So your tween takes his middle-class, expat life for granted, complaining when he has to “suffer” a little. But before you criticise him, take a good look at yourself first…
He’s got such an easy childhood, hasn’t he, compared to yours. Yet he doesn’t even realise it. For instance, your nine year-old complains when you take the bus instead of the car (because the trip takes longer, is too hot and is less comfortable); when you eat at the food court instead of a nice cafe (because it is noisier and rushed).
You’ve also noticed that he leaves the air-conditioner on all the time (because he doesn’t even think about the cost) and he goes crazy if his gadgets don’t work properly (because he can’t imagine life without them).
You want to teach him not to take his lifestyle for granted so that he’s grateful for all he has – and, at times, you are so frustrated with his easy life that you feel tempted to force him to go cold turkey by taking away his tech altogether, leaving him only with a fan. But that would be a rather drastic solution.
After all, who buys him all these gadgets in the first place? Who drives him around in the car most of the time? And who showed him how to work the air-con remote control in the first place? He didn’t do all these things by himself.
So, you can hardly be angry with your child because he has adapted nicely to the lifestyle you created for him – it’s not his fault he is surrounded by the luxuries of middle-class society. Making him go cold turkey would, in effect, mean that you punish him for something that is actually your responsibility, and that seems rather unfair.
There are more reasonable, and more effective, solutions to this dilemma:
Help him count his blessings
For a start, talk to your tween about the different levels of wealth in society. Help him understand that some children live in much more difficult circumstances than he does. There is plenty of information on the Web that could help broaden his perspective – suggest that he acts on that knowledge. For instance, he could give some of his weekly allowance to a charity that supports disadvantaged children, or he could organise a fund-raiser in school with his classmates for the same cause. This would establish his first-hand connection with those whose lives are less comfortable than his.
Keep it simple
Along with Junior, have a good look at the luxury items he has in his room. Does he really need two music systems, that defunct cell phone, and all those other gadgets that he barely uses or has replaced with newer models?
Just get rid of all the stuff he doesn’t use, and ignore his complaints. Then place some realistic limits on the amount of time he spends with his gadgets.
For instance, he doesn’t need to have his iPad or smartphone on during mealtimes, or when both of you are having a chat. Much to his surprise, he’ll find that the world keeps turning! Try to reduce his dependency on these luxuries bit by bit.
Want it? Save up
Encourage him to contribute towards the next “must-have” item. Instead of buying him everything he asks for (which you do because you love him and you want him to have the best), ask your tween to pay towards its purchase, perhaps with the money he received for his birthday or by saving up part of his pocket money each week.
Once he has accumulated his share of the cost, you can match it. That way, he is less likely to take the good things in life for granted, because he will know that he had to work hard to get it – and he’ll enjoy the new gadget even more because of that.
By Richard Woolfson, Young Parents, August 2015