Raising a child of grace.

Something I worry about too often is how to raise a child of grace.  How to raise a self-reliant child in a self-indulgent world.


As you can see, Finn has no shortage of gifts at Christmas.  And this picture is only displaying the gifts from Josh and I, my sister, and my mom.  And there was a stocking not pictured, overflowing with small toys and candy.  The sad part is I know this is not unusual, if I had to guess I would say it is on the small side.  It got so out of control, after an hour, he was too tired to even enjoy unwrapping his presents.

I believe by children having everything, they value nothing.  That scares me.

To combat my fear I have a goal for his toys, and that is to have them categorized into 3 parts.

1. Toys that he plays with and has immediate access to.  He will control which toys he has and he will have a limit of how many he is allowed.  Sometimes kids have so many toys they lack place to play with them.

2. Toys that are in storage, again his choice, where I control the amount.  This will serve two purposes.  First, as he gets tired of his other toys, we can rotate these in.  Second, some toys lend themselves to certain seasons.  Such as his train track, we (and by we I mean Josh and Finn) lay down the track and it takes up an entire room, which is great for long hours of enjoyment inside during the winter months.

3. He has to select the toys he wants to keep and once he has reached his limit, the rest of his toys will be donated.  The other day he came across his slippers from last winter (the most adorable things EVER if I do say so myself).  At first he was upset because they were too small and then became more upset when I told him we were going to give them away.  This doesn’t seem to come naturally to people, but it is such an essential skill of recycling, making choices, controlling the amount of “stuff” a person has, and helping those that are less fortunate.  Yes this will result in tears and possibly fits at first, but hopefully it will be something that gets easier and easier and at some point it turns into something he actually looks forward to.  I have found especially when I get to see the joy that comes from something I am able to part with, it’s difficult to find reasons why I would rather keep something than give it to someone else.

I know nearly nothing, but what I do know for sure, we are on this planet to help out our neighbors, near and far.  For those who are so blessed, we have the responsibility to share with those that are in need.  And everyone is blessed in some way. You might be a great gardener and help someone plant flowers in front of their house while I can help their children learn math and how to read.

Finn is blessed with a gazillion toys (to the 956th power), and so he needs to share some with those that are less fortunate.  To appreciate what he has and also understand that sharing and giving are the best parts of life.  What I’ve found is I can have everything I could ever dream of, but without someone to share it with, it is worth less than nothing.

The other part I think is incredibly important is that each child has responsibilities in the family (at their ability).  Finn is responsible for picking up his toys.  Beyond caring for his toys, we expect that he participates (again, as he is able) in chores around the house.  As he gets older, the more we will expect of him and the larger the consequences will be if he chooses not to.

When we were working on cleaning and arranging our house, he was excited to help for the first 1.29 minutes.  After that he informed us that it wasn’t fun and he was far too tired to help.  I sat him down and explained that he was part of this family and therefore he was responsible for doing his part.  Now as a boy that wasn’t even 3, there wasn’t all that much he was capable of doing.

Mostly I wanted to show him he was responsible to do his part.  That included creating jobs or asking him to do jobs that were finished (such as pushing the vacuum around after I had already finished vacuuming).  Some jobs (such as squirting cleaning liquid) were a reward for completing other jobs.  Someday I hope to have the super-powers my sister-in-law has acquired, to trade reading time for completing chores.

I then gave him my best speech on teamwork and explaining how our family was a team.  Which then turned him into using that to his advantage he was doing anything “mama, let’s use TEAMWORK to clean up my toys.”

Finn’s daily chore (beyond picking up his toys) is to clear the table after we are done eating at the table.  Again, more expectations will be added as he grows more capable.

One thing that worries me is how kids seem to assume they have the RIGHT to be given a cell phone.  Teaching 7-year-old’s I found they thought they had the expectation to have a cell phone.  My niece who will be in 6th grade in the fall thinks it is unusual and cruel punishment that she has yet to receive a cell phone from her parents.  I take notes from her parents because they are raising 4 generous and kind kids.  Even understanding what her parents expectations are, she assumes it is her right to have a cell phone.

And after the cell phone comes the iPad and next comes a computer and then a car…and then a house?  I think this is the utmost craziness…and this is coming from a child that is nowhere NEAR being spoiled and helps around her house A LOT.

