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My daughter sat, cross-legged in front of the Christmas tree, surrounded by heaps of shiny new presents — literally everything that she had asked for — and looked at me, pulling a pouty face and whined, “But what about my Chubby Puppy playground playset?”
Deep breath. One. Oh no, no she did not just say that.
Two. Oh yes, she did.
Three. Your grandparents have just spent way too much money on you, you have more toys than you know what to do with. You have more toys than places to put those toys away.
Four. You got a stinking Chubby Puppy playset and it looks a lot like a playground to me. Is this playground not playground-y enough for you? How many playsets do they even make? Why are there multiple playground options? WHY AM I EVEN DEBATING THIS? This is ridiculous!
Five. My eye is twitching. Was I like this as a child?!?! God bless my parents.
Six. Resist the urge to laugh in her face. Resist the urge to bring up children in other countries. Lectures won’t help. Resist the urge to collect all the presents and return them.
Seven. Unclench fists. My husband and I exchange an exasperated look. What kind of monster do we have on our hands?
Eight. Forget the counting. This is just wrong.
I was a preschool teacher. I know the science. It is totally normal for my daughter to want nice things. Children are naturally self-centered. Entitlement is a normal stage of child development and a necessary part of the journey to adulthood. My daughter is not a monster and she is not an exception to the rule. She’s just a typical, toy-loving kid … which explains why my house looks like a toy store. Raise your hand if you can relate.
But that still doesn’t make being ungrateful okay. This is not the thoughtful, kind, and considerate human being I want to go out into the world one day. We want her to learn to be thankful and this lesson requires some teaching. Our job is to help her move from self-centered to self-control, less materialistic to more appreciative, less selfish to more mindful of others and the world around her. Some of this we are still learning as adults ourselves. A big part of parenting is learning together. It sounds great, right? But how?
You’re looking for good manners, thankfulness, kindness? Have good manners, be thankful, be kind.
Less talk. More action.
Role-model behavior. You’re looking for good manners, thankfulness, kindness? Have good manners, be thankful, be kind. Less talk. More action. Show them how. Are you obsessed with stuff? New stuff, better stuff, more stuff? Are you modeling thankfulness? Are you modeling mindfulness? Are you modeling sharing, giving, serving? Are you considerate of others and their feelings? Children learn a lot by watching us. What are we teaching them with our actions, choices, and behaviors?
I hate the word “spoiled” but I know one thing to be true: You can’t spoil your child with quality time, love, and words of affirmation. Shift the focus from things to experiences. Value memories and moments. Take some time to look at pictures, share stories, and have meaningful discussions. Move from “me, me, me” to we by building and strengthening your relationships. Do a service project in the community, give a present to a needy family, serve food, or pick up litter. See how other people live. Travel, if you are able.
Stretch waiting time to teach patience. Not everything comes right away. “Good things come to those who wait.” We live in a world obsessed with getting things right now/instant gratification. Patience is a virtue and it doesn’t always come easily.
We live in a world obsessed with instant gratification. Patience is a virtue and it doesn’t always come easily.
We want what is best for our daughter but there is too much of a good thing. Or, should I say, too many things can be a bad thing. Helping our daughter be satisfied with what she has is a great lesson that will serve her for the rest of her life. Being able to see the positive (what she has/ what is going right) vs the negative (what she doesn’t have/ what’s going wrong) will help her navigate the plentiful, inevitable difficult times ahead.
Kayt Molina currently lives in Miami, Florida with her husband, 2 children, and their loyal dog, Salinger. She is a voracious reader, former preschool teacher, and cooking show addict. Follow Kayt Molina on Medium and Twitter.