Managing materialism in kindergarteners and teaching gratitude - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 09-21-2012, 10:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This has been an issue in my family for awhile now, and we are dealing with it but not as good as we could be.

 

I know all children want, and sometimes reasoning with them about want vs. need, being thankful for what they have, etc- just doesn't sink in. Not when there is something shiney and new to desire around every corner!

 

My husband's son and my son are the same age. We have been a family unit for over 2 years now. What i have seen these past 2 years is their materialism getting a little out of hand. We have talked about it, but our approach hasn't been super effective. 

 

What happened? I think after my husband went through custody issues with his ex he began buying his son a lot more- and not just on special occassions. His son has more spendy toys, video games, clothing, and special excursions than my boys do. I talked to him about that and that's not my issue- I'm not trying to keep things "even". But it's gotten to the point every time his son walks in the door at the start of his "daddy days" he is asking for something new, has something new in hand, or sees that my son has a new thing and wants to know where his new thing is (even though when he gets new things he doesn't expect my son to get one too).  At first I seemed to be the only person taking notice of this behavior, until the day my husband was walking in the door with a new skateboard in hand for his son and his son merrily commented "I can't believe you got me a skateboard! You NEVER get me anything!" (this is after getting a gift literally almost every time he saw his dad)

 

To which my husband did a total face-palm. That little zen moment made him realize the entitlement spiral his son was falling into, and it made way for a really positive discussion between him and I. 

 

My son has similar issues- every time we go to the store he asks me for a toy, and gets bummed if I say no. I explain it to him (needs vs wants, financial situations, etc) and that seems to help most of the time. The difference between the two boys is my son tends to want something like a hotwheel or $1 toy vs xbox games, expensive toy sets, scooters, etc (because I tend to buy my kids less expensive/fancy stuff on a regular basis). I know materialism is materialism, but My husband's son's expectations are huge... And a lot of that is stemming from his dad buying him fancy things a lot. 

 

So we toned down buying things, do a lot of "maybe for your birthday or christmas", talk about need vs want, earning things, and remind them often that just because one child gets a special treat or new thing doesn't mean the other child automatically gets one too, that we are parents and we keep track of things to make sure things are fair.

 

I think we need to kick it up a notch though, because lately (even though the answer is usually no or not now etc) they have been asking for a lot. Just this morning I think my husband's son asked him for like 5 different xbox games and toys, even though he just got one two weekends ago. It's also turning into "WHEN are you going to get me..." instead of "Can I please have..." I think that is red flag of entitlement...  My husband handled it well, and int he car right after I had to tell my son he didn't need another whale toy when he asked me for the second time in two days. 

 

I would just like to know of any advice, good books or articles, etc on teaching non materialism and gratitude to young children, and how to work on the materialism and entitlement that has already taken hold. We don't buy a lot of "toys" or stuff for ourselves- we more or less pay the bills then use extra for our kids when we choose to. We have been saying "no" more and discussing materialism with our kids. It just doesn't seem to lessen the gimme-gimmes. A big thing I see (that I want to approach) is my husband's son focuses a lot on video games, ipad games, and toys that are not open-ended. He like his bike, scooter, and some outside time but I see him desiring to do very little imaginitive play, art, or building. I have been trying to encourage more of that- and I know I could work on that more, too. I want to start more chores, helping, giving, and less screen time. Any other thoughts?

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#2 of 22 Old 09-21-2012, 04:24 PM
 
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first of all know that this is normal. 

 

5 even 6 year olds ARE meant to be materialistic. remember they think the world revolves around them.

 

at 5 or 6 they dont need to learn to be non materialistic. they need to learn what to want and how to get it. how to be selective.  they need to discover that they cant get all that they want and through that they learn ah maybe its ok we didnt get that. plus if you notice they are beings of the moment. everything is always important at all times. but out of sight, out of mind. if NOT out of sight out of mind, then i know they REALLY want that..

 

show me a 5 year old who will not want something at the grocery store. some junky thing. it is normal, normal, normal.

 

i personally dont believe in 'teaching' a lot of things - like materialism through books. 

 

instead i feel these things children learn from our own actions. they watch us and see what we do. i dont think you need to talk about materialism or expect them to be altruistic. dont expect them to share their chocolate bar. also just coz he got games two weeks ago it is not reasonable for him to want more again. it makes sense doesnt it. you finish reading a book, you want another one. you finish a game, you want another new one. that makes sense. it is sad the library doesnt offer those on rent so that you can rent them out like books. 

