Does your child have a bad case of the “Gimmes” or the “I-wants”? “Give me this” and “I want that!”
Parents often struggle with providing for their children while keeping their child from feeling entitled or falling into the “spoiled” category. Many parents feel like they are earning enough, so why shouldn’t they provide everything for their children? It’s also easy to want for your children what you didn’t have. Watch out and think twice before you provide everything! Material things end up meaning less if they are easily available.
If you want to break the “Gimmes” or “I-wants”, or if you are lucky enough to be reading this when your child is very young and want to prevent these sneaky creatures from entering your home, you need to have a plan. As a parent, you are in charge. You do not need to be mean, but you do need to think about your priorities and teach them to your children. Will you give them everything they need at any time, or only when you feel they need something? What about things they ‘want’ (the $200 pair of jeans, when you can get very nice jeans for $20-30). Will you provide an allowance and ask your child to provide for herself (clothing, activities, outings)? Will you ask your child to split the cost of the extras (movies, shopping for items that are not needed-just desired, such as his 8th hockey stick)?
If allowances or a demand for new things aren’t the problem but you feel like your child has too many things (notice a big mess around the house or things that get ignored for months?), think about having your child clean out his toy box right before the holidays or his birthday. See if you can find a homeless shelter, women’s shelter or another ‘real-life’ place to take your child to donate the old toys. Help your child understand that these children might not get any toys/clothing if you did not help out. Explain that these children can still be happy and healthy and loved, but their families most likely do not have enough money for fun things or things above and beyond the necessities.
And what about shopping trips to the grocery store or for another person’s birthday? As a parent who needs to take a child on a shopping trip, you face extra challenges than someone shopping alone. I’ll be the first to admit to buying a toy from the $1 section on more than one occasion to entertain my child throughout the shopping trip… See my blog on The Joys (not!) of Shopping with Children for more. If you buy your child something on every shopping trip, he will learn to expect it (and the “Gimmes” will be there in full force). If you give in to a tantrum because he wants something you are not willing to buy, he will learn that throwing a tantrum gets him whatever item he wants.
Some parents have children keep a list of things they want. Every time a child says “I want” something, they are politely told to write it down on the list. Parents review the list with the child close to birthdays, holidays and special occasions to see if the things on the list are still relevant. If they are, they can be shared with relatives or others interested in buying a gift for your child or the child can be encouraged to save and buy the item with her own money.
It’s not too late to get rid of the case of the “Gimmes” or “I-wants.” If there is something your child really wants, have her earn part of the money to pay for the item. Helping a neighbor or doing extra chores around the house can help a young child earn some spending (or saving) money. This is a good practice even when it’s not around the holiday time!
Let’s face it. In America, holidays are a stressful time of year, no matter what religion you practice. From mid-November through the end of December there are family dinners, travel plans, presents to wrap, extra concerts and activities, school assignments, not to mention meetings and gatherings or parties at work and wrapping up the end of the year activities. (Breathe.) All of that can add up to stress! If you are stressed, your kids will pick up on your stress and become stressed as well.
So what can you do?
Write down exactly what needs to be done, everything you can think of and a guestimate of how much time it will take. Remember things often take longer than anticipated, especially with little helpers or frequent interruptions, give yourself some extra time. Please don’t get overwhelmed, you are going to be able to tackle this list. Note what day/time each of these items needs to be done. Mark the items you can do in advance and start doing them. This will help prevent the last minute rush.
Prioritize. How many of these things need to be done? What can you honestly live without? Do you need place tags at your family dinner table for Thanksgiving? Do you need to make every dish for your big family dinner or can you let someone else prepare a meal for the family to eat? It is OK to share and let someone else enjoy a compliment, even if it’s just for a side dish or hard boiled eggs. Do you have a teen aged neighbor who would like to earn a few dollars by playing with your children while you get things done? Or maybe that teen is willing to do some chores around the house or yard so that you don’t have to do it all. Give yourself permission to drop a few things from your list that would probably be lovely, but not absolutely necessary. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and it also lets other people feel useful and needed.
Take Care of Yourself. In the middle of all of this crazy-ness, plan some Anti-Stress activities. Of course, you can go to an all day spa, but taking care of yourself does not have to be super expensive or time consuming when you’re feeling stressed for time. Take a few moments to sip your favorite tea. Go to the gym or take the dogs out for a quick 10 minute walk if that’s what helps you to calm down. Give your child a big hug! Call or email friend you haven’t talked with in a while.