Raising Children in a Secondhand World

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My 5 year old son has been raised into a world of secondhand adventures. During his 5 years, he has frequented Op Shops far and wide, set off on early morning flea market expeditions, browsed school fete stalls, antique shops and garage sales in seek of treasures with his ol' Mum.

:: Finding Vintage Star Wars Toys in an Antique Centre ::

He has reached an age now where he takes a wallet with him, filled with coinage with which to spend if he sees something of interest. Most of the time we have fun, sometimes we experience a hiccup or two.

Recently, I made a suggestion to spend a morning Op Shopping, "hooray" is his reply, "which ones?" he asks, because he has become familiar with his favourites.

:: $8 Star Wars Truck from Salvos ::

Off we trot on our usual haunts, he spends time searching through toys and games, I browse fabric, housewares clothes and furniture. We have our browsing patterns and time-frames.

By the third Op Shop, I'm calling it a day, but the little guy is not happy because he hasn't found anything. We start to disagree, he tells me he wants a toy, I try reasoning with him, explaining there has been nothing appropriate to buy this time, that sometimes that's just the way it is. The meltdown starts as I tell him we have to go home, the crying continues in the car, on the 10 minute drive home, to the front door, into the house. I send him to his room until he calms down, finally we have a heart to heart about the situation.


He does understand that shopping secondhand means you never know what you'll find, but the problem is, a habit has come where he expects to go home with something, most of the time. If we didn't shop secondhand, preferring new goods over old, I wonder whether we would encounter the same issue? It is highly unlikely he would be accustomed to receive a new toy everytime we were to visit a shopping centre for example, yet at a secondhand shop the likelihood becomes more frequent, usually because what he finds is significantly cheaper than what he would find new.

Even at a young age, he would have picked up a small matchbox car with glee, and of course I would buy it because it would be 50c or less. Some Op Shops even have a 'Free Toy Box' for youngsters. If I go secondhand shopping without him, I'll usually come home with a 'new' toy, book, superhero t-shirt or similar, because it happened to be $2 and to see the happy look on his little face.

Since that day, we've not been back to an Op Shop or market, but we will, and when we do, I plan to set the ground rules before we leave the house. If we don't find something appropriate, he shouldn't get upset.

I'd be interested to hear from other parents that may have dealt with similar scenarios, have you encountered situations like this too? How do you approach secondhand shopping with your own young children? How do your kids react when walking away from a thrift shop laden with abundant (although not always appropriate) toys? Are you raising your children in a secondhand world? Do you believe it makes them different children to those not accustomed to recycled things?



Pull Your Socks Up! said...

Shopping with kids can be a headache whether it's op-shopped or new swag. However, it does get easier with practise. With time, my lot got used to the concept of walking away from garage sales, op shops and flea markets without finding buried treasure. I think you've adopted the right attitude to op-shopping because clearly the wee fella is enjoying the thrill of the hunt, but with time he'll learn that not every trip will be successful.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your feedback Desiree, I think you're right, it just takes a bit of time for kids to get used to the concept of seeking out treasures

I Love To Op Shop said...

I now get Op Shop Jnr to try and pick something he no longer wants if we are going out to an op shop. I say it's more like a swap, we can't just take from op shops without bringing back something now and again.

But yes, we have had meltdowns too. :-)

vicky myers said...

A really interesting read. My six year old has a very similar attitude, which means she has 4 crates of soft toys. My two year old however accepts that we leave the toys behind sometimes. Consumerism is a tricky one, we have introduced pocket money to the six year old in terms of learning the value of money, which is helping. But of course in terms of learning to save the item in the charity shop will have gone in a couple of weeks when you have saved up!!

Anonymous said...