 

on imaginative play. remember that is NOT the best 'play method' around. many kids just dont do imaginative play. it is not their thing and it is quite ok. 

 

honestly you are expecting too much out of your kids. remember they are STILL young and LEARNING. ""WHEN are you going to get me..." instead of "Can I please have..." is NOT a sign of entitlement. from an adult YES, from a K NO. teach them how to ask. they are still trying to figure out how to ask. 

 

K is a rude awakening for them. they figure  out that life has been lying to them all this time. THEY are not the center of the world. now they have to take everyone into consideration. 

 

I can't believe you got me a skateboard! You NEVER get me anything!"  I would read this NOT as materialism but as finally daddy got it right. he actually gave me what I wanted, not what he thought i wanted. so the other things he gave didnt count because really they wernet all that great. 

 

you have to decide what your gift philosophy is. gift giving is gift giving. doesnt make a difference (except to you of course) the cost of the toy.

 

the thing is the boys have not reached the conscience building stage yet. it happens anytime between 7 to 10. that is when they become more aware of the world around them. and understand giving. that is when altruism develops. not before that. 

 

i am the kind of parent who buys her child a present whenever she has money. that may be once a week or three times a week, or once in a few months. 

 

i had to say NO way more often when she was younger. today a trip to the grocery store does not mean ooh what can i get. 

 

what it means for you now is to be aware of what YOU and your dh does. how do you live your lives. remember your kids are watching. and they pick up way more from your actions. why is your dh buying so many presents? out of guilt? remember kids pick that up too. gifts truly given are really appreciated. 

 

start volunteering. or share. show them through action, not words. 


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#3 of 22 Old 09-22-2012, 07:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I understand everything you are saying but I have some issues with a few things. While I agree being materialistic at this age is "normal", I also feel they are coming into an age where they can start to discern some sense of understanding they aren't going to get everything they want and that not getting things does not warrant a negative response. We are also having a need to instill a better sense of gratitude in our children for what they have and what they receive- I do not believe it is too early or uneccesary to teach and show gratitude. I am not speaking of wrote gratitude, either.

 

I like your perspective about looking deeper than surface level at why children behave the way they do- why they want, why they say the things they do, and where it may be truly coming from. I try my best to take these things into consideration when approaching my children. I know I don't always get it right, but regarding this issu I have looked at their words and actions from many angles and have come to consider a lot of it having to do with them coming to expect certain things (our fault) and those things losing their value to them. 

 

As far as wanting more games etc- my issue isn't just that they are wanting more consistently, but it's more about 'getting' than experiencing those things- often the games are played once or so and then go unused, and yet another new thing is desired. 

 

To quote you:

 

"I can't believe you got me a skateboard! You NEVER get me anything!"  I would read this NOT as materialism but as finally daddy got it right. he actually gave me what I wanted, not what he thought i wanted. so the other things he gave didnt count because really they wernet all that great. "

 

You have no idea what gifts this child has gotten- he has gotten many things he has loved, continues to play with, and are cherished. He has gotten many things he has asked for specifically over long periods of time, or short. He has gotten thoughtful gifts that he had no idea he would even enjoy, but has. In fact, the skateboard turned out to be an example of a momentary "want", and he has showed very little interest in it. You assumed quite a bit in saying what you did. We try to very mindful parents, and aware of what our children's interests and needs are.

 

Also, from a child development perspective, in early childhood imaginative play is HUGELY important. I know you cannot force it, but you can set up a more conducive environment and atmosphere to naturally promote it. My concern is the lack of interest in active, imaginative, and non- "screen time" play. That is a legitimate concern for this age.

 

 

 

 

I appreciate your input and your commentary on leading by example. that is largely what i know we need to reflect on and look into- the way we live and the examples we set for our kids, along with our enabling. I also think there are appropriate ways to begin subtle and direct conversations about materialism and gratitude with our children as well. 

