My current parenting / landfill dilemma!

Filed in Blog by on November 28, 2009 19 Comments
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Decluttering Little Miss Green's bedroom

Decluttering Little Miss Green's bedroom

Things are getting really difficult and I don’t know what to do about it. In fact I’m feeling a bit dispondant about the whole thing today.

Little Miss Green is now eight and she’s been asking me for a few weeks about pocket money.

To cut a long story short, she is now the proud owner of weekly pocket money. This is her fourth week of having her own money and it’s not going well.

LMG started off by purchasing a magazine and now she’s open to advertising. We’ve lived without a TV for over 10 years, so we haven’t had to deal with this before. But these girl’s magazines are full of adverts for the latest plastic toy or craze and LMG wants it all!

She has been entering competitions to win things and of course, now I’ve suddenly realised that you don’t need to go to a toy shop to buy toys; they are everywhere. In the supermarkets, even in the corner store, you name it, every shop has at least one shelf or stand of crap toys. I’d never even noticed them before but Little miss Green has managed to sniff them out within the past 3 weeks and more time is spent pouring over Polly Pocket toys than deciding which brand of soup to buy.

I decided from the start that I should give this pocket money unconditionally, from my heart and not instil any sense of guilt or judgement into little Miss Green. There is nothing worse than feeling judged. I don’t want her growing up feeling guilty every time she buys something she wants and I don’t want it to be my voice in her head as she’s deciding what to buy. She doesn’t buy sweets because she can’t have sugar, but anything else is fair game as far as I am concerned. I figured that I couldn’t teach her about good and bad purchases without her experiencing it for herself. It’s a bit like teaching a toddler about burning themselves; it’s no good telling them what hot is, they have to touch something hot to find out.

So far, Little Miss green’s gifts of choice have been magazines (complete with free plastic gift which will no doubt soon be broken), a barbie look alike, two plastic horses and a set of plastic cats with weird fashion accessories because we all know that cats love to wear shoes, coats and wigs, right?

This week Little Miss Green asked me to spend some time with her.

“Sure honey, what would you like to do?” I asked

“Let’s go upstairs and tidy my room!” she said

How could I resist? I’ve been desperate for her to get the decluttering bug for a few weeks, so off we went.

Three hours later we reappeared with a lot of paper for recycling, a bag of things for the charity shop and sadly, some plastic for landfill – a few broken toys and some horrible packaging from some of the aforementioned toys and magazines.

As you know, rubbish bin space is getting smaller and we have a big media story coming out towards the end of the year, so all eyes are on us to achieve our goal of only one dustbin full for 2009.

Mr Green announced to me this morning that he was going to empty out the dustbin and see if we had anything in there which could in fact be recycled to try and make more room. Our awareness of what can be recycled along with local recycling facilities are improving all the time, so there may well be a few things in there which we can now recycle.

In the meantime we need to come up with some strategic planning along with Little miss green to decide what she is going to do. We are not about to make her childhood a misery; we live in the 21st century, and sadly most children’s toys come heavily packaged in plastic and are made from plastic materials, but we need to plan how we are going to deal with all these toys wrappings and inevitable broken pieces.

To top it all off, Little miss Green’s plans in the summer which revolved around Yule being a celebration of nature, making our own gifts and making decorations from natural materials has metamorphosed into a wish list of barbie, another plastic cat set and Polly pocket …

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think Little miss Green should unwrap in the shop or return to the manufacturer along with a covering letter? Or do you think we need to stop her from buying such highly packaged goods in the first place? Should I be tougher and instil my values more or continue my ‘live and let live’ attitude to life? There’s nothing quite as emotive as how we parent our kids, so please join in with the discussion and tell me how you personally deal or would deal with things. What do you do when your values and your child’s desires are not entirely in synch?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (19)

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  1. Ailbhe says:

    Let her have them, and cope with them as you would if they were the packaging on essential household goods such as medicines or replacement parts for “important” grown-up stuff like cookers or door-locks.

