Teaching Children to Respect Material Posessions

Kids’ Demands for Material Possessions

Marilyn C., a nanny working in New Hope, PA says, “The child I care for simply has no respect for her valuable possessions because any material possessions she wants [are] given to her. The child has learned that if she asks often enough, she will always receive.”

The nanny continues, “She is eight-years-old and just got her third I-Phone after losing the first two.”

“After not being responsible enough to prove she can care for her expensive phone twice, she [received] a new one and I cannot even afford a cell phone despite working 60-hours a week with a good salary,” says Marilyn.

The nanny admits, “Her parents work hard so they certainly have the right to spend their money on their child. I have no right to be jealous and should be happy for the child that her parents can afford to purchase what she wants. But in this case it is difficult not to worry that the daughter is not learning the value [of] money or to respect her material possessions.”

First, we recommend Marilyn and our readers refer to our listing of age appropriate developmental stages children learn respect. The eight-year-old can definitely be taught to respect her material possessions.

Next, we like advice shared by Lisa HW in an article, Kids’ Demands for Material Possessions.

Lisa HW explains that how much stuff a child has, and how spoiled he is, are two completely separate things. There are traits of a spoiled child. One is that he is demanding, in terms of the way he presents his requests for things. He doesn’t care about any of his parents’ struggles or how hard they work. He just wants the stuff and doesn’t understand why he couldn’t/shouldn’t have what he wants.

The spoiled child will demand, whine, and generally demonstrate unpleasantness when he doesn’t get what he wants. A spoiled child can’t or won’t understand other people’s concerns. He lacks empathy, and he lacks a willingness to even try to understand. A spoiled child feels entitled.

Spoiled children can be children who have little, or they can be children who a an overabundance of stuff.

Teaching children the realities of money and prioritizing, without expecting them to shoulder the burdens of our own financial concerns, can lay a foundation that makes the amount of stuff kids get matter less, when it comes to whether or not they’re spoiled.

Teaching children that special purchases and surprises come to those who most deserve them is also important.

Letting children know that even if we can’t buy what they want right now, we understand that their wish for something is normal and understandable, can let them know we aren’t disregarding them, or seeing them as “always wanting something.”

Helping them to understand that they need to sort out which things they feel are most important, and helping them decide which things are things are needs and others are wants, is also important.

Denise and Mark Weston, the authors of Playwise, explain that to help children develop a sense of appreciation you must not jump to fulfill their every request, need, or personal timetable. In the course of everyday life, many situations present teaching opportunities to accomplish this.

For example, when you are speaking on the telephone, instead of letting the child interrupt you be clear that he will need to wait until you are finished speaking to the person on the telephone. Let them know that your attention is something you choose to give, something of value to be treated with respect. The frustration the child will feel while waiting for you to finish helps develop her sense of appreciation for you and others and what you do for her.

The child whose every need is met without waiting or struggling will not grow to appreciate what others do for her, limiting her to a state of self-centered living.

Certainly do not withhold love and affection, but put a limit on the amount of gift giving and “giving in” you do to teach the child to appreciate these acts of kindness.

Finally, financial expert Suze Orman had some great tips about teaching children financial lessons on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Suze says that saying yes and no to children should never depend on the economy. “It should be dependent upon: ‘What kind of values do you want to raise your children with? Do you always want them to think they’re entitled? Or do you want them to understand the value of a buck?'” she says.

Suze recommends giving a child an allowance for chores or work around the house. Suze calculates that each minute of work is worth roughly 10 cents. It will take about four hours of work to earn the $20 a child wants. Suze says this is a good level to start a child’s wages.

“Now if they do that job efficiently, you can give them a pay raise. If they do not do that job efficiently, … I would actually decrease their salary, so that the kids understand good work equals good pay equals job promotion. Bad work equals getting fired,” she says.

“And when they learn that at 8, 9, 10, now what are we talking about? We have a kid that knows they have to work for something.”Suze says good tasks for a kid are ones that help their parents. “You guys have to decide together what helps you really around the house,” she says.


  1. Giving an 8 yr old expensive gadgets like cell phones is a big mistake. The teens I work for now cannot even keep track of anything. The teens are organizational messes and must monitor everything still for them.My point is teens cannot even be responsible with expensive stuff I don't think it is reasonable to expect a 8 yr too?Since it is not your kid I would keep my mouth shut. They are making a mistake by not making the 8 yr old learn about consequences of actions. Clearly she ought to be forced to do chores and gain money via an allowance and buy her own new i-phone but you are not the parent. Like you said, they can spend money as they like.