I hoped to wait until Finn had his first car to buy him a cell phone, but I’m just not sure that’s realistic anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total techie freak and have found my iPhone and other devices have saved me as a parent more times than I care to count.  And it’s not even about the cost (that’s a whole other issue) but rather the expectation that everything is handed to kids on a silver platter.  I don’t see this as a positive, I think it does such harm to our children.

I don’t care about the peer pressure of what other parents are doing, but I am fearful that it will be the expectation of kids to have these devices and they will be at a huge disadvantage if they don’t have them, especially at school.

I asked my mom about how she raised us, if she ever worried of these matters.  She said no, she was too busy surviving.  I think that’s a huge part of the problem, each day (more than the day before) we have it so easy it gives us the time and means to spoil our children and worry about the effect.

When I was growing up there was no such thing as a cell phone-we had one phone and I stretched the cord from the kitchen to the study where I could shut the door if I needed “privacy.”  There really wasn’t any privacy as I my sister and I became experts at listening in on the other phone without being detected.  We got a computer when I was in middle school.  There was one computer in our home, in a public place, with dial-up internet.  I didn’t have my own computer until I was away at college (and I bought it with my own money).  I have never had my own computer in my own room when I lived with my mom, we didn’t have a TV much less a private one in my room.

When parents are more worried about making sure there is food on the table, making sure the chores are completed at home, and children are well behaved and earning good grades that will get them into a good college which will give them the best chance of securing a job they are less likely to have time and means to spoil their children.  Now with all that we have, I think it is a disservice to our children as they grow up feeling entitled for everything and needing to work for nothing.

I hope to hold out and not allow Finn to have his own computer or TV.  He will be allowed to use both in a common area.  But check back with me in 10 years and see if we were able to stick to our intentions.

I hope the plan we are putting in place today will allow us to raise a child with grace and knowledge that we have high expectations that he contribute to the world.  However, there are no guarantees and we are doing the best we know and hoping for the best.

Please share your wisdom in how you raise kids that work for what they have and appreciate it…or if you don’t have kids…how would you imagine you would do it or even how were you raised?

Get your Spin Cycle on.  The hostess with the mostest is Sprite’s Keeper.

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16 Responses to Raising a child of grace.

  1. Can I just say again how much I agree with your message? I know Sprite is a little spoiled with the gadgets John lets her play with. I still draw the line at tv in the bedroom. We’re now trying to reign in the constant giving since she’s come to expect presents all the time now! It’s our fault. We know it.
    You’re linked!
    Sprite’s Keeper recently posted..Spin Cycle: The ONLY thing not battery operated these days is the kid.My Profile

  2. VandyJ says:

    My husband and I have much the same out look. No phone until the kid can pay for it on his own, no just willy-nilly hand of gadgets and such–things after you’ve earned them. Get chores done then play. Less silver platter, more work ethic–a job well done is a good thing. There is no TV in either of the boys bedrooms–we do have a portable DVD player that ends up in Turbo’s room on occasion, but that’s easy to take away.
    VandyJ recently posted..Spin Cycle–Kids and TechnologyMy Profile

  3. Vince says:

    I wouldn’t worry about the toys. They definately outgrow them. Tech is another matter. I finally got cell phones for the boys, not because it was expected but because they’re involved in so many things we need to easily communicate with them. My wife and I? we have smartphones. The boys? Regular old cell phones. They don’t need internet or any such stuff.

    Neither of them have computers or TV’s in their rooms. All the tech is in open areas. The oldest bought himself an iPod touch and that’s the only thing that travels around. And we limit that.

    The boys definately have their chores and are expected to work around the house. And they’re involved in the community through scouts and church. For the most part they don’t fight us about it. But we’ve been working on them a long time. Keep up what you’re doing. It will pay off.
    Vince recently posted..Whew!My Profile

  4. Jammie J. says:

    I worry about this, too. I see my nephews, who when the oldest was 2, he was walking around with his dad’s mp3 player and headphones in his ears. He knew how to work that thing at 2. I still don’t have an mp3 player, and I’m much older than 2. He’s now (almost) 5 and carries a video camera everywhere he goes. He’s a sweet kid, and I’m only holding him up as an example because he’s the only kid I’m near on an frequent basis, but if he’s a sampling of kids out there today… what will he (and they) be like as teenagers?

    Will they harbor an attitude of entitlement because they can? I don’t know. Like you, my mom was raised in an environment focused on survival. She was lucky to get an orange at Christmastime.

