choice

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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Just a thought on choice.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Are lots of choices good? Well after a little research {mostly observing my 3 and a half year old son} I would say no. I hate to admit it, my child is a total and complete consumer. The exact opposite of what I dreamed about rubbing my tummy 4 years ago.

This child could fill a cart at Office Depot. He wants and "needs" everything. How did that happen? Well maybe because he has tons of grandparents, great grandparents and lots of aunts and uncles... all of which want to spoil him. He is a lucky little guy. Ross and I are guilty of this spoiling thing too, a "treat" here and there is fun... but wait when does the "treat" stop being a "treat" and start being expected?

Last night I heard of a 12 year old girl who was grounded for a week because she wasn't content. Wow. How do we teach our kids to be contented with what they have; nothing more, nothing less?

The other day I took the boys to the park. As we were running out the door I threw an orange, some pistachios and water in a bag {quite honestly I knew they wouldn't be on the top of Henry's favorite snack items but I was hungry too}. We sang a ridiculous song on our way, found a tree to sit under and had a late afternoon outing at the park. After swinging, scooting, sliding and climbing, Henry asked for a snack. I showed him what we had and he gladly sat and ate. I had offered the same snack the day before but because there are a million other choices at home this one did not seem very good. But at the park with only 3 choices {one of those being water} Henry was happy and most of all content.

Yesterday morning Henry, Ross, Conrad and I were all in our closet {not sure why} but Ross found a box that he forgot about. Inside were a bunch of Roark stickers. Henry said he wanted them. Ross said he could have one {this is when the craziness started}, Henry insisted on two, Ross had very little patience for this, Henry started to loose his mind, Ross took all the stickers away, closed up the box and our 3.5 year old was purple screaming his head off. It happened so fast. Ten seconds earlier, he didn't even know the stickers existed. Happy, contented. Next second, the possibilities of having any sticker he wanted ruined his {at the moment} life.

One last story.

I had a neighbor growing up who apparently had tons of money... I think his family was in the oil business or something. But he lived in a very normal house, had a garden in the back, wife who went to garage sales and he seemed really happy. I remember neighbors saying that he was a bit nuts... "he could buy a plane but he doesn't even have a garbage disposal." Looking back I think the joke was on all of those neighbors. He didn't let all of his choices dictate his life. He was contented.

15 comments:

  1. It's very hard keeping kids grounded! My 5 year old "wants" everything. Even when I try to limit exposure (no commercials, no toy catalogs, not buying her something very often "just because") she hears about toys from classmates, gets impromptu presents from grandparents every single time they see her... It's a challenge. The funny thing is, she most often spends her time playing with simple things- crayons, paper, dress up clothes. This is part of the reason I'm looking at less traditional schools- attempting to minimize the focus on consumerism as much as possible, if it is possible!

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  2. Apparently i have the same mentality as your 3.5 year old because i often have to remind myself that i HAVE plenty and am only interested in getting more because of the short term instant graduation MORE provides.

    But then i rationalize that instant gratification does contribute to my happiness even it if is very short lived. this is a life long battle of balance for many i believe.

    By the way, this post reminds me of a FABULOUS book called the Rules of Civility in which the heroine wrestles with content vs content.

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  3. I think this is a constant struggle and very specific to individual children (and adults!). My 8 year old never asks for anything. Her Christmas list is usually something dealing with stamps (for her pen pals) and maybe one toy. My 5 year old on the other hand goes nuts! He wants it all- NOW! Knowing that he struggles with contentment I try to be extra savvy at keeping catalogs out of reach and constant talks about being thankful for what we have. He still wants it all but is thankfully at an age where he realizes he isn't going to get it all! Something else we try to do is to have the kids involved in some sort of giving on a consistent basis. When they know that some children don't even have clean water, they seem to be happier with what they have. Sometimes : ). I wish I had the answer. My hope is that them seeing their parents consistently and joyfully live with less will translate into something long lasting for them as adults.

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  4. love these thoughts.

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  5. One of the things our kids' school has really instilled in us is the stress/anxiety of choices in a small child's life....for us adults, variety and personal choice is exciting and fun! But for little ones, they really need choices made for them so they can go on with the business of being a child (lost in imagination and play). This was revolutionary to me for some reason (I had assumed letting a child choose a favorite snack or a favorite shirt to wear would help develop their sense of identity or something like that). You are on to something good here (way ahead of me since you came to it on your own!) and I have to say, I love the story of your neighbor.....the world needs more people like that. :)

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  6. p.s. you should read Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne if you haven't already!

