I travelled extensively before I had children. I saw varying lifestyles and was most touched by the simplicity of some cultures. What stood out most was how many people who would be consider poor by western standards, since they had few material things, were still so happy. Life for them was simple. Some wanted what the West had to offer, but not all. People were accommodating and ready to share with strangers. It left an indelible mark on me. I travelled for more than a year wearing only what I had in my backpack. I did not miss all my “things” – clothes, space nor gadgets. I changed my mindset and had serious considerations about how I wanted to live in the West. I did not move to a new house, I still have furniture but the “whats” and “hows” are different. 😀
Painting made by my youngest
We live in the age of consumerism. It is really hard to avoid. The challenge is to find a way to cope or deal with it without being consumed. It is easier said than done - it is all around us. The consumerism culture is a challenge for everyone. After my travels, I consciously added some new day-to-day habits and changed how I spend money. Then I had children. I wanted to ensure that I passed on important values to them. They are now ages 18 1/2, 17 and 15.
It has not been easy – I feel as though it is a continuous battle. Since we cannot avoid consumerism, we can only manage it to ensure that we do not spend excessively. One of the first thoughts that comes to mind is that we should turn off the tv and put away computers and smartphones. However, these technical tools are now an integral part of our lives. The use of computers during the first pandemic lockdown led to computers being used more extensively. Children were at home and had online classes via their computers. Would it have been fair to tell them that they cannot use it for entertainment thereafter? I could not complain because they had no choice. I had to be quiet about the amount of time spent on technology. Luckily, my children found online schooling tiring so they were eager to at least take a break after being online.
Habits and practices
I believe that my own conscious habits and values have a major impact on my children. I will highlight some of our habits – they are in a random order.
- We do not buy things because others have them – we buy what we need - when we need it – for e.g. the latest laptops, smartphones etc.
- My children are well aware that because the latest brands are popular at school that that is never a good reason to buy them. It does not mean that they do not wear brand names but it does not have to be the latest fashion (shoes, clothes, school bags etc.) because other have them.
- We never purchase using long term debt – credit cards etc.
- We assist others including the less fortunate – giving toys, clothes and/or time as needed.
- Only watched television under supervision or not at all - when the children were younger and more impressionable – they did not watch normal television and as a result saw limited tv advertisement. Now that they are older we’ve discussed how advertisements can change buying behavior to wanting instead of needing things.
- Candid family talks to create awareness and discussion about:
- life, health, material things, money, drugs, internet use and behavior.
- Focusing on what we have instead of what we do not have and being thankful for what we do have.
- Taking time out to practice meditation, go for walks, meet with friends – the children realise that there is a time for everything and that it is necessary to slow down and have some “me time”.
- Share with their siblings – Although my kids have very individual styles – there is always something that they can share. A few items of clothes, helping each other with homework etc. This teaches them to be less selfish.
- Never fussing too much on the loss of material things – the emphasis is always on the well-being of everyone and not on the object lost. For instance - a glass table was broken by my son etc. We all ensured he was fine - tables are replaceable
- Being grateful for who we are and what we are blessed to have – never placing too much emphasis on what we do not have.
- Having good manners – saying thank you for acts of kindness or gifts (even if they do not like the gift)
- Having family evenings together – we play games, watch movies, go to the cinema, walk on the beach.
- Encouraging hobbies – like reading, painting, football, dancing, playing chess, swimming etc.
After reading this list, you might think that these items are not special. They might seem like normal things that families do together – but normal keeps changing. My children choose not to opt out of family outings even when they can as they grow older. Now family time is important and meaningful for them because we practiced it – not only talk about it. This is what mattered.
Children will emulate their parents to a large extent although the influence of their environment is undeniable. Peer pressure at school means that children must have confidence and self-esteem. It truly starts at home.
Raising children does not come with a handbook and the issues change for each ensuing generation. Despite that each generation would like to have children who are balanced – not being addicted to anything. As a result, parenting takes effort and at this time, it is easy to seek tools to assist us with parenting. When my children were younger, I bought these books for them.
I often bought books which were useful in helping to convey or reinforce messages, amongst others. These books from Wayne Dyer were very useful.
As I laid out the books to make the above photo – my oldest daughter told me that her favorite book was “Het Gaat om de Binnenkant”. The literal translated is “It is about the inside” however the English book is called “It is not what you’ve got.” She then turned to this page to show me what was her favorite.
You are not what you have-the little boy is surrounded by things inside his room while he stares out the window at kids playing
Now that I scan through the pages – I think that although written for children – the lessons are very relevant for adults.
The rhyming stories teach about money and abundance with 10 main illustrations and these 10 titles:
- You are not what you have
- Stay within your budget (Live within your means)
- It does not matter what others have
- You have the power to get what you want
- Money does not create happiness
- Each job is important
- Follow your own dreams
- There is enough for everyone – also for you!
- You deserve it so enjoy
- Wealth is more than money alone
Not long ago, we watched this YouTube video about dopamine which we get even if we are not aware of it.
This video was a reminder to my family and created awareness and another topic for discussion.
A summary of the video: we scroll through social media websites, playing video games because we expect "rewards" – so phone scrolling occurs frequently. Hours can be spent in these activities creating a high dopamine tolerance and an addiction. A detox is needed to bring back balance. (see how in the video).
We also watched the Netflix film “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Then the family and I were given the book called the "Life changing magic of tidying up" by Marie Kondo. It is there as a nice reminder and reference.
The two tips that we already practiced were:
- Everything should have its place – this is necessary for a family of 5
- Only keep items of clothing that bring joy – we extended that to other things and not just clothing – (but it is a constant challenge).
These family practices and more have helped our children develop values which are important to us and them. These practices/activities above cannot guarantee perfection (as it does not exist) or good behavior all the time but it provided a decent foundation.
The infamous family game - mahjong
Fingers crossed that my children continue to develop as they currently are. They are hopefully more aware of self and the impact their environment have on them. I think instilling good values and having self-esteem leads to making decisions for oneself and being less apt to succumbing to peer pressure.
This is my response to The Minimalist prompt-option 2.
This is my first time participating.