    I read a blog somewhere that the author gave her children 4 gifts — something to eat, something to read, something to wear and something to play with. That appeals to me and when our wee one arrives, I hope to stick by that as a guideline for his Christmases and birthdays. I think children should show the same appreciation for clothes as they do toys.
    Jammie J. recently posted..Blogabilities — Week of 07/24/2011My Profile

  5. Linda says:

    Fwiw… both of my brothers raised their kids pretty much the way you describe, all the way down to the give-the-toys-away plan.

    Sometimes there were tears, but now that they’re older, I can honestly say that they are willingly generous and recognize how much they have.

    I’m going to Google a gazillion to the 956th power… and it better be a real number! Hugs… : )

  6. CaJoh says:

    I think with any technology that it is also a responsibility. I never had a car, nor did I demand one. I was taught the responsibility of owning a car by having to help pay for the car insurance. I think that other technologies such as cell phones are a privilege that you earn the right to use by being responsible.
    CaJoh recently posted..Leaders vs. FollowersMy Profile

  7. Kate says:

    I think that’s the key. They have to EARN it, it’s not something that’s handed to them. And they only get it as long as they continue to prove to be responsible. Thanks for that reminder, great thing to keep in the forefront of my mind.
    :) Kate

  8. Kate says:

    3 days later and now I’m responding…oh well, better late than never (right?)! Yep, I think we agree on nearly everything, which (I’ll say again) makes me feel that I must be doing something right. I read your spin, but haven’t had time to comment (it’s on my to-do list), it really comes down to what we give our kids access to, right? Finn also has access to a lot of gadgets, but he has to earn them and earn the time to play with them. The line is drawn at his bed room door though. His bedroom is for clothes, sleeping, books, and a couple toys (maybe). Period. End of story. And AMEN!
    :) Kate

  9. Kate says:

    I read your spin and haven’t had time to comment (but will be heading over there shortly, I promise)!! I agree with everything you said on so many levels. Today, kids grow up SO FAST and although I remember it seemed like it would be FOREVER until I wasn’t a kid anymore when I was there, but now I think how important it was and how the longer we are able to stay in that innocence, the better. It’s important, because next the hard work starts and I haven’t found an end to that yet!
    :) Kate

  10. Kate says:

    I agree with you (again–aren’t you getting sick of it…whatever comment you say next time, I’m going to just disagree to make it more interesting)! When Finn gets a cell phone it will be from the dinosaur age, have protections and limits on it and will only be given if and when he can show responsibility for his responsibilities, a cell phone, and continuing to do so.
    I think an iPod touch or an old iPhone is also a great compromise because they can listen to music, play some games, but it doesn’t have to be connected to the internet so there is limited trouble he can get himself in.
    I guess the thing that scares me is we are doing the best we know how and will continue to do so, but so much of what we do today won’t be visible to us for years and once we get there, there’s no rewind button. I’m seeing that with a family I work with, they’re so frustrated with their kids, but they didn’t put in the time in the beginning and now the kids are out of control. Everything I know to be true is that the work/cost has to be done at some point. We can do it know and it will cost less and be easier, or we can wait and the price goes up higher and higher as time goes on!
    :) Kate

  11. Kate says:

    I love the idea of the 4 gifts, I just might steal that! My in-laws do something similar to that (clothes and a toy), which I think it great! When I taught I would give the kids a book and candy cane for Christmas (but I didn’t call is Christmas presents, public school an all) and the would often complain and it was a perfect teachable moment about being grateful for what we have and also simplicity. Sometimes simplicity is the very best gift we can give ourselves and the ones we love, yet it seems to always be on the bottom of my to-do list (far below shopping for MORE, MORE, MORE)!
    In the end, only time will tell!
    :) Kate

  12. Kate says:

    I hope Finn gets to the point where he looks forward to donating his gently used things. He has more toys than he has time to play with and what I have found (for all people, not just kids) is if we don’t have a home for everything and so much STUFF that we don’t have space to enjoy that stuff, well we are creating a miserable space for us to exist in. If I had everything in the world stacked from floor to ceiling, it would be worth nothing because there would be no room to enjoy it. We all need space, in our minds, our hearts, and a patch of earth that’s just ours.
    Did you find the number? I want to know, because I use it all the time! 😉
    :) Kate

  13. I absolutely can relate – Princess Nagger has a bazillion toys, and it’s taken a bit to get her to understand it’s a privilege, not a right. At least her generous nature does shine through, she happily picks out toys to be donated, rather than being selfish and wanting to keep it ALL. :)

    She’s done the same mode during clean-up times – it’s boring and she’s tired…but after a discussion about responsibility and being part of a ‘team’, she pitches in (and prefers if I make it a game, giving her direction – like pick up that toy and put it there…type thing. Heh.) We will never do the TV in the bedroom mode, either – she’s asked (I have a small TV/VCR combo TV that’s sitting in the shed, perfectly fine and workable, but it’s never being relegated to any bedroom.)