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  7. all of your comments are so good and thougthful... thank you! Mandi, dah... I never thought of the catalogs being an issue... totally!
    and Jora... I am dying over that book... exactly what I need to read right now... thank you!! I went with a Montessori school for Henry but I think I am going to start the parent toddler with Conrad at Waldorf... I love their philosophies so much.

    less is more.

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  8. I agree with the other commenters. I struggle with this as an adult too! I never went without anything, really, but my mom always says I live like I never had anything! I find a t-shirt I like and I think I must buy two, not one. Etc, etc...I dont have kids, but I am guilty of spoiling my niece and nephews, and I do think of this when making purchases. I don't want to contribute to what you are writing about and them having just more stuff, but spoiling them is fun for me too. So, I have tried to buy more quality stuff lately and less of the little "filler" things. Thanks for this though. Good stuff to ponder for sure.

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  9. love this post!

    i could write pages on this topic as our boys are now 6 & 7.

    we just have to do the best we can, teach them the value of hard earned $ (when yours are old enough to spend their own $ on things they want so badly), walk out of the room until their fits stop...giving in will only cause more fits in the future for their way (although sometimes it is definitely worth it, if only momentarily, for sanity's purpose i know!!), and pray a lot that they all grow up good & happy souls...teaching them that this does not come from "stuff" but from Spirits of the Fruit...love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control. Galatians 5:22-23. all easier said that done FOR SURE! Goodness only knows it took me 30+ years + my own children, to even have these thoughts about things & happiness...much less practice what I preach 100% of the time.

    my husband has taught us all this...(even though he just says it all the time to our kids...i never thought about this before him) "we LIKE things, we only LOVE people" i catch myself ALL the time saying & thinking' "oh, i LOVE that!" or "i LOVE this!" (i am an artist...as you know, we are visual people!) but he has a point...there is a big difference between LOVE & LIKE...

    so i guess i should say " i really LIKE this post!" : ) a good life lesson we all should consider, right?

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  10. I struggle with this too. I think our kids are overindulged and so are we. Sutton is given so, so much, especially like you say, from the grandparents and it drives me a little nuts. I don't want her to learn to value people for what they give her. She is a very generous child. She would probably give you something, if you came to our house, for example. BUT there is still this huge lack of appreciation or we can just go buy a new one if it breaks attitude. I'm not sure what the answer is. I also think where we live has a lot to do with it, there isn't much diversity here economically speaking, so our kids are exposed to other kids who live similar, overindulged lives. Sutton is older than Henry, so things might be a little different for us, but I might start making her do simple chores and paying her an allowance and if she wants something she will have to buy it.

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  11. One more thing, yesterday Sutton told me she wants to go to Hawaii because a girl in her class is going. Just wait, one day it's about stickers, the next day your 5 year old is begging you to take them on expensive trips!

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  12. I just ordered my Simplicity Parenting. Thank you so much girls... so many great thoughts and personal stories... thank you for sharing with me. ox

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  13. I can relate this very much, we are so fortunate to have so much love surrounding our children, we constantly have to remind them we don't want the "love" to be expressed in gifts, that is not our reality. We are guilty of giving our kids "treats" as well, they are always earned though. During the summer {or on vacation from school} we visit St. Andrews on Fridays to feed the homeless. I feel like that has been a great way to expose them to diversity, however in our school we do have quite a diverse group. One of my sons good friends walks to school every day because the family does not have a car. I think all children go through phases of "needing", they have to work through it to know it doesn't feel as good as being content. Those are my thoughts! and you will love Waldorf I am sure of it! You would have also loved Peterson Montessori! :)

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  14. I forgot to say they earn their treats through hard work at home {chore charts} or good reports from school through the year. Those are things that are to be expected, but we do like to reward them. The St. Andrews experience is to expose them to more aspects of our community. We like to teach them to always help others. When you do it's actually helping yourself as well.

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  15. I have kept coming back to this post. Sometimes it's easier to see things that are true about the world in children than adults. There really is something important about learning to be content with what you have -- even if that's not a lot. Honestly, I would trade this job I had for one that allowed me afford much less if the conditions were right.

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