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#4 of 22 Old 09-23-2012, 03:36 PM
 
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We are going through this too. I'm hoping more people will chime in. I want my boys to care about others and be grateful for what they have. I dont want to shame them, of course.
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#5 of 22 Old 09-23-2012, 03:56 PM
 
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When my son was about six, I set an amount that was for him to use to buy things for the entire month. He, of course, spent the whole amount immediately the first month. He then spent the rest of the month sadly asking if it was the next month yet whenever he saw something he wanted. It worked. He did much better after that with understanding that he couldn't have everything he wanted. And a good thing, too, since his father lost his job shortly after and we started a seven year stretch in a financial pit.
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#6 of 22 Old 09-24-2012, 03:13 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamakitsune View Post

To quote you:

 

"I can't believe you got me a skateboard! You NEVER get me anything!"  I would read this NOT as materialism but as finally daddy got it right. he actually gave me what I wanted, not what he thought i wanted. so the other things he gave didnt count because really they wernet all that great. "

 

You have no idea what gifts this child has gotten- he has gotten many things he has loved, continues to play with, and are cherished. He has gotten many things he has asked for specifically over long periods of time, or short. He has gotten thoughtful gifts that he had no idea he would even enjoy, but has. In fact, the skateboard turned out to be an example of a momentary "want", and he has showed very little interest in it. You assumed quite a bit in saying what you did. We try to very mindful parents, and aware of what our children's interests and needs are.

 

aaah sorry mama. i didnt specify. that was not my talking, but his thinking. "You never get me anything" is such a common saying at that age. i have heard it so many times -  not only from my dd but her friends too saying it to their parents. at that age i have also heard kids say after an action packed summer - *shrug* we did nothing. doesnt mean they are ungrateful. at that moment they dont remember. if you remind him of what you got him last week, he'd say something like 'oh yeah, that's right. that was a great toy". 

 

Also, from a child development perspective, in early childhood imaginative play is HUGELY important. I know you cannot force it, but you can set up a more conducive environment and atmosphere to naturally promote it. My concern is the lack of interest in active, imaginative, and non- "screen time" play. That is a legitimate concern for this age.

how is your stepson with video games? is he really good at them? 

 

has he started school? if he has started school, then his play is going to change. the focus is no longer him playing BUT it becomes more social. that means family play time. afterschool sports. board games are a great idea. the focus in the type of play in early childhood and the type of play in school are different. are there other kids in the neighborhood? does he play with your son? 

 

social interaction is huge at this age. it is going to be hard for him to be weaned away from the screen. you will have to seriously limit his screen time and help him by all of you playing together to help him to let go. i think its really hard to expect him to initially start playing on his own. i am assuming because he gets so much he already has a bunch of toys. 

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#7 of 22 Old 09-24-2012, 05:32 AM
 
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One thing a friend has been using, that I have been thinking about adopting is a gratitude journal.  Every night they talk about the things both she and her son are grateful for and she writes them down in his journal.  This also lets her son look back and remember (when they look at old entries) all the many things that he is thankful for.

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#8 of 22 Old 09-24-2012, 05:45 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buzzbuzz View Post

One thing a friend has been using, that I have been thinking about adopting is a gratitude journal.  Every night they talk about the things both she and her son are grateful for and she writes them down in his journal.  This also lets her son look back and remember (when they look at old entries) all the many things that he is thankful for.

That is a great idea!


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#9 of 22 Old 09-24-2012, 12:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for your responses- they are very insightful and helpful... sometimes it is good to step back and see what others have to say about the situation :)

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#10 of 22 Old 09-24-2012, 04:07 PM
 
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I sometimes worry about entitlement too, and it helps me to remember that my 5 year old really has no control over when she gets a new toy and that must be frustrating.  If I want something and have the money, I can buy it.  If my husband controlled all the money and I had to ask him for $10 every time I wanted to buy a new book, I would start to get whiny and develop a sense of entitlement too!  I might feel like he never buys me anything, even though in reality he pays all the bills and on occasion brings me a small treat.

 

Of course, I still don't buy her everything she asks for, but when I do buy her something I let her pick what she wants and I don't judge or second guess her choice.  I'll set a dollar amount.  She looks at the price tags and finds something under $10 or whatever.  I might think it's a piece of junk, but it gives her the feeling of getting what she wants.  I'm sure my husband thinks that my huge pile of yarn and fabric is ridiculous too, but he doesn't nag me about it or tell me I should choose a different hobby that he thinks is more worthwhile.  Accepting that your stepson likes video games and letting him enjoy them might go a long way toward a more peaceful situation. 

 

For big things that she wants, I ooh and ahh over how cool they are and tell her to "put it on the list."  She seems to accept that so far. 


