The quest for non-spoiled kids
Ah... Monday. Either it kicks you when you're down, or you get that crazy urge to be productive. Considering that I'm writing a blog post, you can guess whether or not I'm procrastinating... ;)
Well, for us, it seems to come down first to gratitude. Being thankful for what you have, and understanding that someone, somewhere had to work hard for you to have that, is a great start to being a satisfied person in life. What better way than to teach kids that it sometimes takes your own hard work in order for you to get what you want?
Since we've been recovering from 4 epic colds in one month, our 2013 hasn't gotten off to a super productive start, either. In the past week or so I regained some of my long-lost energy and got to work on a couple of projects, though. And I started implementing a few changes around the house as well.
One of my biggest pet peeves in life are the complainers. I'm sure you know the type: the ones that confront a problem by calling up and complaining. The ones that can't take into consideration that very often mistakes are honest, and it really isn't life trying to con them into getting a short hand. The ones who pick up the phone and nag until their problem is resolved, or they've received a free gift card for their inconvenience. (If you're one of these people, you might want to stop reading now... just a head's up).
I've worked my fair share of crappy jobs throughout my young adult life. I've made the mistake here and there and had to deal with the wrath of the uber-mom - the one who feels the need to control the forces of the universe with her voice, all the while not lifting a finger of her own. I've been on the receiving end of the berating, condescending demands, all while apologizing profusely for something that was often out of my control and assuring the hell-bent diva that all of her problems in life will be solved in time for her to get her kids to tennis on time.
Oh man, those kids. Somehow Draco Malfoy comes to mind when I think about the spawn of these professional complainers. "Wait until my father hears about this."
The Hubster and I have to deal with these women a lot. (And I'm not being sexist; I have yet to encounter a man who sees complaining as a form of problem solving). We try extra hard to be level-headed and understanding whenever something comes up. Crappy service isn't always the result of personal persecution - sometimes it's because someone had an off day, or it's our own fault for choosing a cheap place in the first place. Regardless, we try not to put others down in order to get our own way.
It's been our mission to raise our children in the same manner. How do you raise a person to be self-sufficient and grateful instead of rude and demanding?
In a world that is full of instant gratification and extra presents at Christmas "just so the kids have something to open", that might be easier said than done. While my kids have never demanded something, or thrown a fit after not being able to get something, they're still products of a generation that has lost the sight of hard work.
So, I've come up with a very meager and maybe even underdeveloped plan to get the kids in a mindset of gratitude. It's simple, but I figure that sometimes simple is best. After all, this is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix.
1. Remove the excess
I've purged the kids' toy supply. I've always thought the kids had far too many toys, and while I purged here and there, I've never fully removed the things that didn't fit in. There were toys that we were given as gifts and just created noise. They had to go if they didn't fit these simple criteria:
- They didn't teach a specific skill. Shouting "PURPLE!!" in a sing-song voice doesn't count. I'm talking about reading, math, gross and fine motor skills. I chose to keep blocks over battery-operated button games. I chose books over battery operated alphabet tablets.
- They weren't used for more than 5 minutes at a time. This was a little harder since the kids are all at different levels of development. But if the kids got bored of hearing the same animated voice shouting at them as quickly as I did, it had to go.
- They weren't used in other ways by the kids. I'm not going to lie, some of the toys are seemingly useless, but the kids came up with new, weird ways to use them. If they had a specific use for the toy in creative play, I kept it.
All in all, I removed about 1/3 of the kids' toys. The kids have the toys they need to learn and grow and play, and nothing that just gets in the way. In a small way, I hope this drives home the idea of not having more than you need, just for the sake of having it.
2. Learn to earn
A lot of kids have chore charts. After seeing some of them, I decided I was going to go with a different style. No points for brushing your teeth, getting dressed, or eating meals. I'm sorry, but nobody ever paid the Hubster and me just for taking care of ourselves. While there isn't a whole lot kids can do when they're under 6, there is more than one would think. I started out small with the intent of building on to it as the kids get used to doing work. Two-and-a-half year-old Sparkles is in charge of putting her laundry in the correct basket every night, picking up her toys every night, and dusting our living room once a week. I'll be walking her through it int he beginning, but since she's helped out with these things in the past, I'm pretty sure she'll get the hang of it. Boy Wonder will be six in two weeks, and he's in charge of picking up his LEGO every night (big task since he builds a mini-city every evening after school), picking up his toys every night, sorting his laundry every night, and dusting our woodwork every week (we live in a 100 year-old Crafstman house... loooots of woodwork). We're keeping the pay small - $0.10 here and there. The kids will be paid nightly for their tasks, until they get the idea of weekly pay (we weren't sure the "idea" of getting paid at the end of the week would be enough motivation in the beginning). I plan on adding more age-appropriate chores as time goes on, and things like picking up their clothes and toys will be expected of them without pay. I didn't want to overwhelm them in the beginning and make this a marathon of work, rather, the introduction of what it feels like to do something in order to get something in return. The idea is that they'll learn to earn. They'll know that things don't come to them in life just because they exist.
3. Giving instead of taking
It's hard to teach little ones that there is a value in giving to others instead of taking. I plan on teaching them this gradually, just like everything else. I'll be looking for volunteer work that we can do as a family, and showing our appreciation for the people in our lives who do things for us and often go unnoticed (think: the garbage collectors and letter carriers). More "thank-you's", more thinking for others and their trials rather than how it effects US when and if they ever mess up.
Hopefully the world will be filled with more doers and less complainers once the kids get around to being in charge. I'd like to think it will also help the Hubster and I in remembering what it means to be thankful and satisfied to have what we earn. Man, wouldn't it be nice if society as a whole could get closer to this truth? It's not an easy one to learn, but maybe it's the simple things that make the most difference. For us, I'm following the three ideas listed above and hoping for the best. If all I can do is raise my kids to be non-spoiled, then I'll be happy.
Please feel free to add your ideas - I'd love some feedback!