24 Jan 2016

Teaching our kids how fortunate they are

Becky in toy heaven on her birthday. 

Becky’s toys are her world. She loves them, plays with them all the time, looks after them well, and her wishlist of new toys she would like is endless. Every day she asks us whether we can buy her some new item she has set her heart on, and she’s already planned her wishlist for her next birthday and Christmas 2016 (both of which are 11 months away, just for the record!).

And that’s fine. It’s the prerogative of kids to have no other worries than toys and games and laughter and fun. I’m glad and grateful that we are in the position that that’s the case, and that she doesn’t have to worry about anything else.

But therein lies the crux of the matter. For as much as I want Becky and Alex to be happy and not want for anything, I also want them to grow up with a sense of how fortunate they are. That there are many many other kids, families and people generally out there, who haven’t got any toys. Who haven’t even got the bare minimum. Especially in current times, where pictures of perpetual suffering, poverty and misery are landing on our TV and media screens day in, day out.

It’s not about burdening Becky with the woes of the world. She’s too young for that, and she’ll learn about those soon enough, unfortunately.

But it’s about balance and perspective, I suppose. Providing Becky with as many things on her wishlist as we deem appropriate, making her happy and giving her a good life without worries – like all parents want for their kids – but also instilling in her a sense of values and appreciation, and not entitlement to everything and anything. For us, it’s about a measured approach.

So lately, when Becky has been obsessing about what she wants next, and who of her friends has what, and that she “needs” this and that, we have been explaining to her that she just had lots of presents for Christmas and her birthday, and that she might have to wait a little until she gets her next lot. That she is very lucky indeed to have so many toys and that it’s not about how many toys she has and what she owns, but what counts is that she is a nice, kind, funny and lovely person all-round. Of course it all goes a bit over her head, but I do believe that if we keep explaining it to her, she will take it in eventually. 

To make her understand this a bit more, we have started to point out the odd situation and things that might make the fact the she is very lucky graspable. John read a book about children of the world with her, which explained the backgrounds, cultures, religions and economic environments of various countries and peoples in the world.

We explain to her that we are fortunate as a family and that therefore we sometimes share with those who are less fortunate, like giving to charity, giving away old clothes or unused things, or even toys that neither Becky or Alex use any longer.

The other day we walked through town to run some errands, and as it was past lunch time, we were hungry and passing a McDonalds, so we decided to pop in and get a kids meal and a couple of bits as a treat. Outside was a young chap, barely out of his teens, on the floor, clothed in dirty rags and clearly homeless. It really tugged at my heart strings. There was something about this guy being so young and looking so vulnerable that really got me. So we bought an extra meal, and together with Becky we gave this to the guy, who was so chuffed and tucked straight in. He looked so happy and appreciative, which almost made me well up (I know, I’m an emotional wreck!). It was just a small gesture, nothing special, nothing clever, nothing that put us out in any way, but it hopefully taught Becky the importance of sharing and made the concept that there are people out there who haven’t got anything a bit more graspable.

Like I said, it’s not about burdening Becky with the miseries of the world, but about teaching her values, ideals and morals that will hopefully shape her character and the person she will one day grow up to be. 

Alex is too young for all this yet, but the same goes for him. We will try to do the same with him when he is older, and try to instil a sense of perspective in both of them – while letting them have the toys, the fun and the laughter they deserve and letting them be the fortunate kids that they are. 

It might be a fine line to walk, but an important life lesson nonetheless. 

* Linking up with #ShareWithMe
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2 comments

  1. I think you're quite right. Our boys have so much and although my eldest is only two and half (and so thankfully not really old enough for wish lists yet) I do try and tell him how lucky he is to have so many nice things.

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  2. So good of you to teach them such a valuable lesson we try teaching our two kids the same. We don't want them to expect and not respect what they have and what they should be so grateful for too. It's a hard to explain sometimes as they are still young but as they get older definitely push it more. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. I hope to see you again tomorrow for another great round of #sharewithme

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