As you know I take my little ones op shopping with me a lot. We generally have great outings together, but I generally keep it limited to a few places they are familiar with if they're in tow with me. When it comes to requests to purchase things, I've developed a dialogue of being quite open with them that they can't expect to get or have something each and every time. I outline and remind them of the many other times they do get things from our trips. I flat out refuse the purchase of things like licensed character clothing and toys ie. Spider-Man. My rule is if you haven't seen the movie, show, cartoon they do not and will not be allowed to purchase them. This particular rule is my snub at how movies like the aforementioned are classified for ma15 but toys etc are marketed at a younger age group and I don't care if they're now at the op shop cheap as chips to buy, they flat out will not have it.......and I'll happily see a tantrum out over it to stick to my guns.

When it does come to allowed purchases I'll sometimes give them a dollar or two and tell them they are to look for a new to them book or item of clothing. It allows them to have a focus in their hunt but ensures they're brining home something useful rather then junk and something they or we need. Having said all of the above I still make purchases for them, but I don't make a fuss of it being a treat.

At the end of the day I'm trying to raise kids that don't have the expectation that they get something each time, and that a hunt and a play is fun too even if we don't go home with anything.

Anonymous said...

I've been dragging my now 10yo son around with me to opshops for years. I feel its given him an appreciation for 'one mans trash'& the different ways we can use money.(I'll never forget the day he negotiated a payment plan with a Vinnies manager to buy an xbox lol!)
I like to browse the whole shop & he sticks to toys & electronics(not so much toys these days). He likes to mainly take the electronic devices apart & see how they work, much rather he did this with opshop purchases! He used to be alot keener on toys when he was younger & this was great for me, he knew if he behaved & left mummy alone for a bit he'd get a little treat at the end of the shop. Sometimes he didnt find anything so mummy was usually annoyed & nagged to hurry along, for which he learnt patience. One thing I've found is that because we have had SO many op shop toy purchases in our home(from FREE-$5 its hard to refuse)I've had certain people comment on how 'spoilt' my son is. They soon quieten down when I explain "Its all from the op-shop"! I believe I've saved my family thousands of dollars with my op-shopping & made money reselling as well. I also believe there really are so called OP-SHOP 'GODS', I couldn't count the times I've needed something in particular & it's presented itself to me in the next op-shop I've visited. These days my son usually prefers to stay home but when I drag him out with me he always enjoys rifling through all the treasures.
Now I have a 17 month old boy to corrupt:)

Unknown said...

We are not shoppers I'm afraid. Our expeditions are usually pretty quick, and I don't think I've ever browsed with the kids in tow. They've only just started requesting things in the shops, and I rarely buy things for them unless we went out to specifically buy it. My weakness is probably online shopping!
p.s. that Star wars truck looks awesome!

Kat said...

Its a attribute to see value in something that you were not compelled to by advertising and merchandising companies. It also engages their imagination when you have to adapt something, It will help them think of the value of money and grow up knowing you can compare what you've seen in department stores compared to Op Shops and help them use their money more wisely. My 4 1/2 yr old has grown with both and he knows how to adapt himself and knows at the op shops you accept things how they are and make the best of it. Also at stores you may not be able to afford the big toys except for christmas and Bdays. I don't think kids will realise till they are older but it is a gift we give them teaching them to be flexible and grateful children.

Unknown said...

Thats a good idea to take something along as a donation

Iliska Dreams said...

Jarvis is too young for me to have to deal with this mine field of emotions. But I am not a shopper in general, never have been. So I am not sure what will happen when he gets older.

keep it sunny said...

Great post! I have a two year old & I occasionally buy her something if it really takes her fancy. Usually she is happy to have a little play with it in the store and moves on. You have a really great point that because it is cheap, you buy it, no questions asked, but that also means you will gather up a full house of second-hand toys!

I very rarely go in to an op-shop and not buy something, perhaps we can concentrate on giving as opposed to always shopping once Miss Two is a little older & starts to want, want, want! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I have been op shopping for years and my boy's would alway's come with me. We would suit's for formals and tuxedo's for a formal wedding. My boy's are now 28 and 26 and they still go op shop for clothes and gifts.

Jean C. said...

