Tim Kasser, a professor at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, found that the more importance teenagers place on the things (and money) in their possession, the more likely they were to smoke, chew tobacco, drink alcohol, smoke marijuana and have sex. And when Connie Dawson, a therapist in Kirkland, Washington, surveyed 1,200 adults, 71 percent of those who said they had been overindulged as kids reported not feeling satisfied as grown-ups.
You can do a few things from the time your children are very young—before they enter grade school in fact—to insure they don't dive into this want-it, need-it, have-to-have-it cycle of doom. And don't worry if your kids are beyond that age. It's never too late to start to make these changes. It won't necessarily be easy (you can expect a few weeks of back talk), but stick to your guns and they'll get the message: The Bank of Mom and Dad is no longer open for business.
Make them choose
Children can handle making choices from the age of 2. When they're really young, help them to choose between only two items. As they start grade school, they should be able to make a decision among four, five, even six. A great place to begin this exercise is at the grocery store. Let your child choose whether it'll be Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies or Cheerios. (Don't put a sugary cereal on the list of options if you don't want it in the house.) Or chocolate, vanilla or strawberry ice cream.