Recently, I had The Talk.
If you haven’t done this yet, I’m sure you’ll do it soon. You know what I mean. In the moment when you offer a perfectly acceptable toy/snack/play option, etc. to your kid and they melt down because they wanted something else or they wanted it differently or they’re just in a bad mood and NOTHING WILL DO.
Yes, The Talk.
Granted, some moms might have taken the opportunity to see this as just a part of being a child. They get cranky, they want to express their independence, they want to be in control of their own lives. I get it. And I can completely understand and I’ve even let my girls get away with this in the past.
But on this particular day, I’d had enough. And so I put on my serious Mama face *grins*, the one that comes complete with a serious low voice and raised eyebrows and “listen to me”… “are you listening to me?”… “do you understand?” when I want to drive in my points, and I went at it.
It went something like this:
“Girls, you know how we have a house to live in and food to eat? How we have clothes to wear and toys to play with and a car that takes us places? Well, there are some children who don’t have ANY of those things.”
Then I asked them (well, actually, at this point it was just SuperGirl, the 3yo, because almost 2yo WonderGirl had already strayed away by now) if that made them sad or happy, and SuperGirl agreed that hearing that other children didn’t have all the things she had made her sad. (Cue the Mama pride that she GOT it.)
Then I asked them (SuperGirl) how she felt and how she should feel to have the nice things that she has. Answer: happy. (Yes!!)
We had just recently decided to start going through toys (because they are about to suffocate us…everywhere we turn, there are more boxes of toys; of course, it seems like Christmas to the girls every day now) to decide which ones the girls want to keep and which they want to give away. We had talked about how giving away toys was a good thing because other kids could benefit them, and I used this as an example in my gratitude monologue on how we could help others who were not as fortunate as we are.
I also pulled up some pictures from a Facebook group called The Eyes of Children Around the World to show them pictures of real children who were less fortunate. (Moms, I’ve also done this in the past to just show them children who look differently than they do in terms of clothing and piercings and race. I like to think this is a helpful thing for opening their minds to different kinds of people down the road.)
And I have two things to say about this experience, in having The Talk about gratitude.
1) Yes, I feel a little corny in starting sentences with, “Other children in So and So Country do not have…”, which reminded me of how parents used to try to convince their children to clean their plates.
2) But I also realized that I don’t want to be the kind of parent who just points fingers for reference when I want to make a parenting point and who just talks.
Before we had children, my husband and I would spend hours talking about the kind of future we wanted to have with our kids: family time that included volunteering, holidays where we would serve others, expressing our gratitude by giving others something to be thankful for. And somehow, after three years of sleep deprivation and potty training and temper tantrums, those things seemed to have lost their importance as ideals in our lives. I know it’s possible that when the girls are teenagers we’ll do those sort of things together, but I don’t think it’s enough to wait until then. I want to start now, even if it’s small. And I want to hear from you other moms–because you’ve been through the various ages and because you are amazing women with wonderful ideas. I have a few thoughts of my own, but I’d love to hear from you.
In terms of teaching your kids (no matter what age) about gratitude and community engagement, what suggestions do you have for how we can get involved? Ideas that immediately come to my mind include the holiday Angel Tree and the various programs where you sponsor a child monthly. Any others, and maybe some that include face-to-face interaction?
And, if you have experiences to share, what differences have you seen in your child/children after becoming involved in these types of activities, if any?