I love the holiday season, which in our family seems to last for months because the girls’ birthdays follow not long after Christmas. The one thing I do not look forward to, though, is that this season of gifts seems to fuel the girls’ desire for more stuff at an alarming rate. I call it having the “I wants” because when the girls are struck by them it seems to be the only phrase I hear. Now don’t get me wrong, the “I wants” can happen at anytime. They usually set in shortly after one of the girls sees an ad or a friend who has something fun or novel. For example, we were having a play date and a friend’s older brother was looking at his baseball cards. My 8-year-old daughter was fascinated and suddenly wanted baseball cards, too. We DON’T EVEN WATCH BASEBALL. I had to work hard to keep that one from driving me completely crazy. The “I wants” are to be expected as children are naturally somewhat self-centered, but they can be dangerous if not held in check. They can be the death of gratitude and the breeder of jealousy and entitlement. They can steal children’s opportunity to feel satisfied and happy. So what do you do when your child’s case of the “I wants” is getting out of control? Here are some ideas on ways to tame them:
1) Don’t give your children everything they ask for, even if you can. Getting everything you want, the moment you want it does not lead to satisfaction. It just makes you want more. Talk with your children about the difference between needs and wants. Take care of needs, but often wants can wait. You can ease the wait by having your children create a wish list that they can use for those upcoming holidays. And model waiting for a want yourself!
2) Consider giving your children an allowance that allows them to save up and satisfy those wants themselves. Believe me, those baseball cards did not seem as interesting when I told her that she could choose to buy them herself! Just make sure the allowance is age appropriate. My 5 year old gets $1 a week, my 8 year old, $1.50, no strings attached. If they want extra, then they have to earn it.
3) Practice gratitude as a family, everyday. Take turns at the dinner table or at bedtime thanking God for one blessing that you received that day. Model finding blessings even when the day hasn’t been so great. We happened to see a Muscular Dystrophy telethon on TV a couple of months ago and my 5 year old said, “My diabetes doesn’t seem so bad. At least I can run and play like my friends.” We don’t belittle her hardships, but we can still find a way to be grateful, and have compassion for others whose struggles seem far greater.
4) Take time together to notice the people in this world who would be grateful to simply have all of their needs met, and then make an effort to help them out. We listen to the KLTY Christmas Wish on the radio each year and talk about the stories that we hear. Then we take the time to make a donation to help them make more wishes come true.
I don’t think there is a complete cure for the “I wants”, but I hope that with these tips you find that the condition is manageable. If you have found other methods that work for your family, please e-mail me your ideas, and I will pass them on! In the meantime, I hope your holidays are filled with many blessings, great and small, and not TOO much new stuff.