  2. Poppy says:

    I agree with Aibhe Mrs G. This is about the next generation learning from their own mistakes as well as ours.

    We have the annual bin fest coming up here. J’s birthday and Christmas. I found out too late last year, that wrapping paper could have been put in with the cardboard recycling. I’ll try to find out if the same will be true this year. But before that, we really do need to have a major clear out of his bedroom to see what space we can find. The main salvation is that the older they get, the smaller the gifts and wants appear to be (not sadly reflected in the prices!!)

  3. Just Gai says:

    My advice is to let LMG come to her own decisions. She will, hopefully, have learnt from what you have said and fone and opt for the more sustainable toys. But if not, forcing her to conform to your lifestyle will only end in resentment. You’ve lead by example and now you’ve got to have the confidence in her to let her make up her own mind. She’ll make a few ‘mistakes’ but I’m sure she’ll be alright in the end.

  4. Sandie says:

    I know how you feel, with three boys aged eight to eleven.

    My husband is currently at the shops with them now – hunting out Pokemon Cards! And, it’s their birthday money that is being spent, so this is a very difficult situation.

    I think, as parents, we have to compromise. Let our kids feel their way and don’t make them angry by banning everything.

    However, you’ve got me thinking now, Mrs Green, and and I am going to try and explain to my boys that quite often these toys are made by other, very poor children in places like China, where they have no choice but to work.

    I’ve just found this link to UNICEF on Child Labour http://www.unicef.org/protection/index_childlabour.html

    I will show the boys this when an appropriate moment offers itself up.

    Thank you, Mrs Green. Another really great, thought provoking blog post. I think you’re right on my wavelength…….

  5. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    If Mr Green finds any caps or margarine, bases and lids, yoghurt bases, Tetra Paks etc, feel free to send them on for my local commingled recycling. The truth is that things have moved on from the start of both your family, and my own, challenge. I found a handful of caps to recycle, including from toothpaste tubes. These had previously been unrecyclable, with no prospect of recycling at that time.

    If you look at children’s ads, plastic is everywhere. This has been part of the current plastic situation which has gone unchallenged so far. Maybe we need a Zero Waste for Children website to promote better alternatives. This would obviously be best run by the younger generation.

    As for the commingled, I recently offered to recycle my neighbours glass bottles in the 4 weekly separate collection. A collection of 5 clear glass, and 1 green glass, bottles were taken from 1 lady of the household for Friday’s uplift. Clear glass only for the recycling box with green/brown glass for Asda’s supermarket recycling bins.

  6. Hmm, tricky one, Mrs G! I don’t have kids so can’t relate directly, but I do work at children’s newspaper, First News, so I spend a chunk of my time informing kids about issues that they want to know about but also that they should know about. At the paper we don’t give them our opinion, we lay out the facts, give them the information and let our readers make up their own minds. I’m not plugging my paper but I will say that we are super careful about the advertising we accept and no plastic is ever stuck to the front page.

    I think the above comments are right, telling your daughter what she can and can’t buy will only lead to arguments and resentment. I say give her the information about packaging waste, suggest how it could be reused if not recycled and leave her to make her own decisions. This new independence of having her own money to make her own purchases is exciting and as well as advertising messages she’s also got playground crazes to add to the pressure.

    Wait till she moves onto fashion and discovers Primark, eek!

  7. LJayne says:

    It’s a really hard one Mrs G. I try and instill my green values into the kids. Ds, nearly 7, mostly gets it, dd1, who is only 3.5 fixes on bits and pieces :-) But I have no desire to turn them into freaks in the playground. Fortunately ds’s school has their own eco-group committee so it is “right on” to turn off lights, have bins for the waste from their fruit snack etc etc.

