Updated: Jul 6
Trends, ugh. They happen and sometimes they are really dumb. Right now it's all about pop-its. Last year it was fidgets. Before that it was, who even remembers? They come and go so quickly, and that's the problem. They create addicting behavior in our children and they have consequences that can linger into the future.
Adults are often victims of trends too, so we can’t expect our kids not to fall for them. Luckily for me, my parents didn’t care one bit about trends, so even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. When everyone in the 80’s was rocking the new band shirts, cool plastic jewelry or whatever else was “totally awesome” at the time, I was not.
My trendy items came months after, from my cousins and friends who were over them. I would get large bags of shirts and toys and tchotchkes that had seemingly lost their value in just a few short weeks. I saw first-hand the speed in which things came and went, and realized I wasn’t better or worse off because I wasn’t onboard or part of the trend.
This carried over into high school. I frequented thrift stores and my grandfather’s closet. Things that were old became new again, which brings me to my list of ways to convince your own children that they don’t always have to be a part of the now because all their friends are. You can still be yourself and a part of a group, even if you aren’t playing with the “it” toy.
Now that my daughter is in 4th grade, and I am around her friends as we wait for the bus in the morning, I see the hierarchy of trends at such a young age. Who has the latest, the rarest, the coolest, the most? Surely, I don’t want my kid to feel left out, but I also can’t exhaust myself running out after every new trend. After all, what would that really be teaching her?
So, when your child is begging for the latest trendy item, ask them if they can do the following. It may save you tears and money. There are lessons to be learned before a potential meltdown (theirs and yours).
Remind them that the last item they just “had to have” is nowhere to be found these days. In fact, tell them if they do find it in less than 2 minutes, you will gladly buy them whatever it is they want. (It won’t happen, so you’ll be fine).
Remind them that if it was so important, it would be taken care of and placed in a spot that shows it has value. Under the bed or behind the refrigerator are not shrines to their most valuable possessions. I don’t care if they “know” where it is, they have to physically bring the item to you in 2 minutes.
Work for it:
Ask them if they have the money to purchase the new trendy item. If not, see if they would be willing to “work” for it. Have them help around the house. Depending on the age, you can get a lot of mileage out of this work thing. This allows them to put in some sweat equity and tests the power of their needs for the item. If they don’t mind putting in the work, you'll see that it is worth it for them.
If they give up and say “never mind” it shows the item was just not that important. Also, if a kid works for something, they may be less likely to damage or break it. They may even start taking care of their things. Imagine that!
Can they trade with a friend for something they already have? This has been a hot topic in my kid’s school. She will leave the house with one toy and come back with something else. “I traded” she will happily explain to me. I love this idea for so many reasons. There’s a social thing going on here and although she doesn’t know it, she’s actually being environmentally friendly. She isn’t going to the store (making me go to the store) to buy a new item and is seeing the value in second hand.
After an item has been sitting dormant for a while, kids lose interest or simply forget it’s there. But have a friend come over and unearth it, and it becomes the item of contention and desire. There is newfound interest, there is a sense of nostalgia in remembering how cool that item was. It finds its way out of the dark and back into the light. Instead of searching for new trends, have your kids “hunt” in their rooms for past ones. It may ignite the spark for play once again.
Out with the old right? Let them clear out some space that the old trends are taking up for a new one. Chances are, once they begin to see the items they do have, they may want to keep them, forgoing the new item, at least for a while. And if they are so over the last trendy item, let them donate it to kids that don’t have toys. It will allow your child to feel compassion for those less fortunate. Teach them how they can put their old toys to use, so everyone wins.
Keep a box in their room for this exact thing. When they are done with one item, have them place it in the box for another child. I’ve found that having my daughter give the items directly to another child is priceless. She lights up when she sees someone else’s’ excitement over receiving her stuff. It inspires her to do it often.
You can also use these conversation starters to delay instant gratification in children. This is a lesson that will last into their adulthood and serve them well if they can master it. Having to wait for something gives them time to think about the rewards or consequences of having something. Maybe by going through this list they will realize some things about themselves: I have too much, I can’t keep up with the trends, I want to be more giving, I am selfish, I ask for too much too often…
It's not about making your kids feel bad. It’s the opposite. Allowing your kids to find out what is really important to them will help them build their sense of identity that doesn’t change every time something new is placed in front of them. They will learn to become leaders and not followers. Now that is something that will save them so much trouble in the future; think high school, college, the workforce.
As we raise our children to become self-thinkers that can stand in the face of any trend (positive or negative: think online challenges that are dangerous) they can say, “No, I’d rather not” and still be accepted. It starts with saying no to the pressures the media and advertisements place on our young children. Some adults aren’t unscathed by this practice, so it’s important to start early.
There is always a new trend on the horizon. That’s the plan for businesses. They understand how critical it is to plant the need for children to "fit in". As parents, we need to intervene in a way that our children understand and walk away better for it. We are not being mean. We aren’t the ones who just say no to everything. Kids are smart. Set the example, have the talks and maybe your homes will stop looking like the toy isle of a big department store.
Then just when we have quelled the flames of want in our young children for the day, tomorrow another new trend will pop up. Have your list ready and tackle it head-on. Be ready. You will learn a lot about your children through this process as well. You can find out what they really value and maybe even why they want to fit in so badly. Take this as an opportunity to open up discussions with your children. Being a “cool” parent is always trendy...right?