Around this time every year I look around at my kid’s toys and think ‘they don’t use half this stuff’. And that’s all it is – stuff.
I’ve previously blogged about the materialistic nature of children these days and with the looming season of gift giving and receiving around the corner it prompts me to assess which ‘stuff’ the kids really need – and what should be passed on (to make space for the new ‘stuff’).
I’m not a hippy, nor am I stingy with giving my kids gifts, but all this ‘stuff’ makes me feel uncomfortable. Largely because a week or two after the new ‘stuff’ has come in, I find it on the floor… left outside… forgotten somewhere – and well, they just don’t seem to care that much.
I’ve done all the things that I learnt as a parent to try and deter this;
“When I was a girl I would have loved these things, and I find them left on the floor!”
“There are poor children in the world who would kill for half the things you have – and you don’t appreciate them!”
“Look after your things or I’ll put them all in the bin!” (but never could bring myself to do it – they went in my wardrobe for a while only to be returned a week later without anyone even noticing).
My problem is not the expense. It’s not even the waste. It’s the fact that my children, and many others, do not express gratitude for what they have.
So how do we teach gratitude? How can we transition from forcing our kids to look delighted and say thank you – to ACTUALLY looking delighted and saying thank you?
Here are my thoughts – and I must admit it’s a work in progress for me too.
Model. Even if you get an ornament of an ugly cat playing the fiddle. Show your children a polite way to accept a gift by describing the sentiment. “You thought of me when you saw that cat! You remembered that cats are my favourite animal. That is really considerate.”
Praise. Every SINGLE time they do something that displays gratitude describe it. “You smiled and hugged Grandma when she gave you a treat. That shows gratitude.” The same goes for taking care of things and returning them to their home when they’ve finished using it. DESCRIBE!
Educate. Yes we could do this by adopting a sponsor child, or googling about starving kids in Africa – but I think I’ll start closer to home. Pocket money is a good way to show the hard work it takes to save and it teaches self-control. Also, thinking about their environmental foot print – what happens to this ‘stuff’ in the long term? Could we donate it to be reused by someone else who would appreciate it?
Be strong. Even though that ball is only $3 at Kmart DON’T SAY YES. Exercise saying no regularly. Acknowledge how much they REALLY want it, let them know you have made note of their desire for that object… and say NO. We feel uncomfortable with our children expressing negative feelings but that is parenting – we need to be the one in control.
So, after giving all this advice I now need to read it and re-read it in the lead up to Christmas when I take my 6 and 8-year-old to the shops. We can’t control everything coming into our house, but we can at least be mindful of our own purchases and choices.
Of course Grandparents will just go ahead and buy what they want in the end anyway.
**2019 note: Reading this blog again a few years later, it’s a good reminder of focusing conversations back to the things that matter this Christmas. While toys are decreasing in my home, being replaced by clothes and electronic devices, it’s still important to remind children that gifts are not an entitlement… they are a privilege and a kind thought from the person who has given it to them. Modelling is still so important and praise for kindness continues to be an important act to increase harmony in the home.
Wishing everyone a wondering Christmas and Happy New Year xx