It’s May as I write this, and yet it's all about Christmas! At first glance it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. But if you think about it, it's only five months until the big box stores start with the carol playing and tempting displays of trendy presents.
Yep, and guess what, many folks are still paying off their plastic from last year!
I want to get in earlier than those big box stores, so you can think about this before they suck you in. I'm hoping this year you’ll gather your courage and have a great conversation with your children.
It's all about the kids...
I think back a little wryly on my own childhood. I never really bothered about owning things very much, let alone tried to influence my parents into buying stuff for me.
It's not that we had no money, it's more that we kept so busy doing other things that it was never an issue.
I grew up in a small village in Zululand, South Africa. It's sort of hard to have shopping high on your list when there are only a couple of small stores to visit! Those weren't self-serve, either. The owners would keep a careful eye on their stock. You asked for what you needed. None of the touchy, feely stuff.
We walked everywhere, although my dad did have an old Nash car. Our telephone number was 252. (That gives you an idea about the population count!)
My biggest treat of the month was a trip to the local trading store, where I would buy a brown paper bag full of raw red skinned peanuts. Loved those peanuts!
Credit cards were unknown, meaning if you couldn't afford to buy something, you simply didn't get it. And it was almost like a badge of honor that you admitted this with a rueful smile.
The disappointment of not getting something you coveted was soon forgotten. You resolved to save up for it, or for something else. It was a way to focus your mind.
And at Christmas time we all had the excitement of putting a pillow case on our beds, and hoping during the night we’d see it miraculously fill with small gifts to unwrap. They weren’t ever anything really expensive, but it was so exciting. (We never did see who filled them…)
Keeping up with the peer pressure
- Right now in 2018 anything at all that relates to a glitzy resuscitated Star Wars is in vogue.
- And a new, advanced LEGO at a hefty price lets your kids start coding in addition to their playing.
- Oh, and don’t forget, there are now at least five artificial intelligence (AI) “toys.” That sounds a little creepy to a lot of folks this year, but maybe by next they’ll be common. (And higher priced too.)
There was no television in South Africa when I was growing up, and certainly no cell phones. They were yet to be dreamed up.
Magazines were heavily censored; glitzy ads didn’t exist either, therefore I was unaffected by advertising. Besides, my parents were the decision makers.
Different times, different standards. The expectation was that children passed through a childhood filled with experiential learning, sometimes good, sometimes not so much, but always dependent on their own creativity.
Admitting to being bored would be shameful in my parents eyes, therefore you made darn sure you always had lots to do and think about.
Star wars power!
George Lucas of Star Wars fame probably had no idea his writing would change the ideas and worm into the plastic card wallets of so many! It's estimated more than 14 billion Star Wars action figures have been sold since the 1970’s. That's about the same time marketers realized children were worth $700 billion to their industry.
Those original action figures cost $1.97. Today you pay a huge amount just to get a smile from a child. Sadly, those same North American children often have no idea about money management. They just know what they want and are entitled to expect..
The marketing is aggressive and persistent.The advertising grows ever more violent, the content all about the battle for supremacy in a virtual world, feeding the cravings of both children and their parents for the thrill of ever more battles.
In contrast, somehow younger children are losing sleep at night for a couple reasons.
- Bedtime stories, aren't recounted by a parent. Instead, children take an iPad or phone with them, in spite of the warnings by various medical associations that the blue light of screens dangerously interferes with the sleeping habits of children.
- their frantic desire for fingerlings, the latest small plastic interactive finger puppets that they must have! Unfortunately bots have beaten all parents to the draw, and bought up the whole supply, reselling them at outrageous prices, while marketing is designed to constantly fuel the flame of desire in those consumerist young hearts.
Note Here; since writing this the fingerling craze seems to have slumped. It's a good bet the marketers will come up with a 2018 Christmas craze! Question is, are you planning to go along with whatever it turns out to be?
Who's driving the car?
Cars are bought with the comfort of children in mind. Drink holders, wifi hotspots and viewing screens are more important than the actual running of the vehicle.
In 2017 I was amazed to hear from a friend’s five-year-old’s list for Santa of the presents he wanted:
- A big Lego set
- A mountain bike
- A computer
I was even more amazed that his parents, struggling financially, seriously wondered how they would be able to afford them. It's as if “sorry, we just can’t do it,” would be a disgraceful admission to make.
Whatever happened to enjoying family, and small gifts?
Even better, how would Christmas 2018 feel if you and your kids talked about this, and decided it would be a cash limited presents year? That you weren’t going to use your plastic card at all for gifts?
Could they come up with some great suggestions? Could you all think about family things you could enjoy together, and have everyone take on a task to make this collectively the best Christmas of all time?
It's May. It's a wonderful time for your children to plan their giving to others this Christmas.