Information overload: Balancing wants and needs

As a mother of two young boys, ages 7 and 9, I find myself puzzled by the things they ask for. "Mom, I want a Spiderman wrestling figure with a change of clothes," asked my youngest. I thought that would be easy to find and relatively cheap, so I told him to put it on his birthday list. The problem is, it was a toy he found online and was not available in stores. To order it, I would have had to start the bidding on ebay at $75! While he was very upset that he was not going to get the toy, it opened up a conversation in our house about the value of our time and money.

The access my children have to information via the Internet has skyrocketed their desire for things they don’t have. As parents, we don’t only have to worry about commercials, magazines and strolls through the toy aisles, now our children are able to "Google" their favorite characters and watch toy demonstrations on YouTube. They are flooded with information and images that add to their list of wants. How do we get them to balance their time productively and earn the things they want?

I try my best to limit "screen time," but screens are everywhere! I have tried chore charts for an allowance, and while it helps teach the value of money, it doesn’t steer them away from electronics. I was recently talking to a mother who has her children earn screen time rather than money. This is brilliant! Rather than just having chores, they can earn electronics by reading a book, helping each other with a task, playing together without arguing or anything you want them to learn or do! They can help create the list and have some autonomy in terms of what they choose to do each day to earn their electronics.

As a working mother, I have my hands full, but there are many ways to help our children learn important lessons, and it often comes from other parents. I know it is just a matter of time before my children’s earned screen time leads to the next "must have" item, but at least there will be some balance.

Maldonado is a social worker with the West Irondequoit Central School District.

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