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#11 of 22 Old 09-27-2012, 02:37 PM
 
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One of the benefits of having very little money while my son was long was that I was never able to fall into the trap of buying him lots of things. A trip to the shop very rarely meant coming home with a toy although I tried to take him to shops where the toys could be handled and sometimes played with a little but he understood we wouldn't take them home. Most of his early toys came from second hand shops. I don't know if it was just this, or his personality but he has never expected a lot.

 

Like all children though he sometimes really wants things. When I realised that he was at the mercy of my buying whims I introduced pocket money so that he can save up for things he really wants. Other than that he gets presents at birthday or Christmas. I very occasionally treat him, usually if I am treating myself. Do the boys get pocket money (allowance)? Could you begin giving them their own money, or increase what they get whilst explaining that instead of random gifts they can have more control over what they get and that gifts are for special occasions? Pocket money also allows me to be enthusiastic about things he wants and say 'Oh, you really like that. You could save up for it with your pocket money.'

 

I'm quite strict about gratitude. I have noticed that an unexpected treat or gift often results in instant requests for more. I always explain very clearly that if gifts are met with requests and complaints rather than gratitude then I will not want to buy gifts any more. I use an example of a girl we know who is incredibly rude and ungrateful about gifts. I never spend much on her even on her birthday and certainly wouldn't buy her something any other time.

 

I have a friend with a lovely approach to materialism. She wants her daughter to feel that anything she desires is obtainable and often children's desires are material. So when her daughter comes out with endless streams of 'I want that!' to every TV advert she was always positive. 'Can I have it?' was always met with a 'Yes! I'm sure you can have that!' This didn't mean she always rushed out to get it, or even that her daughter usually got it in the end, however, she responded to the spirit of wanting in a positive way with the idea that if you really want something it is obtainable. Her daughter is no more materialistic than many children I know and is very sharing and kind. She looks after her toys and doesn't have hundreds of them.  I try to remember my friend when my son really wants something and try to be positive about it without having to actually always get what he wants.

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#12 of 22 Old 09-27-2012, 10:47 PM
 
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My daughter is 5.5 and I had noticed that materialism had been on the rise.  She often wanted to take money with her (out of her piggy bank) "just in case" she wanted to buy something. or asked us to buy little items while out.  Dp is much more likely than I to go to the dollar store or whatever and let them pick out a toy just because, but we have talked a lot about planning purchases instead of just impulse buying, and it slowly seems to be sinking in more for all of us! :)

 

We also started giving an allowance (very small!) so she could practice saving money for something she wanted.  Just the other day, we counted her money and she realized she had enough to buy the doll she had been saving for.  We were going to the zoo the next day and she asked to bring money with to buy "something" at the gift shop (nothing in particular,we've never gone into the gift shop, just something that may catch her eye) and I told her that was fine, but then she wouldn't have enough for the doll and would have to spend some more time saving.  She chose to wait and get the doll and was SO proud of herself for saving for it :) 

 

I think the allowance has been a really useful tool in helping her realize how we can't always buy what we want exactly when we want it, and how good it feels to save up for something in particular, much better than a lot of little spontaneous purchases along the way.  Perhaps having your kid get an allowance of some kind to save for their stuff may help teach both kids the value of money-your dss will certainly realize how long it takes to buy something expensive like a game, let alone several games!

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#13 of 22 Old 09-28-2012, 08:59 AM
 
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OP- a few things stuck out to me in your post - 

 

Quote:
 I'm not trying to keep things "even".

you might not be but I can bet your DS sure is!

 

This type of thing "sticks" in the mind- ask most sibs and they will clearly recall later in life what you describe and they have very harsh feelings on who got what and who didn't and when!

 

 

 

Quote:
We try to very mindful parents, and aware of what our children's interests and needs are.

regarding the skate board, (I assume) it was given for no special reason, did your DH also have a gift for your DS (s) at the same time? asking because I can see this type of gifting causing major heartbreak if this is what happens often- if just out of the blue for one is it done for the other as well?