You know; my kids weren't raised entirely in a second hand world; I mean we went, a lot... but they weren't used to going all the time to 2nd hand shops. I think you are doing a great job! The fact that you are talking to your son about his reaction and all means that you are helping work through all this. Our youngest shopped (food shopping) with me a lot while the older ones (we had/have 4 kids total all grown now) were in school. I got into the habit of letting her have a gumball out of a machine when we walked into a store. This (to my way of thinking) kept her occupied and she didn't ask for anything else then. It sort of blew up in my face though, because then she thought that she needed to have one every time we walked into the grocery store. Of course we worked it out, but her older siblings now tell stories about how we spoiled her! LoL... Keep up the good work. Kids don't need "new" toys every time you go some where. Maybe make it a rule that if/when you go Op Shopping and you do get a toy... he has to give one up when he gets home. Bring 1 in take 1-2 out! Just a thought.

Unknown said...

Brilliant replies here, thank you everyone

Anonymous said...

I grew up in secondhand clothes: op shop or hand-me-down. One new new outfit a year, and two new new pairs of shoes, running shoes and school shoes. All in February.

My kids grew up in a mix of hand-me-downs, op shop finds and Kmart/Best & Less. They were taught the value of quality fabrics and stitching, and of 'fast and dirty' - each has a purpose. When they came op shopping with me, they were permitted 1 item of clothing or a book. Limit of $2; unless it was darn special.

They learnt well - all 3 and my grandson wore seconhand finds to a family wedding 3 years ago, and one of them wore the same outfit to another early this year. That one, and the next one in line, may have learnt the 'quality is important' lesson a bit too well; the 2 weddings one outfit purchase was almost a non-starter, until he argued passionately about the cut of the suit, the quality of the fabric, and the fine workmanship.

Yep, I have 3 boys who are master op-shoppers, and at times, they out-do female friends of mine in the examination/weighing up of a potential purchase in terms of garmet merit.

Unknown said...

I remember dealing with that when my daughter was about his age, and occasionally now with my nephews. The hard thing for me was saying no when I can afford it. But I had to rethink my habits when I noticed my daughter wasn't taking good care of her things anymore. My grandma told me at the time that "sometimes we have to say no, just so they know what no means." It's good that you are figuring out how to deal with it. I haven't had any problems in a few years, so it's easy to work on it when they're little:)

Anonymous said...

It's been a long time but I had this problem with my son when he was about the same age. When he behaved when we were shopping I'd buy him a matchbox car, when I realised it was getting out of hand (with the amount we had) and stopped we had serious tantrums because I'd accidentally set the expectation that he'd always get something. In the end it was talking him through the situation and setting his expectations before we went out that got us through it.
Now with the youngest I try to be very careful that I don't buy her things every time we go out, in the hope we can avoid the same drama.

Lakota [Faith Hope and Charity Shopping] said...

Oh yes, I've had this. Just wanting to leave with 'something' no matter how crappy, broken or babyish. I apply the same ' not buying something for the sake of it' that I use in any other shop.

Mother Down Under said...

This is really interesting...I had never really thought about this issue before. I know when we go op shopping I have a hard time pulling Toddler C away...but I think that is more because all of the toys are out and accessible and he can play with them unlike stores were the toys are in boxes. I don't think he expects something every time we go out...I was taught that it is not a bargain if you don't need it and I hope that I am passing that same principle on to him?

Jo (down to earth mother) said...

Oh man, I am totally setting myself up for this issue... My three y/o has also been raised in op shops and, even though He's good at chosing just one thing, I don't know that he's ever had to walk away empty handed. Scary prospect. We too try to cull stuff as it comes in,but my problem is that my hubby gets as overexcited as my preschooler and next thing I know we own 20kg+ of Lego (true story).

Malinda @ My Brown Paper Packages said...

I always cringe when my little miss picks up something truly horrid in the op shops and some days I gently steer her away but other days I let her run with it and see what she comes up with. She knows I like to get things and upcycle them and so she usually decorates whatever she buys anyway.

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