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Battling Materialism

Suzanne Schwab's 6-year-old twins, Olivia and Garrett, seem to want everything they see—even stuff that's not appropriate for them. "Garrett asked for an Xbox because he saw it on TV," says Schwab, who lives in Ocean, NJ.

Many 5- and 6-year-olds are instantly taken with every trendy toy, gadget and even item of clothing they see. "They're in school, so they're noticing the stuff other kids have," says Jill Rigby Garner, author of Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World. Plus, as new readers, they're more susceptible to marketing than when they were tots. To help counter emerging materialism:

Teach kids to give back 

"I explain to the twins how much less many other children have," says Schwab. "We also periodically clean out the playroom and donate some toys to a shelter so they understand the concept of giving."

Offer the gift of time 

Sometimes, when you're giving them a new plaything, make it a board or video game you play together. "Kids crave time with their parents just as much as, if not more than, they crave the next toy," says Garner.

Show them character is more important than stuff 

Make a point of praising people for what they are, not what they have or wear—Aunt Hailey's bright smile, say, instead of her diamond bracelet.

None of these things can cure the gimmes, of course, but they'll start to teach your child a little self-control (at least on a good day).

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