How to Avoid Raising a Stuff Monster by Rich Bennett

It starts innocent enough. Begging for things in the grocery checkout aisle. A Christmas wish list that gets a little longer each year. Pleading for the latest video game, fashionable clothing item, or electronic thingee. And, as parents, we like to give good gifts to our children so we oblige — and maybe a little too frequently.

But before you know it, you have a home of Stuff Monsters, kids who value stuff as much — or maybe even more — than the people and relationships around them. In our stuff-obsessed culture where we are repeatedly told we must have the latest and greatest, it can be a huge challenge to raise a child who isn’t overly stuff centered.

And children who grow up obsessing over the next ‘stuff fix’ become the narcissistic, self-absorbed, deep-in-debt adults of tomorrow. How can you have healthy relationships in your life — let alone a close relationship with the One who died for our sins — if you’re perpetually focused on the next bit of stuff you ‘need’?

I’ll be honest, we’ve had seasons where one of our kids has struggled with a bit of an obsession over stuff. Times when my wife and I have had to pause and ask ourselves: Are we raising kids who care too much about their stuff? In our culture today, I suspect my wife and I aren’t alone.

Recently, I wrote about a trip our family took right here in the US of A to engage with the homeless and others in need. It was a fresh reminder of the reality that many — even here in our country — struggle daily to have their basic needs met. But you don’t have to leave the country, your city, or even your living room to help take your kids’ focus off themselves, and bring their attention to the needs of others.

One Antidote to Stuff Centeredness

Operation Christmas Child shoeboxesNext week is the official collection week for Operation Christmas Child. It presents you and your family with a great opportunity to fill a shoebox with very basic items — things we take for granted like toothpaste, a hair brush, a small simple toy or maybe some crayons — and give them to a child in need thousands of miles away. These are kiddos with so few things, that many keep the box itself to store things in — just to have one more thing they can call their own.

OCC presents every box to a child as a simple expression of God’s love, and as an opportunity to tell children who have little that the God of the universe loves them deeply.

Our family is packing our shoeboxes this week. This year, we’re also sending a stuffed toy lamb as just one more way to bring a child joy who may not have much, but receives a shoebox full of simple reminders of God’s love for them.

It’s an easy way to give out of the plenty we have to those who have much less. And to serve as a simple reminder that people made in God’s image matter far, far more than shiny, fancy stuff.

Rich Bennett (@coloradorich) is a contributing writer for Dad Matters and the Vice President of Ministry & Marketing Strategy for Focus on the Family.