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Teen Health 411

I Want it Now! A Book Review

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Funny how life works - while reading this wonderful new book by Donna Bee-Gates about consumerism and kids, I happened to have had an Italian exchange student staying with my family, asking questions like "why are the houses and cars here so big?" why do Americans fill their plates and then leave half of the food on their plates to be thrown away?" why did they serve me three [plate-seize] pancakes for breakfast?" Her questions, and the issues about unbridled materialism explored by Bee-Gates have led to some very interesting dinner-time conversations.

How can we as parents help children resist craving the newest and the latest possessions? How do we avoid raising a generation of people who believe happiness comes from shopping or "retail therapy?" What are our own habits teaching our children about materialism and consumerism? Dr. Bee-Gates has some great quotes and advice for all parents about living with materialism - which, like so much about parenting, is not black-and-white, but a gentle nudge toward conscious decision-making. This book is not a book about the evils of materialism, or suggesting we renounce our worldly possessions - instead, it is an academic exploration of consumerism in relation to spirituality, passion, relationships, and meaning in a child's life.

Dr. Bee-Gates interviewed parents and did a great job scouring the literature so we, as parents, do not have to. The chapters of this book are easy-to-read and offer insights to kids who want more things because they are bored, or use things to make friends, or get things from us, instead of real connection - ouch! She introduces five forces of materialism - or life circumstances that increase children's vulnerability to materialism, and then she discusses how spirituality, of whatever flavor you prefer, can help kids resist the influence of consumerism. Finally, she ends the book with concrete suggestions for ways to deemphasize possessions without being perceived as a grinch or compromising our principals. All in all a great book and reminder that we are educating our children with every decision we make.

Here are a few of my favorite issues explored:
  • What's in it for me?
  • Consumerism 101: what are we teaching our children about responsible spending habits?
  • What is more rewarding - money, family or community?
  • How is the number of hours of TV watched linked to overall mental health, academic success, leadership skills, and of course, consumerism?
  • The value of ritual and multi-generational character education, as well as seeing parents involved in community service.
  • The power of laughter and joy shared between parents and kids.
Well worth your time, the book is called "I Want it Now: Navigating Childhood in a Materialistic World," and it was published in 2006 by palgave macmillan, New York, NY.

Photo credit: Orin Optiglot

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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