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Dr. Ray Guarendi recently advised parents on how not to overindulge their kids with toys and gizmos. Now he tells how to keep relatives from making up for the slack.
BY Dr. Ray Guarendi
you saying about scaling back on the “materialism quotient” in homes brimming
with toys, gizmos — and overindulged kids?
last column on this subject (“Stopping Spoilage,” Feb. 8) stated the core laws
of child-rearing economics. Law No. 1: Don’t give materially all you are able
to. Law No. 2: Don’t give materially all a child wants you to. There is a
corollary to these laws: Where your child is concerned, others need to follow
live the good life when given love, attention, security and discipline.
Material goodies may be a child’s idea of the good life, but kids are naturally
shortsighted. Grown-ups often have to look down the road for them.
how do you cap a bottomless well of material stuff flowing into your home from
within and without? Here are a few suggestions.
seek your relatives’ cooperation with your revamped mindset: “We’re going to
cut way down on the things we buy the kids. We want to teach them more about
appreciation. Can you help us? We know how much you enjoy getting them things,
but we want them to love you for you and not what you can buy.” Stress how much
more their presence means than their presents.
goodies continue to flow into the house at an unacceptable rate, consider an
all-out campaign to reduce inventory. You and the kids can decide together what
to share with other children who have much less. Arrange for the gifts’
personal delivery to a hospital, shelter, group home, school or church.
avoid future accumulation: For every goodie that comes in, one goes out. The
kids can choose. If they’re reluctant to part with anything, you choose. Also,
you might quietly tell Hughes that he can’t keep everything he gets from
everybody. In your judgment, it’s too much. This means some things may be given
away almost as quickly as they arrive. Is this being ungrateful or insulting to
the givers? If they know what you’re doing — of course, the kids will tell them
— initially they might take offense. With time, they should come to accept, if
not understand, your “eccentric” ways. Your children’s character is far too
important for compromise on contributions you don’t agree with, no matter how
well-intentioned the contributor.
control of the Christmas spigot. Prior to the holidays, you and the kids should
sift through existing toys, deciding which will be given to needy children.
Make sure a few good items are shared, and not just the 5-year-old, outgrown,
untouched clutter. Space out Christmas gift opening, so Noel can savor the gift
and appreciate the giver. If too much flows in, hold over some for opening
can make an even stronger statement about sharing by having the kids choose one
or two unopened gifts to be given to a less fortunate child.
Because the package contents are
unknown, a child will truly be sharing and not just discarding his least
Will relatives and friends
understand? Again, maybe not. But they probably will be amazed by your resolve
to actively teach what you preach.
Do you have the right to give away
gifts? Of course. Once given, a gift is the receiver’s to do with what he/she
wishes, even to regive to another. But aren’t you “taking” your children’s
gifts? Yes and no.
Yes, in that you may initially be
doing these things against their will. No, in that you are acting in their
long-term interests. As a parent, you have that responsibility. Indeed, you use
your influence and authority to direct your children’s actions all the time.
You take the fourth cookie Chip tries to eat. You take Nielsen’s remote control
after an hour of TV viewing. You take Lock’s freedom by sending him to his
room. Not allowing access to bad things, or to good things in bad quantity, is
all this just “forcing” kids to share or to be less materialistic? Sure it is.
Much of character is instilled initially by making kids do or not do things
against their wishes. At first, most kids will resist giving up what is
“theirs” or get upset about not getting more. As they mature, they begin to
grasp the deeper reason behind the action. They feel better about giving than
getting, and learn to be content and grateful for what they have rather than
upset over what they don’t have.
is Adoption: Choosing It,
Living It, Loving It.
DrRay.com for more info.