 

while you don't want to keep score you are clearly showing (both of you-your DH) that they are not equal and while one is not there full time in the home clearly they both get treated differently in a monetary fashion and this (IMO) is only going to get worse as they grow older and see more of this happening

 

I agree with many that have spoken about allowance but you (IMO) need to really get on the same page with your DH as to how to treat the boys in a more equal fashion-this seems to be the real issue here not your DS

 

personally I don't feel allowance solves it all and gratitude is learned by example, not from a book or by just saying it, but by showing it in everyday life-how you and your DH show it to each other is the first and most important lesson, regarding materialism - if you want lots of video games you bring them in, if you want a more natural approach you may choose to keep them out- but if one is treated one way and another is not--------you can have major issues

 

for the record we "gift" often, not just b-day and holiday because we feel a small child needs things more than a few times a year, a gift to us also does not need to be a toy that is asked for but one that might be needed at the time, it's kind of crazy to wait months on toy that is developmentally needed, but we do not go over board at holidays either- that is us......we also try and tie "gratitude" into non-material things and show the difference - again, if you want it, save up and spend your own money is the approach we use for material items that are "wants"

 

 

 

 

Quote:
K is a rude awakening for them. they figure  out that life has been lying to them all this time. THEY are not the center of the world. now they have to take everyone into consideration. 

this is just so not TRUE!!! ROTFLMAO.gif

 

IF only it was, I know many 30, 40, 50+ year olds that NEVER learned this, kindy didn't teach them a thing (neither did life in general) and to this day they still think of themselves at the center of the world!!!!!!twins.gif

 

 

 

ETA- why don't you start with yourself (and your DH) and make a list of what ways you have shown each other gratitude-set the example you want followed, if you only do so by buying each other things you know what way it will go with your boys  


 

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#14 of 22 Old 09-28-2012, 09:47 AM
 
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This is a great discussion!  I have a 5 year old daughter and 4 year old son and we are constantly talking about want vs. need.  A couple years ago, I started to do something with them that has caught on and stuck.  First, before we even go into a store, I always set out the expectations of the visit...We are here to buy your friend a birthday present, nothing else. That means no one is getting anything.  Inevitably, one of them will say "i want..." while we are in the store.  So, we started doing Christmas and Birthday lists.  Actual lists, while we are in the store.  With smart phones and technology, they each have their own list on my phone and I can just type it in right there or I can take a picture of it and know that is on their list.  They love this!  They feel validated that I listened to their want and over time, and LOTS of practice, they have gotten used to not getting what they want.  The other piece of this is that we are always having grandparents ask what they can get the kids.  Now I can look at my list and let them know!

 

The other skill that we have been working on with our children is creating their own money...basically, starting a job!  We asked them to brainstorm what they could do to make money.  Kids are never too young to learn this concept and really quite creative!  Our kids thought about it for a good week and came up with a business plan (selling painted pine cones) and marketing idea (mom and dad can tell people online) and a price point ($3/cone).  Then, they had to go to the stores and buy supplies (we offered them a start up loan).  They have to set aside time to paint and create and sell.  Now, when we are at the store we say, "Well, if you would like to buy that, it will cost you 3 pine cones."  Then they get an idea of how much money it costs and they are so proud when they spend their OWN money they have earned!  

 

I would love to hear other "job" ideas that kids come up with!

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#15 of 22 Old 09-30-2012, 08:44 PM
 
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Hi-

  My DD is also 5.  She receives toys twice a year: her birthday and Xmas- pretty much end of story.  It's not a battle, it's not an issue, it just is..kind of like how it used to be for kids in generations past.  If she sees a commercial for a toy she would like, or we're in a store and pass by the toy section, and she says "I want to get THAT!"  I say, great, remember it for your Xmas/birthday list (whichever is coming up next).  I figure if she actually remembers long enough to add it to a Xmas list she really wants it (I don't think that has ever happened yet).  

 

When we go to the aquarium we buy nothing in the gift shop.    Same when we went to Disney and she really wanted a $20 light up toy before the electrical parade when every other child in the street had one.  I told her simply "you are SO lucky to be here.  Most kids never make it to Disney World."  

 

She's been asking more about money and I'm thinking of following Suzie Orman's advice:  no allowances, you earn all money through 'jobs' in the home.  

 

In my opinion, there's no difference between a 1$ matchbox or an IPOD.  It's just stuff, more and more and more stuff..that piles up so quickly until the kids can't see any of it, let alone VALUE it.  

 

I've always kinda hated having lots of things, and then I read Simplicity Parenting and I never looked back.  OP:  that book has all the answers you are looking for (IMO).   