  2. I am having so much difficulty with this topic! There is such a fine line between high quality of life and spoiling kids. I really have felt like most of the kids I have cared for are priviledged but not spoiled until my current job. The single child I care for can cry and get whatever she wants. It makes me so angry at how manipulative she is. Too much stuff. Too many clothes, toys, activities, too much and she doesn't appreciate an ounce of it. Always whining and complaining. If the 8 year old girl I care for was happy I would not mind. But she gets and gets but there is no joy in her attitude or expressions.I like the listing of age appropriate developmental stages because I am releived to see kids aer supposed to be self-centered.I just do not know how to teach this girl appreciation and gratitude.At 8 she still leaves towels from shower on floor, does not make her own bed, does not pour herself her own glass of water… When I ask her to pick up her wet towel after a shower she says to just let the housekeeper do it??!!!I do not mind a cleaning lady laundering the towel, but why is this girl not learning how to hang a wet towel on a towel rack? Or fold clean clothes, or put clean clothes away, or make a bed, wash a dish???I am afraid it is a sad reality of many well to do.

  3. Marilyn's story makes my blood boil. When Marilyn's charge lost her first I-phone that was the opportunity to teach the child the value of the phone and money.I do not think it is wrong to every child help in their age appropriate way. One of my charges can't reach his bed to help make it, but he can help match socks, clear his dishes from the table, put toys away. Suze Orman is right on the money. No reason kids can't start having chores and earn an allowance once they can count. Marilyn's charge should have been forced to gain the money through chores. Instead of alloting an amount of money to time spent on chores I think we should allot a certain price for certain chores. Too many kids moan and groan and do anything but their chore before completing it. They don't deserve to make money while in their room "cleaning up" when they are actually reading a book and pretending to be cleaning-up.

  4. I agree with the concept of the comment previous to this one that kids should be alloted an amount of stars or points or cents per chore rather than an amount by time. I like playing the game "Let's see how fast we can clean up and use a timer" but some days kids are slow and shouldn't get paid more because they do the chore slower.All kids can help and love to help. We adults add the negative energy to it or an older sibling teaches the younger siblings to groan about chores.I def think parents make the mistake of giving an allowance for nothing earned!!No, when you help by helping the family and house run well you get your allowance or alloted amount of money for the chore.Then, Marilyn's 8 yr old can buy her own iphone after losing it next time!Sally, Denver CO

  5. Good post!! Nannies are really helping the children to groom. By the way, have you heard of MiNeeds.com? It really simplifies finding affordable nannies. I used it to find them for my children. Essentially, after I described what I needed on this site, I received several competitive bids from local nannies. I liked the fact that I didn’t have to call around and negotiate with each, and that nannies actually came to me.San Francisco Nanny & Babysitter Services – Get Bids & Save | MiNeeds

  6. This is truly the biggest issue for me in my nanny job. You are right, it extends beyond getting too many toys. The too many toys or cell phones or video games are just another symptom of a bigger problem of being spoiled.The kids whine and get a new video game but it's never enough. But, the true problem is that it does not stop at the toys. The child doesn't want to go to soccer all they do is whine or cry and miss soccer practice. Don't want to go to the zoo just cry. You force them to go to the zoo with you but they whine while at the zoo. Say "No fair!" and get more dessert.It is like they are unhappy and can manipulate to get what they want — that is spoiled. So, my question is: are they truly unhappy because they are not being taught to appreciate their good fortune or just faking that they are unhappy and making everyone around them miserable?Either way, if the kid is whining and complaining then the adults are doing something wrong.

  7. ALL of the children I have cared for working as a nanny were spoiled. Sorry to state the truth. It's mean but true. I was expected to make my bed and help with dishes. But I since I do that for the parents I work for the parents just let me do even the easy chores for the kids. I think it is a waste of valuable teaching time just like everyone who has posted comments. I always thought our goal was to create happy, healthy and secure children who will be inpendent of our care in the future. If we don't teach them how to make a bed, wash a dish, and more importantly how to earn money, save money and budget money then we fail the kids. Allowance based on chores is best way to do that and it's shocking that none of the kids I ever cared for as a nanny have ever done chores for an allowance or learned how to save or spend money properly. From, Nicolette

  8. I do not think Marilyn should discuss this with the parents (unless the parents bring up the topic). Very difficult topic and best not to make parents feel badly. I guess maybe some nannies could, but most just don't complain.

  9. What upsets me is…I work so hard at teaching them to clean the play room,pick up after themselves and 9 times out of 10 I walk into the house and it's a disater such as food left half eaten all over,clothes taken off and left everywhere,toys all over ect…I'm sure you can imagin what it looked like when I was on vacation for 9 days.It's sad to see the parents not instilling the same values and support me all because they do not want to put up with the tantrums.

  10. I hear you anonymous. But we can't tell the parents how to parent. Sadly we have to accept cleaning up after them if the parents don't help teach kids to respect their possessions. My mom boss came out and admitted that she doesn't want to do it. She wants to have fun with her kids and that's why she hires me. Period!!Sucks.Miriam

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