Squelch the Gimmies: Teaching Children to Give in a “Me” Society

Not too long ago, I saw the movie “The Descendants.” It covered numerous heart-wrenching topics: infidelity, a tragic accident, end-of-life issues, smart-alecky children and an absentee father. However, much like life, it was sprinkled with many beautiful moments, one of which was watching a father, played by George Clooney, awaken and find his true self. Be warned, should you decide to watch this movie, it would be appropriate to arm yourself with a box of tissues; I dabbed my eyes throughout the film.

There’s a quote from the movie that made me think about my sons and a topic that I seriously ponder on a regular basis. How can my husband and I raise strong boys who strive for not only what they want in life, but also what they want to give in life? Here’s the quote:

“Give enough to your kids so they can do anything, but do not give them too much so they can do nothing.”

As many of you know, my husband and I struggled with infertility for many years. I had a lot of time to think about what kind of mother I wanted to be: how I would show my love, how I would discipline and how I would go about creating beautiful, giving human beings. While pondering, I think it’s only natural to reflect on your own childhood and learn from your parents’ credits and mistakes, because every generation attempts to parent better.

I sure don’t have all the answers, as my kids are only six and three. My kids are like any other and want every toy in sight; I call that a bad case of the gimmies. So how do we as parents begin to squelch the gimmies? Well, one thing I know for certain, it’s important to teach the value of giving, freely, because you want to and with the expectation of nothing in return.

How can you go about doing this? Well, society has some pretty convenient programs like Toys for Tots, Good Will, Food Shelves, Rice Bowl, etc. A couple of things to consider is that one must find a way to balance the harsh realities of life to the age appropriateness of the child. Secondly, is that you cannot do these activities once a year and expect to have giving built into your child’s character. As with anything in life, it takes a steady diet to indoctrinate our kiddos.

My solution is to start with small things where your child can participate. For example, each holiday season we contribute to Toys for Tots. Each of my sons selects two toys for the program and we have them put the toys in the bin at the collection site. The actual act provides them with the understanding that they are making an impact on kids who are just like them. A simple toy, something they have many of, will bring a smile to a face of a child that is in want.

Here’s my new everyday challenge that you may want to try, start a Service Jar. Download Service Jar Slips from the Today’s Mama website. There are two pages of service suggestions and a third page that provides the opportunity to make your own slips tailored to your family. Then have one of your kiddos draw a slip each week and complete the act of service.

You know, a few of my cousins and I have a running joke entitled, “The All About Me Show.” We all encounter people in our daily life that think every waking moment is about them: their wants, their desires, their needs, their feelings, etc. It’s not by chance that we have grown into a “me” society that irreverently chooses personal needs over the good of the community. We’ve born it, we bred it and we have the chance to change it too. It starts with our children. Parenting is a verb, not a noun, so we have the chance to create a new show, “The All About We Show.”

I’m hopeful that my boys’ repetitive acts of kindness will create a great show with their performance of a lifetime ~ The Great Ripple Affect.

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