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If you want your kids to grow up to be savvy consumers, start talking with them now about how to make smarter decisions with their money.
According to a forthcoming study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, parents who talk with their kids about their decision-making and take advantage of teachable moments – such as refusing to buy a new toy on impulse and then having a conversation about it – tend to produce more responsible and conscientious adults.
The study found that setting personal and financial limits is also important. Kids whose parents are relatively strict – but also warm and forthcoming with their kids – tend to be more self-disciplined and make healthier choices as adults.
“I think that our culture has changed over time to be more permissive with children, but we found a lot of evidence that demonstrated that it is OK to be restrictive with kids,” study co-author Les Carlson says. “It’s also important to explain to kids why the restrictions are important.”
The researchers analyzed dozens of studies on different parenting styles and how kids tended to react to them. They identified four common parenting styles that led to sharply different outcomes.
“One would be hard-pressed to name any agent that plays a more pivotal role in children’s development as consumers than that of parents,” wrote study authors Jessica Mikeska, Robert L. Harrison and Carlson in the report.
“Children develop into consumers via consumer socialization, i.e. ‘processes by which young people acquire skills, knowledge and attitudes relevant to their functioning as consumers in the marketplace.’”
Although there are often many people in children’s lives who play an important role in socializing them and influencing their choices, parents tend to be more pivotal, say researchers, particularly when kids are young.
To take advantage of your influence, talk with your kids often about your choices and explain the reasons behind your decisions. It’s also a good idea to engage your kids in conversations about your surroundings, advise researchers, and point out instances in which marketers are trying to influence their decisions.
“For example, parents can talk about why they are skeptical of advertising they may see in a store to teach children how to filter information,” notes Carlson in a news release.
“Watching television with children is another opportunity to engage with them in conversation about what they are seeing to teach them how to be fully informed consumers.”