that it is important to remember that your spending does not affect just your own children (and children-in-law). When so many parents buy their eight year olds designer European clothing, it places pressure on those parents who don't want to do the same (or can't afford to do the same). Kol V'Chomer with smachot, especially weddings and everything that goes along with weddings, including the ridiculously long and expensive list of extravagant engagement gifts that are not "expected."

Since the Torah commands us to not oppress the poor, I think that in a society that is much more economically mixed that much of general society, it behooves us to be extra careful with our public spending. And, with children, many things can easily become public.

The article is posted below with a link to it's original source. And, look for more upcoming posts this week.

Spare the IPod, Unspoil the Child

By Michelle SingletarySunday, April 16, 2006; F01

As a parent, I know there are certain things I have had to get used to.
I know that children will always want what you know isn't good for them. They will relentlessly beg for things until your head nearly explodes.

They will nag for something before dinner that will ruin their appetites.

They will, if you let them, watch television from the time their tiny toes hit the floor in the morning until you drag them away from the set late at night.

However, what I didn't anticipate -- and what I can't get used to -- is dealing with the overindulgent decisions made by many of the parents of my children's friends and classmates.

I constantly have to listen to my children complain that so-and-so has the latest, greatest name-brand whatever. My 10-year-old daughter can't understand why I won't buy her an iPod.
Really, what 10-year-old has lived long enough to have a passion for hundreds of songs she just has to have in her hip pocket?

Don't even get me started on the pressure to compete with the birthday parties that are equivalent to coronations.

My 8-year-old son points out that all his friends have video-game systems or the handheld versions -- most of the time both.

Ever watch, really watch, kids play the games? It's a little scary. I consider them brain-freeze toys. I'm holding steady, but it's tough.

And it's not just about the money.

Okay, it is a lot about the money.

First, it's the initial outlay for the game system. But then there's the endless badgering to supply them with new games to feed their habit. Sorry, I'd rather put that money into my son's college fund.

Oh, and now we have the cellphone controversy in our house.

Can you believe my 10-year-old is incredulous that I won't get her a cellphone? All she wants to do is talk incessantly to her friends. We have a phone at home and she can talk to her friends during school hours for free.

When she argues that "everybody has one" she's exaggerating, but maybe not for long.
The "tween" market, defined as 8- to 12-year-olds, is the next growth opportunity for wireless carriers, according to the Yankee Group, a market research company.

Twenty-seven percent of tweens now have cellphones. The Yankee Group predicts that this market has the potential to double by 2010.

Why do these little people need cellphones? If you need to reach them when they are out of your care, it should be no problem because about 99.9 percent of the adults who should be supervising them will have cellphones that your children can borrow to call you.

I recently persuaded a couple to get rid of the cellphone for their 12-year-old daughter. I bumped into them at the movies and I couldn't help but notice that the girl had a cellphone plastered to her ear rather than conversing with her family. I asked her dad whom she was talking to.

"You know, I don't know," he said.

It was like a light bulb had come on over his head.

That child's cellphone bill was about $40 a month. Are you kidding me? If parents just saved that money, the cash they spend on monthly cellphone charges would add up to thousands of dollars by the time their children go to college. That would certainly help them buy books and supplies for four years of college.

Most recently, my 10-year-old was protesting that I hadn't planned to take her anywhere for spring break.

"It's just not fair," she whined. "All my friends are going on trips or doing exciting things on their spring break."

To which I said, "You want excitement? Read a book and you can live vicariously through the characters and their exciting lives."
She sulked. I saved.

Parents are spending so much to keep their children entertained that these young folks don't know how to entertain themselves with anything that doesn't cost money.

Right now there are debt-plagued parents parading through Disney World or Disneyland or some other vacation spot adding more charges to their credit cards to please their children.

How many times has your kid said, "I'm bored?" Translation: Buy me something. Take me somewhere. Buy me a cellphone. I need a new video game.

When they say they are bored, tell them to go read, or run outside, or learn how to enjoy being still.
Ultimately, this isn't just about saving for their college education or teaching your children to be money-smart. It's deeper than that.

Excessively spending on your children has the great potential to turn them into spendthrift adults or adults who can't be satisfied if they don't have what their friends or neighbors have at any cost.

I'm a conscientious objector to all this consumerism directed at my children. It's not good for them now or in the long-term.

So, if you are so-and-so's mom or dad, I'm begging you to exercise some financial restraint. Stop overindulging your children so I can have some peace in my house.


Ezzie said...

At just 5% a year, that $40 a month would be worth well over $6,000 after 10 years.

And if you include taxes and fees and call it $50, and make it 8%, it's over $9,000.

Just a thought.

Orthonomics said...

One could make the calculation the other way if parents are financing these "needs" through debt. Scary on one side! A definite incentive on the other!

Selena said...

Of course, all kids beg. My 3 year old is constantly begging for new Spiderman underwear or other crazy toys he hears about at school (which by the way is a pretty yeshivish place). But I think the problems she is talking about is a huge problem in the frum community. Before I moved to the middle of nowhere, I taught at a Bais Yaakov. Many of the girls there had cell phones and that was 3 years ago! I have no doubut that if you popped your head into a frum school is NY or LA, you would see tons of cell phones and ipods.

I think one of the best ways to combat this, or at least postpone it, is to get out of big cities. I have found that kids here stay kids for longer. They will still beg for cell phones, but they wait until they are 14 or 15. Here, you will see kids who are 11 or 12 going to the park on Shabbos. That is something you would never see in a big city. In most big cities kids are too big for a park by the time they are about 8. It is pretty sad.

kasamba said...

I love this line;
"Stop overindulging your children so I can have some peace in my house."