The Secret to Raising a Smart Shopper

As we hurry to finish up our last-minute holiday shopping, parents may wonder how they can raise children who will become wise consumers once they are adults.

To find the answer, they just need to look in the mirror.

According to a new study, parents are the primary agents who socialize their children — more than friends, other adults, or organizations, such as churches.

But which parenting style is the best to help children learn the skills and attitudes they need to be smart consumers?

To find the answer, researchers analyzed data from 73 studies nationwide. They then created categories to define four basic parenting styles.

Authoritative parents are more likely to tell children what they want them to do while also explaining why, which the researchers describe as “restrictive” and “warm” communication. These parents tend to relate quite effectively with their children and expect them to act maturely and follow family rules, while also allowing a certain degree of autonomy.

Authoritarian parents are also restrictive, but not as likely to exhibit as much warmth in their communication, said researcher Les Carlson, a professor of marketing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“They are more likely to tell a child what to do and not explain why,” he says.

Neglecting parents offer little guidance for their children’s development and limited monitoring of activities.

Indulgent parents are lenient, compliant, and give children adult rights without expecting them to take on responsibilities.

The researchers found that many of the studies showed children of authoritative parents had the best outcomes when interacting with the world around them. These children consumed healthier foods like fruits and vegetables, and made safer choices, such as wearing a bike helmet.

They also provided valuable opinions on family consumption decisions, the researchers discovered.

“I think that our culture has changed over time to be more permissive with children, but we found a lot of evidence that demonstrated that it is okay to be restrictive with kids,” Carlson said. “It’s also important to explain to kids why the restrictions are important.”

The analysis also showed that children of restrictive parents were less likely to engage in cyberbullying, theft, vandalism, drug use, and feelings of having an unattractive body shape, what the researchers termed “negative consumer socialization outcomes.”

To apply these findings to daily life, parents could proactively train their children by taking them shopping and guiding them in decisions, according to Carlson.

“For example, parents can talk about why they are skeptical of advertising they may see in a store to teach children how to filter information,” he said. “Watching television with children is another opportunity to engage with them in conversation about what they are seeing to teach them how to be fully informed consumers.”

The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

Source: Society for Consumer Psychology