DH and I also follow suit  - I own three pairs of shoes and maybe two coats, etc...DH and I don't buy lots of stuff for ourselves.  

 

Another example: she left a littlest pet shop toy on the floor and our dog chewed 1/2 its face off.  She was very upset as she used it all the time. We considered replacing it but this one is only sold with a $60 house..so no way.  This toy has found its way back into the rotation; she uses it all the time despite the missing eye/cheek/mouth.   

 

You don't get something for nothing...how will my DD have a work ethic/value her possessions/have any gratitude she does?  

 

sorry not real eloquent..tired today

 

-Jen

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#16 of 22 Old 10-01-2012, 05:19 AM
 
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some FYI in regards to my post - not doing just x-mas and b-day- our DS's fall within three weeks of each other, to us a 4 year olds toy is different from what he can developmentally do at 4 1/2 or 4 3/4, so to wait for only twice a year would not work for us, I have a b-day right before x-mas and sadly most of my gifts were just one (larger dollar amount-from family) so I never felt like I even had two times to get gifts, only one---- my parents also gave gift throughout the year as well

 

to each their own..... and we do see a difference as the child ages in the monetary value for larger more costly gifts he will need to wait, but I am not talking about that for a young child as in the OP's child's age or my DS at this age


 

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#17 of 22 Old 10-01-2012, 06:44 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by serenbat View Post

some FYI in regards to my post - not doing just x-mas and b-day- our DS's fall within three weeks of each other, to us a 4 year olds toy is different from what he can developmentally do at 4 1/2 or 4 3/4, so to wait for only twice a year would not work for us, I have a b-day right before x-mas and sadly most of my gifts were just one (larger dollar amount-from family) so I never felt like I even had two times to get gifts, only one---- my parents also gave gift throughout the year as well

to each their own..... and we do see a difference as the child ages in the monetary value for larger more costly gifts he will need to wait, but I am not talking about that for a young child as in the OP's child's age or my DS at this age


My son has a December birthday, so we (immediate family) celebrated it with a special meal, and also celebrated his half birthday with a gift or gifts. Just an idea for those with children born in December.
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#18 of 22 Old 10-01-2012, 07:54 AM
 
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5 and 6 really is the age when kids realize the vast amount of things that are out there that they want to experience...

 

What worked for me was keeping a wish list on ds's behalf. We'd reevaluate it periodically. If he wanted something he saw in a commercial, we would seek out that item in the store and look at it. He'd notice it wasn't so cool in real life. We'd talk about how well made things were and whether they looked like they would break easily and if they would be fixable if they did break. I would also tell ds that I'd keep an eye out for something he wanted when I went to the thrift store. We'd go online and check reviews and compare prices. We'd look for things he really wanted but that were too expensive on Craigslist and ebay. And we also started an allowance when ds was 6. His allowance is his share of the household income, not linked to chores. I don't like linking allowances to chores because that implies the kid has the option of not doing chores and not getting paid. Ds doesn't have actual chores but we work on things that need doing as a family (he isn't the type of kid who craves doing things independently). 

 

All in all, I think ds has turned into a pretty savvy consumer who has low expectations of receiving gifts. He has learned how to prioritize and he knows we'll try to get him the things he really wants. 


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#19 of 22 Old 10-01-2012, 09:22 AM
 
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I agree with the other parents who offer small allowances (not tied to chores--my girls get one quarter per week for each year of age, plus "extra allowances" for birthday, Christmas and lost teeth).  I am very regular with these allowances and that predictability has helped.  The only real rule is no more candy than one serving.  They prefer to save for toys.  After experimenting with loans, we stopped that, too.  It has been a learning curve, for sure.  Now, they are aware of prices and they will count money, think of what they want.  My 7.5yo has finally progressed past the need to spend every cent, and can satisfy her need for something new with a sticker book, leaving the remainder to save.  (She still doesn't save for expensive things.)

 

All well and good.  Even I had to practice saying "I think you have enough in your allowance for that" even when I am in the mood to buy them something (especially in the bookstore).  

 

I think, though, that the real progress was when we started taking them to a riding lesson every other week, despite stretching our budget to the limit.  They really wanted this, and we found an instructor who would let them share one lesson.  They will do just about anything to keep riding.  So, when they want to stop at the coffee stand for a hot chocolate, I'll express the cost of that in terms of a riding lesson.  We have this conversation about so many things.  They also take gymnastics every week.  My oldest really wants to be on the team.  Well, we could give up riding lessons for a while, that would just about cover the costs.  But no way are they going to give those up. 

