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?