    Ds started getting pocket money in September at the beginning of Year 2. At the moment he is saving it because he really wants a nintendo ds and one of the conditions of his eventually getting one is that he has to contribute towards the cost. If he really wants something I’m not going to let him not buy it, but he knows that will have to come out of his ds fund. Don’t get me wrong, we still give him treats like we do dd1 and I’ve not stopped the magazine he currently has monthly, but as time goes on, that pot of money is going to become more and more important.

    We have telly but no digital capacity so ds’s biggest fixation come birthday and christmas is more and more and more Lego. Which I can cope with. Despite lack of exposure to it, dd1’s is disney princesses :-( *sigh*

  8. MissG says:

    Get her her own child sized trash bin. She can put ‘her’ trash into the bin every week when you put ‘your’ trash into the bin. This way she can see exactly what she tosses each week and you can discuss alternatives with her.

  9. Sandie says:

    @MissG: What a great idea MissG! I think I might just try this with my boys. Thank you x

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Ailbhe: Thanks Ailbhe; this is even more of a dilemma than I can talk about right now because of our plans for next year on the site ;) But your suggestion makes total sense – thank you!

    @Poppy: learning from her own mistakes is exactly the stance we take Poppy. Good luck with the bedroom declutter and thanks for the tip about wrapping paper with the cardboard – I’ll call the council today and see what they say :)

    @Just Gai: Thanks Just Gai; I think it’s perfectly understandable that there is going to be the ‘novelty factor’ kicking in at the moment and we hope things will calm down in time!

    @Sandie: Thanks Sandie; I think my sharing the experiences we are struggling with it can help others. We too have talked about sweat shops in the past and LMG is fascinated by the whole ‘poor children’ side of life. I guess it doesn’t stop her wanting the things when they are wrapped in glitzy packaging though; not yet anyway :)

    @John Costigane: Hi John, thanks for your offer of help and it’s wonderful to hear that you have been helping your neighbours and wider community – we should all bear that in mind as taking 1 car on the road is all part of the bigger picture of a more sustainable life.

    @the green gal: Thanks Green Gal; that was very helpful and balanced. I think we are all thinking along the same lines within the comments, which is heartening. We cannot dictate to our children, only give them what they need to make informed decisions.

    @LJayne: Hi Lesley, it sounds like you have reached some great compromises in your family and as you say; lego isn’t bad – it rarely breaks and can be passed on second hand or kept for grandchildren ;)

    @MissG: MissG, welcome to the site and thanks for your comment. This is *exactly* what we have decided to do! Mr Green and I talked about this yesterday and this was the solution we came up with. How lovely you have come along and suggested the same – a thousand thanks for sharing your idea with us all :)

  11. Poppy says:

    I’m ever so pleased to see that MLG’s room looks roughly like Master P’s in a totally non-pink kinda way of course!

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: Ahahahahaa; not any more though Poppy; now it is a picture of Home and Garden LOL!

  13. I would agree with many of the comments in that you should let her make the decision and then you will have to live with the results. As long as you know its part of the deal, meaning that you have to handle disposing of the packaging, it will probably be the best way to approach this. I look forward to hearing how it all works out.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @changing table: Hiya, welcome to the site and thanks for your comment. It seems most people share a similar view, which is interesting.

  15. Layla says:

    Hmm, I’d let her watch the inspiring video she made herself – ‘No more plastic’! And the Story of Stuff etc. And maybe some other films, like about plastic in oceans on the bag-free town website etc.

    Not sure if this is even an issue now, I shudder in toy aisles in shops, and if I ever get kids I’ll not shy of preaching and such (my Mum and Dad preached me on worse stuff, and I won’t die for not having ten broken barbies like the younger kids next door!! The real key will be to persuade relatives to not give any!)
    Also, one might try to inspire her to ‘save up’ for bigger things like bicycle or clothes, trips or books…

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Layla: Hi layla, she’s seen all the movies and has a good understanding, but that doesn’t stop desire when she’s shopping. I’m more of a live and let live person – she knows my views and has her own and we meet in the middle :)

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