It's not so great sometimes to be mired in the Consumer Age in the midst of a widening wealth distribution skew crisis. The poor are getting poorer, the middle class are getting poor, the upper middle class is slipping into middle class (which is getting poor), and then there's the 400 dudes in America who have all the real money. But the pressure to BUY BUY BUY BUY BUY MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE never stops. The thing that drove the economy skyward and made it possible for more people than ever to live comfortable, safe, and healthy lives with unprecedented opportunities is the very thing that will take it all away. Let us recall: the end goal in capitalism -- the entire point of the system --  is to grow business, to at all times strive to be bigger and better than the competition while always lowering your costs and raising your prices. To succeed at this means driving your competitors out of business, getting your own employees to work for as little money and benefits as possible, using the least-expensive materials you can get away with, all in order to raise profits for yourself and your shareholders. That's just plain reality, and that's why we are where we are now. Any kind of plans to bring relief to the millions in our country who work so hard but were Big Fish-ed out of the pond are met by outraged, bug-eyed cries of "Socialism! Communism! NEVER!" and almost always from people who don't realize they are flopping and gasping on the shore like everyone else.

Our kids really don't much care about the merits or failures of economic and political systems. All they know is that Sophie has a $400 animatronic pony, Jake has an Xbox 360 and 50 games for it, and WHY CAN'T THEY HAVE WHAT EVERY OTHER KID HAS, WAAAA! Should you buy a $400 plastic creepy pony because your cute big-eyed spawn wants one SO MUCH, even when you have no idea how you are going to pay the phone bill next month? Logical Parent says no, but so often Sentimental Parent overrides, the pony is purchased, and the bills get larger and the anxiety worse and worse. Sophie and Jake and all their friends all have the same glut of stuff, even though some of their parents absolutely cannot afford the indulgence. Why?

Because the Consumer Age, your culture, has conditioned you to equate LOVE with MONEY and STUFF, and you CANNOT SAY NO.

We're all guilty of falling for that crap, and especially when it pleases us to see our kids so happy to be playing with their new toys. But take a look at your credit card. Think about your job "security." Look at the masses of THINGS your kids already have. What are you teaching them when you buy them things that you cannot afford? Answer: To grow up and buy things they cannot afford! All of a sudden that pony doesn't seem like such a great idea, huh? So what on earth is a parent torn between wanting to please their beloved children and trying to avoid bankruptcy supposed to do?

Grow up. If you are providing your children with good food, a safe and warm place to live, the best educational and cultural opportunities you have available to you, regular health care, and lots of smiles, hugs, attention, patience, and listening skills, you are WINNING AT PARENTING ALREADY.  A grown-up knows how to prioritize resources in order to build and maintain a stable family foundation. A grown-up knows that modeling responsible behavior produces responsible behavior (eventually). A grown-up knows that all the money in the world doesn't buy good character or assure personal happiness in anyone. Sometimes you are going to have to say no, and deal with the disappointment, anger, and frustration that might arise from your denied child. That's part of your job.

But it's not all gloomy, I totally promise. Jake might not be able to be first in line to purchase "Blowing Guys Up, Vol. XII" for his Xbox, but maybe you can work with him on a plan to save up for a copy (or just rent it for a week until he's tired of it, hint hint). You might be surprised to find that Sophie would be equally-thrilled with a ten-dollar retro stick pony that she can plaster with stickers and glitter and attach jingle bells to the reins. Here's another fact: the thing that your kids want the most is your TIME and ATTENTION. Yes, even older kids; don't let their teen 'tudes dissuade you. Start doing things rather than buying things. Play a silly board game. Go to a busy park with some sketch pads and pens and draw the people and dogs, and compare your (probably very funny) results. Look up how to make homemade ice cream. Watch old movies and have a popcorn-mouth-catch contest. Wash the dog together. Be workout buddies. Plan a bake sake and give the proceeds to your kid's favorite charity. Save loose change until you can afford to all take a "mental health day" off from school and work and go to the beach or the mountains. Take what you have in abundance -- love -- and turn it into experiences that will be remembered with the warmest hearts, decades after toys will be no longer wanted and mostly forgotten.

This change in the way you do business isn't easy, but it can happen. Your kids are more resilient than you think, and for all the complaining they will do that they don't have all the STUFF, they are going to one day be very proud of you for helping them to learn how to be more patient, more responsible, more creative, and less tied to things that are, well, only things, because you will show them how to do it in REAL TIME, as you develop yourself into a better person, too. And that's priceless.