There is nothing more heart-breaking than a couple who works 10 hours a day so that some CEO would make money while their own kids cannot eat a warm, home-made meal because at the end of the workday the parents are too exhausted to even chat with their children. They don’t have time to spend the money in family activities. When we sacrifice our family for our work, we cannot even feel good about climbing up the ladder at work, knowing deep inside that this ‘success’ comes at the expense of our family.

The vicious cycle of consumption is largely responsible for this:

To stop this vicious cycle, we need to stop over consuming. That is the only place in the cycle where we have control. This way we do not need to work excessive hours to buy (and over-consume).  We can choose not to make that much money and spend more time with our families.

How not to over-consume:  it is a process, an inner transformation, and consuming less is an outcome of this spiritual and mental transformation. An inner fulfillment with life, not things. When we are available for our kids, they do not need things to replace us. These things can never quite fill our shoes and fill the spiritual void in them.

  1. Change your values as a family: everyone has to be on the same page.
  2. Make a distinction between needs and wants: it is crucial to teach kids this early on. When they ask for something (a toy or food) at the market, use the words: I know you want it but you do not need it, so we are not going to get it. Do not lie to them that you do not have the money to buy it. They know you have money, so you are corrupting them with lying and over-emphasizing the value of money.
  3. Enforce no-gift birthday parties.
  4. When people bring gifts for your kids, put those gifts away. Present them to your kids at a special occasion like the Eids or upon an accomplishment. Or give them as gifts to others.
  5. Do not give in and buy things at markets just because they insist: if you start doing this when they are a toddler, you can never stop yourself or your kid. I let my daughter play with whatever she wants while we are in the market, and ask her to put them back before we leave, she gives them a hug and a kiss before placing them on the shelf with their friends.
  6. Avoid using ‘disposable’ things: take your plates and cups to gatherings when you know they will serve food on disposable plates.
  7. Do not throw away anything if someone else can use it: donate.
  8. Teach kids to take good care of their toys, clothes, books. Do not tell them it is ok to rip a book because it only costs $2.
  9. Even if you have 1 sq. feet of soil, plant something. Plant tomatoes in pots, and teach your kids the miracle of God’s creation.
  10. Put left over food outside for animals to eat and compost your organic waste.