 

It's not that they've just stopped asking, I don't think.  My mother was divorced and single for long enough that she curtailed any requests for anything fairly severely.  Those habits continued despite marrying my stepdad.  I grew up monsterously materialistic and I will say that even though I had no problem expressing gratitude and no trouble minding my manners, inside I was eaten up by desire for all the things I could not have.  

 

Fall-winter is difficult for us financially (dh is a gardener), and it just so happens that birthdays and Christmas follow one after another.  The girls (7.5 and 6yo) are old enough to have discussions about trade offs.  This holds true with discussing other financial decisions we make.  If we spend a lot on Halloween, we have to limit Christmas.  If they want those expensive clothes, they'll get fewer toys.  

 

And if they want all those things, we can always give up their riding lessons.  (Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!)  We don't watch TV we only watch videos, so their exposure to advertisements is minimal and easily talked about.  I explain the companies want to convince you to spend your money on their product.  An easy conversation when the ads don't flash out a you every few minutes.

 

There were tears when I explained the finances behind purchasing a purebred dog (Chihuahua of all things).  We do want a dog, but we have several constraints, not just financial.  My youngest is allergic to some dog breeds.  We need a dog to patrol the property (and be able to bound over logs, etc.).  We need one far enough from a pure breed so we don't have to make the hard choices between huge vet bills or letting the dog die.  Oh, that was a difficult conversation, even when I said that sweet Chihuahua mix for $250 at the fair would be a fine pet when she was old enough to afford it.  But I don't expect that there will never be emotional conversations like these just because we are communicating well about money and materialism.


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#20 of 22 Old 10-03-2012, 12:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Serenbat, great feedback :)

 

In our conversation when I said it wasn't about "keeping it even" was my main issue at the moment wasn't a complaint that his son got more/bigger/better/fancier things than my boys, But more about the constant getting and the attitude of entitlement and lack of gratitude that followed. However, "keeping things even" IS an issue and something we will be discussing more of soon- I have explained to the kids a few times that things being "even" doesn't mean they always get the SAME things at the SAME time, a simple example being birthdays- they have different interests and wants, and their birthdays are obviously different days! But that we, as parents (should, but up until this point it probably honestly hasn't been so) keep track of things to make sure there isn't an imbalance.

 

I realize it is IMPORTANT to keep things more even- We are actually about to have a big "integration" discussion- because we were a quickly blended family, and never really had a big discussion on how we wanted our family- as a cohesive unit- to function. Now that we have a baby together, I realize there are still subconccious lines drawn between "yours" and "mine", when really we want to be a truly blended family, which means treating the kids equally. 

 

The skateboard incident stung. That's when we had our first big convo about it. One, because my boys were both home and no, he did not get either of them anything. Which isn't the focus, but it was a big gift and obvious, and right in front of my boys. It SEEMED to be a thoughtful gift, because it was something my husband's son was asking for on and off for a long time and wouldn't let go. And I think my husband jumped on it to encourage more outdoor/ active play. Not sure why he got disinterested so fast, partially perhaps he expected to be able to do all of the super cool tricks some of our (adult) friends can do and realized skateboarding is hard! And you fall down a lot!

 

Also, you quoted another poster about kindergarten- totally agree with your response. I would like to add that My reaction was my child has been going to early learning centers since he was 2, so kindergarten's rude awakening isn't some disillusionment about ego, it's the horrible reality that public school throws away all the wonders good early childhood education stresses and makes you sit in a desk and do worksheets all day. :(

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#21 of 22 Old 11-02-2012, 11:08 AM
 
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For me, addressing these kinds of internal concerns has been a matter of becoming really clear and comfortable about limits (what I am and am not willing to do, provide, allow, buy, give, permit) and about my children's feelings in response to those limits.  And getting more comfortable with their wanting (and expressing their wanting) being okay.

 

The upset (disappointment, complaining, arguing, reasoning, bargaining, pouting....) that may follow a limit is kind of their personal process of struggling with something they can't change, trying to change it, and ultimately coming to terms with it.  It sure can feel like ingratitude or entitlement (and I'm pretty sure if I expressed these kinds of things, my own parents would have responded with strong disapproval and no acceptance, which is probably why my kids expressing those sorts of feelings is so triggering for me) but I do believe it's more of an existential thing.  When I can see it as acceptable, as "not wrong," (including tolerating my discomfort with it and my upset feelings about it!), it is helpful to the process and to the overall dynamic.

