Children (and adults) often confuse what they want with what they need. This is increasingly true these days, as we live in a culture that sells us all of our hearts’ desires. Change your outlook with a new outfit! Become a new person in a new automobile! Be the coolest kid on the block with the latest video gaming system! Get through a tough day with “retail therapy” or loads of comfort food! These powerful messages contribute to a lack of gratitude for what we have, a desire for more than we need, and an inability to recognize our blessings.
If it is tempting for adults to be consumed by desire for what they do not have, think how much more tempting it is for children, who have not yet mastered self-control or delayed gratification! In The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Dr. Wendy Mogel asserts that, “longing is a blessing, because children who get most of their desires satisfied right away don’t have a chance to appreciate what they’ve already got.”
The Jewish teachings that Dr. Mogel draws from are in perfect alignment with best practices in human psychology – when we change our behavior, we can thereby change our feelings. Your child does not have to like giving away infrequently used toys in order for the experience to be powerfully changing for him/her. Over time, the very action of giving will produce the desire to give. When we place limits on children’s whining and begging, and require them to perform good deeds, children will eventually become less greedy and more grateful. The feelings will follow the actions.
- Be careful that you don’t use the word “need” when you really mean “want.”
- Notice how much you talk about your envy for other people’s things or your desire for new stuff in front of children.
- Try not to let your children see you shopping online or browsing mail-order catalogs too frequently.
- Try to avoid the mall as a frequent family outing. Instead visit with friends, go to the park, take a walk. Emphasize experience over things.
- Teach your child to give to others. Take every opportunity to find ways your child can give. They can fold used clothing to donate, or make a get-well card for a sick friend or relative, or fix something that is broken instead of throwing it away! Let them see you giving too.
Kate Fierce is the Lower and Middle School Guidance Counselor at Shorecrest Preparatory School. Shorecrest believes in a school-parent partnership to provide the best possible outcome for students. To learn more, join us for a personal tour of our St. Petersburg, FL private school campus.