If your school holidays are anything like others they are filled with constant requests of movies, playdates, trampolining, waterparks, sleepovers and sugar. As a parent, the time between Christmas to school returning can feel like a whirlwind of keeping the kids entertained whilst seemingly never closing your wallet. How do we strike a balance between giving our children wonderful holiday memories and avoid turning them into greedy, unappreciative gluttons for excess?
Recently I’m shocked at how many parents can relate to Christmas presents sitting on bedroom floors forgotten about, just weeks after being received. In a world of instant gratification, our children live moment to moment and are on a constant search for the next source of stimulation. Who can blame them? If you look at our own lives they are filled with social media bites demanding our attention, disposable belongings, and a pursuit to keep up with the latest and greatest. When you take into account the sheer amount of opportunities, privileges and material possessions most kids enjoy through no effort of their own, it’s easy to see why many of them feel entitled.
Yet I hear from parents who are yearning to teach their children appreciation, humility and perspective. But imparting these qualities goes beyond simply teaching good manners of saying ‘thank you’ and extends into lifestyle choices. Practicing gratitude attempts to highlight the fact that all these material possessions and opportunities don’t simply pop out of thin air – they come from somebody else’s hard work. In turn hopefully children will gain the broader qualities of respect for others, persistence at goals and focus more on what they have rather than what they don’t.
So how can we at least start to put a stop to the constant drone of “I wants” in the family household?
Have a “stuff detox”. There is nothing like a good clear out and if your child wouldn’t miss it if it disappeared then they don’t need it. Kids end up having so much that they can’t keep track of each toy or device, let alone appreciate it, and paradoxically their eyes end up focused on the newer and shinier.
Have children contribute to things they want. Needing to save their allowance to buy something helps them understand the value of money, and teaches them restraint.
Encourage hand written thank-you notes. I love this habit, but unfortunately it’s a dying practice. There are countless opportunities for children to compose thank-you’s to teachers, coaches and family members throughout the year – and best of all it will make someone else's day!