The writer, broadcaster and Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University has joined the big debate following new research just published, which found almost half of young people are having two or more ‘birthdays’ a year because parents buy them presents on their brother or sister’s birthdays, as well as their own.
“I think this is ridiculous,” said Geoff. “Parents are under so much pressure as it is, but this is an opportunity for them to teach their children about how to deal with disappointments that will invariably come along later in life. It’s a bad idea to rely on material presents to soothe children because it encourages the wrong sorts of materialistic habits later in life.
“Isn’t it better to teach children how to share emotionally and let them celebrate the fact that it’s their sibling’s birthday without any sort of gift? Instead they should be taught about the simple pleasures in life of seeing their brother or sister happy on their special day. Learning to appreciate the little things is so important and we shouldn’t be looking at material goods to make us happy.”
Geoff, who is well known for bringing analyses of behaviour, particularly nonverbal communication, to a more general audience by appearing as the on-screen psychologist on 11 series of Big Brother, also believes that it is important for children to learn to delay gratification.
“A person’s ability to delay gratification relates to other similar skills such as patience, impulse control, self-control and willpower, all of which are involved in self-regulation, which is necessary to meet demands of the environment. I believe that if children have the ability to work hard for rewards and delay gratification, it can predict future academic and social success.”
Geoff has carried out some work on wealth and material goods. In his best-selling book Get the Edge: How Simple Changes Will Transform Your Life, Geoff explains how psychology can be used by people in their everyday lives to give them happiness without the need for materialistic objects.
He added: “Another main area of academic interest has been the psychology of sustainability and I have been investigating why people are not doing more to safeguard the environment in the light of the threat posed by climate change. This latest study on buying extra presents for children shows that we are purchasing unnecessary items, which could ultimately be harming the environment. People seem to be ‘dissociated’ when it comes to the environment and understanding this state could be crucial to changing their behaviour for the better.”
Geoff’s work in psychology is extensively covered in the national and international media and he is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society.