Sunday, October 20, 2013

Teaching The Art Of Giving Back.

With the holiday season seeming to descend upon us earlier and more rapidly then ever, it is very easy for our children to catch a case of the "give-mes". With all the advertisements thrown at them from every corner of the media world, it's quite understandable. The brightly colored commercials and ever-impressive toys are so exciting and intriguing, it's hard for even me, the adult, to look away.

 The "I wants" seemed to start very early in our house this year I do my best to tell the girls they have so many thing, that they don't need anything else. I tell them about budgets and about children who do not have the amount of things they have. I often wonder if I dressed up in bright colors, danced and sang a catchy tune, the message would get across. However, just talking about it, really isn't making a connection for the girls. This year, we decided to try a different tactic.

Instead of talking about not needing every new toy and talking incessantly about having so much, we decided to divert their wants. Little Miss M is almost eight years old. She's been through a whole lot in her short life, and it would be completely understandable, and I'd wager even justifiable, to spoil her rotten. Being that we are super-conscious of this, we've worked really hard not to spoil her.

Notice: I'm totally not saying she's not spoiled. She doesn't want for any necessities and she does have quite a few luxuries, as well. We've spoiled her with love, with hugs, and with experiences. We've definitely had to say no, but always sought a way to make it up to her or do something different. We've also tried to be practical. Of course, she wanted the luxury size Barbie Dreamhouse, but it seemed more practical to have a bed to sleep in! I'm sure you get the idea.

We also understand that Little Miss M's brain works differently. She processes things in a different way; she sees, feels and hears things in a different way. In her mind, "I want" should equal "I get". When the "give-mes" started in late summer this year, the husband and I knew we had to do something. We started to earnestly talk about what makes us sad. We talked about what it would feel like not to have any toys. What it would feel like to be in the hospital for Christmas, knowing that Santa couldn't come visit you. We worked hard to engage Little Miss M in conversations that revolved around experiences she had had. About a month into these conversations, I saw the glimmer of understanding. I'm not claiming that at almost eight years old, Little Miss M is completely selfless and devoid of the "give-mes," but she understands that there is a difference between wanting something and getting something.

When the glimmer began, we let her start her personal wish list. We talked about asking for things that would be useful and not just toys to discard a week after they were received. As we sat in the hospital today, I'm proud of Little Miss M. She has ten items on her wish list. There are two toys, some books, movie passes and a kid's sewing machine. I was proud of her desires. I gently steered some of them, but she loves making lists - so she was very excited to do that project. While we talked about it being okay to want things, we also talked about the importance of giving back to others. Mostly on her own, Little Miss M said she wanted to collect toys for our local children's hospital, Toy Closet Program. She's benefited from the program multiple times, as each child is given a toy after discharge or a procedure and she realized that it would be a nice thing to make sure there were more toys for other boys and girls.

I'm well aware that my teaching of this concept is not done. I also know that although the husband and I have severely cut-back on our purchasing and spoiling habits, we are not the only people that shop. However, I believe we are making steps in the right direction by teaching these basic concepts. I know Little Miss M has special needs and her brain works differently, but I think learning to give comes from the heart and the soul.

I hope this becomes a new tradition in our family. Whether we make cards for those with no family or we donate coats to people who have none - I hope that there comes a day where I am no longer teaching this feeling, but that it comes innately and the projects come from the girls alone.

We would love to hear how you handle the holiday "give-mes". Please share your stories with us!

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 Amanda loves the holidays because of all the family time and all the wonderful excuses to eat cookies!

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