One of the things that bothers me this time of year is the focus on materialism that seems to run amok. Everywhere we look there are commercials and ads targeting a child's (and an adult's!) selfish desires. As a parent, I think it is a really difficult time for us to avoid a bad case of the "Galloping Gimmies," as the Berenstain Bears so eloquently put it in one of their episodes.
A few years ago, I was helping out in the kitchen of one the annual Christmas plays my kids' preschool puts on. One of the other mothers was rattling on about what her children were wanting/getting for Christmas. I was nodding politely, only half listening, until she mentioned one of those giant dinosaurs that was automated or whatever. It was the "big thing" that year, and we had seen it in Target. My son had gazed up at it in awe and demanded we add it to his list. I took one look at the outlandish three digit price, and immediately dismissed it. Seriously? Why would I spend a couple hundred dollars on a toy that takes up too much space, is too loud, has no educational value, and will be forgotten in a few weeks? I was totally horrified that this mom would waste so much money...much less brag about it.
I couldn't help but think of all the other things she could buy, or the good that she could do for someone else with that money.
Lately, it seems like I spend almost every shopping trip saying "No!" to my kids' pleas for at least a dozen toys. So I have to wonder, how do parents teach their children to be satisfied with what they have? How do we teach them to think of others who are less fortunate? Even harder, how do we make charity a habit in our children's lives?
Here's my preliminary plan of attack:
Tomorrow, I'll be pulling out a box for the kids to fill with toys they no longer want/play with. Their challenge is going to be to create a gift box for other children like themselves, who don't have any toys to play with. We'll then take the box to Goodwill together.
The challenge for them? Letting go of stuff.
The challenge for me? Being willing to accept some of the (sentimental) things they want to let go of.
I also want both of them to take the time to make something with their own hands to give to someone else. So we'll be brainstorming ideas of not only what to make, but who to give it to. I'll share our list with you tomorrow.
In the meantime, here are some great books I've found online that I think have potential. I haven't read them, so if you have, I'd love to hear your feedback...
• The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving by Ellen Sabin
• Raising Charitable Children by Carol Weisman
• How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist: 330 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Home, Community, and World - at No Cost! by Nicole Bouchard Boles
This isn't much, but it's a start. I hope to be able to make more progress after you participate in my little challenge...
The MommyMaestra Challenge:
I would like to challenge you all this week to come up with one idea or activity to help your children understand the value of giving to others. Share it with us so that we might all be able to benefit and perhaps use it with our own families.