Nurturing Gratefulness

One of the struggles as parents is what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to. If you take your child to Target, they will inevitably want everything on the shelf, as evidenced in this video clip below.

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We love our children. We want them to be happy. We want to buy them everything they want because we love them and want them to be happy. But, as most parents know, this is not a good idea.  This leads to entitlement.

Having four children is actually one deterrent we have from buying them everything they want, because buying four children a toy costs anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars.

Another more important deterrent that prevents us from buying our children anything they want when we go into a store is the message it sends to them: I can get anything in the world I want as long as I just ask for it.  This is not an accurate life lesson.

The other day the kids and I were in Michael’s buying canvas bags to decorate for school. Violet found a craft with horses, Ava found a tattoo set, Preston found a sticker book and Elsa found a princess coloring book. It took them less than one minute in the store to find these treasures that they felt they should own.  The kids were waving the activities in my face with such excitement and glee. “Can we buy this, can we buy this?” they pleaded with me. I was feeling generous and in a good mood so I hesitated. I entertained their choices with eye contact, scanning the items they had chosen. Then I realized that I need to stick with my convictions. That is, I cannot buy my children a toy or activity just because I bring them into a store with lots of fun stuff. We had a mission to buy bags for their school, and a hundred dollars worth of other stuff that would just litter my house and drive me crazy was not on the agenda.

I told the kids to put all the activities back and we will not be buying anything extra today. Ava gave me a dirty look (standard). The triplets wanted to scream and cry and stomp their feet in protest; I could see it in their body language. Luckily they are six now and mostly beyond that behavior.

As I walked to the car with disappointed children I knew I had made the right decision by making them put their toys back. I felt bad that they weren’t happy, but I knew if I let them buy stuff every time we went somewhere then a) I would be broke b) they would harass me endlessly on every shopping excursion.

Recently Preston has been flipping through his Lego book every night, studying each page and admiring every lego configuration. He has been asking when he will get to buy a new Lego set. It has been awhile since any of the kids got a new toy.

My husband and I talked about it and we decided that if each of the kids purge their room of unwanted and unloved toys to donate to less fortunate kids who would appreciate them, we would buy them a Lego set.

Well, those kids of mine could not purge fast enough. By the end of the afternoon we had piles of toys they had grown out of, or just grown tired of.

We took them to Target and let them pick out two Lego sets between the four of them. They could break off into pairs and build to their hearts delight. Preston and Ava picked out the Lego Movie Spaceship and the little girls picked out the Lego Friends Sunshine Ranch.

In Target when Preston learned he was actually going to get to buy the Lego Spaceship, as opposed to just looking at it, he was so happy and grateful that he got teary-eyed. He exuded appreciation. If he could’ve shouted from the rooftops he would have.

This is a valuable lesson to teach kids early on: you don’t get everything you want in life. But when you are patient and you have earned it, you can have something that makes you happy.  When you do finally do get that special treat, you will be grateful and appreciative and not take it for granted.

The bonus is that these Lego sets have kept four kids completely occupied during this Labor Day weekend.  In honor of the contributions of the workers from today and yesteryear who have made this country prosper, Happy Labor Day.

Work hard, live well, appreciate life.

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Until next time, the mothership is signing off.

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