 

When I can have my feelings, and they can too, life gets a whole lot easier.

 

Taking my resistance (of their reactions, of their open expressions of wanting, of their apparent "insatiability") out of the equation has been the key thing for me.

 

My daughter recently expressed some thoughts and feelings about our family having an iPad recently (why don't we, why can't we, wouldn't that be great, etc.) and I really had to get conscious of how triggered I was, and how resistant of her I was, in that moment!  Because I was profoundly irritated and annoyed.  I did a quick shift, and just invited her thoughts (her teacher has been using her own iPad in class sometimes, it's clear that other kids were familiar with it/have experience with it, etc. etc.) and let go of my anxiety and defensiveness (which also was happening for fully valid reasons....my own triggers) so that I could be present with what was actually happening in that moment.

 

I don't push a lot of distinction between "want" and "need."  Wants tend to be strategies to meet needs, anyway (the need for fun, stimulation, challenge, etc.)  Recognizing the expressed want or wish as fully legitimate and valid (whether or not I am able or willing to grant it, and whether or not it reassures me or triggers dismay/doubt in me as far as how well my kid is doing) is a clear way of taking my own resistance out of the situation.  I can be present with their wanting, without trying to "instruct" them about how it's not a need (essentially that they "shouldn't" want that!)  This is a way of giving them room to be who/what they are & feel in that moment, and it gives space for reflection, for change, for process.  We're all less likely to get stuck places if I recognize the process model of life, rather than feeling like I need to guide all these processes (if I don't want them to end up entitled, self-absorbed, antisocial, ungrateful, selfish....)

 

We all make mistakes of some kind.  It's quite possible to, out of anxiety or something else, begin to confuse loving with giving things/providing services so that a child learns to equate love with getting what they want.  It gets painful when those same kids escalate their demands, and don't seem to appreciate things OR to be in touch with reality ("You never give me ANYthing!!")  To me, this simply is a reality to engage and own, and to which to respond constructively.  The dynamic happened for a reason; I can be compassionate with myself for the "mistake."  If I own my disappointment and my anxiety/doubt about the dynamic that has resulted, then I am less stuck getting reactive and resisting the child's communications as wrong or unacceptable.  Those behaviors, attitudes and communications are less likely to trigger feelings of powerlessness.

 

In terms of a "constructive" response:  I can recognize that I may need to pay attention to my own needs and my integrity, and to honor & express my personal limits responsibly by speaking personally ("I'm not willing," "I don't want to," "I want to," etc.), so that I am bringing myself to the table now rather than creating the impression that my needs/limits don't matter or even exist!  It's just a matter of adjusting how I relate, and how I tolerate my anxiety (recognizing that I don't need to buy/give at those times, anymore.)

 

This is something that, over time, children can & will respond to.  Seeing that upsets or protests in response to these changes make sense and don't indicate anything (other than honest, authentic reactions!) is helpful, too.

 

When their wants & feelings of upset/disappointment feel like an indictment of me, that's when I have problems and begin to resist them, show irritation/disapproval, and pressure them.  And also, feel like I need to instruct them or enlighten them.

 

Increasing my toleration for their wants & their feelings (increasing my ability to stay emotionally regulated in those moments) has been the most helpful place to put my attention.

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#22 of 22 Old 11-02-2012, 11:24 AM
 
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One of the things I recall is a comment the authors of "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk" quoted from a parent who attended one of their parenting workshops.  The parent observed that the more you try to push certain of your child's feelings away, the more he tends to become stuck there.  Kids have an easier time letting go of feelings (or really, engaging and moving through a process), the more comfortably you can accept the expression of feelings that trouble you.  The parent said, "I guess you could say that if you want to have a happy family you’d better be prepared to permit the expression of a lot of unhappiness."

 

I tend to see this born out in my experience.  The way "out" is "through."  If you want to have a grateful, satisfied, non-material family, you'd better be prepared to permit the experience of a lot of wanting, desiring, and complaining.  (That sounds bad, lol, but making room for the feelings I find triggering/unacceptable has been the biggest catalyst for positive change in my life with my family.)

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