One Saturday last month there was a small Christmas fair at the end of our street. You could hear the blaring Christmas music in our flat, the kids could see the helter-skelter from the window by the steps, and they watched it excitedly while it was all being set up in the morning. The kids knew that we were going to go to the fair after they woke up from their naps, and when they finally did get up it was the fastest that they’ve ever had shoes and coats on to get out the door.
We walked down to the Square where the fair was set up and there were short lines all around, so we quickly hit up Santa’s Grotto (where they received chocolate) and everyone had a ride on the helter-skelter. On the side of the street there was a little stand full of glow-in-the-dark swords and various other glowing things that were random and expensive. Jayce and Hannah both wanted one, they did not get one, and they both threw a temper tantrum.
We reeled them in and walked over to the indoor market, where they each got a cake pop because Jayce had touched one and we couldn’t really put it back. They whined about being inside and then Jayce threw a big tantrum as we were leaving because there was was a Lucky Dip that he wanted to do. I looked over at him, an elaborate cake pop in one hand, chocolate from santa in the other hand, and crying about being told no. That was it.
I pulled both of the kids aside on the sidewalk, quickly ran through the list of things that they had just gotten in the last fifteen minutes, and pointed out that the two times that we had said no they had started crying. I told them that because of this we were going home, and we did.
When we got home we had a small chat with them about their behavior and then Jayce spent some time in his room until he had calmed down. This seemed to get the brattiness out of his system because when he came downstairs we all had a great evening together. We played for a bit, made popcorn, and watch Frosty the Snowman. We had a much better time together in the house, everyone was pleasant, and it was like nothing had ever happened.
Now I know that this is no major
incident. But I imagine that I was so startled this day because the brattiness happened at rapid-fire: We bought the kids something, we told them no, they threw a fit, we bought them something else, we said no, they threw another fit. They needed an adjustment to their attitudes and expectations, so we went home and did just that.
Chris and I had a long chat about it that night. I want my kids to be aware of things like gratefulness, and thankfulness, and greediness, and the need to find a balance.
I don’t know how to instill in my kids a sense of gratefulness for the things that they have. Whenever Christmas rolls around and the toy commercials come on full force, I have a conversation with Jayce where I remind him that it’s okay to like a lot of the different things that are being advertised, but that he cannot have all of those things. He can, however, choose a few of the toys that are his favorites and then ask for those for Christmas or his birthday. I’m trying to help him to prioritize his wants, something that he will have to do for the rest of his life.
Whenever Jayce brings up that someone who has a game or a toy or something that he doesn’t have, I point out that he probably has things that they don’t have. Everyone has different things and that’s okay. If there something that he really wants, his birthday is halfway through the year, Christmas is at the end of the year, and he has an allowance every week that he can save up for anything else. Honestly, that’s how it is for all of us, if you swap out “allowance” for “paycheck.”
The next week Chris and I decided to surprise Jayce with one of his Christmas presents early, a big Lego winter wonderland set. We had bought it at the end of November and decided that it would probably be more fun to play with in the week leading up to Christmas than afterwards since it was a Christmas set. We hid it under the covers of his bed, called him upstairs and asked him to grab something from his bed, and when he pulled back the sheets his jaw dropped and his eyes were wide.
He worked on it non-stop all day long at the kitchen table, literally from 9-6. I fixed him lunch and he ate with one hand while he worked. When he called us in to see the final product, there was also a note on the edge of the table as a part of the set. I kept the note.
The lego creator set was a great surprise. Thank you.
Parenting is such a strange thing. When we have a day where I look at my kids and wonder why they are behaving the way that they are, I inevitably turn it around and look at myself and Chris and wonder what we are doing right and wrong. Is there anything that we should be doing different or better? Or were the kids just tired, just having an off day, just being six and three-year-olds who were excited in an excitable environment?
As for greediness, gratefulness, and parenting, I think there is an answer. I remember Andy and Chris talking about their evaluations one time, Andy’s employee evaluations and Chris’ student evaluations. Andy made the comment that Chris should probably ignore the best and the worst ones and find the true answer somewhere in the middle, I think this is probably true about parenting as well. We shouldn’t spend too much time beating ourselves up over the bad days, or too much time patting ourselves on the back for the perfect days, because the truth about our kids (and our parenting) probably lies somewhere in the middle. A kid on a bad day is not a bad kid, or the result of bad parenting, maybe it’s just a bad day. And there are still good days are ahead.
How do you teach your kids to be grateful?