    As for cell phones? She’s already asked and I’ve told her that she’ll get a cell phone only when it becomes a necessity. Which might be sooner than we’d prefer, if we’re still living here when she eventually starts 5th grade, because then she’ll be stuck on a bus with Jr. High and High Schoolers (which still boggles my mind – you’d think they’d have the 5th & 6th graders still be on the same bus as K-4 since 7-12 seems too ‘old’ to have 5th & 6th graders share the same space…) If that’s the case, she’ll get a regular old basic cell phone – no internet or any kind of data plan for her to cause our monthly bill to skyrocket…she’ll have to wait until she’s working and can pay for her own. 😉

    Sorry to blather on! :) Great Spin – and I concur with your observations! :)

    Spin: Technological Kid

  14. Kate says:

    Finn is generous, but something about giving his things away…it’s a hard lesson to learn I guess. it doesn’t help he’s an only child, but with enough practice everything can become a habit! It makes me feel like I’m not totally failing at being a mother. It’s great how similar everything is so we can support one another.
    I agree, 5th graders on a bus with 6-12 graders. I would give my child a cell phone in that instance too! Sometimes it seems like a lot of people are lacking common sense, and that’s a huge concern for me, especially when it concerns our children! BTW-5th grader in the fall…wasn’t she like 4 yesterday? How do they grow up so fast?
    I love it when you blather on…feel free anytime!
    :) kate

  15. Erin says:

    I didn’t think a cell phone was important when my son was in elementary school. By middle school, I wanted him to have one. It’s an electronic leash. He has freedom in our neighborhood. I have peace of mind that he can contact me when he needs me. It has always been a tool for him to contact family (ask permission for things, ask for a ride home, etc.) He uses it to contact his friends, of course, but that is secondary. If he mis-uses the phone (doesn’t answer, call to ask permission, etc.), he loses the phone for a period of time (and loses his freedom in our neighborhood.)
    I didn’t spin this week, but my spin would have been along the lines of electronic evolution – We see many gadgets as toys, luxuries, and extras. Culturally, they are just tools. Some aren’t as necessary as others, but our children are growing up with them as tools at school (and the greater world) and don’t understand when they can’t have access to them at home. I’m sure they will all figure it out and by the time they are running the planet won’t worry if their kids are spending too much time on them. I think this is why they see so entitled to us – all the gadgetry is pervasive – It’s overwhelming to us, but to them it’s been around forever.
    Great spin!
    Erin recently posted..on hamsters and abundanceMy Profile

  16. Kate says:

    I do agree that you have many valid points and I always attempt NOT to be the parent that is scared of everything just because it wasn’t around when I was growing up. I think your points about EARNING the cell phone and then it’s something that can be taken away is exactly right for sure! It’s all about responsibility in different forms. And I also really understand that it’s a HUGE advantage for parents too. One thing that scares me is that kids are always impulsive and make mistakes, always have, always will. Something that seems like a great idea when we’re 8, not so much when we use our brain to think about it (reminds me when my mom wouldn’t let me have a dog, so I found one and put it in my closet and I was convinced I could keep it there and she’d never find out). HA. It scares me that a mistake about sending a picture to a boy/girl in a moment of bad judgement can have real and life long consequences. It’s really about letting kids learn for themselves (with guidance), but if the consequences are so severe that it affects their life, I don’t think we’re doing our job as parents.
    And the other part is the entitlement. I really do believe with all these gadgets that not only make our kid’s lives better and easier, they make our lives better and easier too and so that gives us a lot more time (even though it doesn’t feel like that very often). And what they say about idle hands is very true for kids and adults, at least that’s what I believe. It’s a complicated issue, and we just have to do our best as parents not to mess up too much…but I’m pretty sure that’s what our parents did as well.
    It sounds like you are on the right track and I totally agree with what you are doing with your son!!
    :) Kate

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