By Amanda Griffin Jacob
Kieran turned seven a few weeks ago, now more than ever seeing him push boundaries, assert his independence, discover his own passions, and slowly develop traits, which are influencing the adult he will become. What a remarkable time of self-discovery for my son! It’s so fascinating and such a privilege to be a bystander observing this process in someone’s life, particularly when it is your child’s.
In December last year, I decided that one of my parenting objectives for 2017 was to attempt to teach my children the importance of respecting and appreciating their belongings and communicating to them the requirement of gratefulness. In my opinion, these attributes are a few of the benchmarks of a “good” person. Now that my eldest is already seven, I believe it is more crucial to cultivate these qualities. But can you teach these values? It’s complicated, but not impossible.
What was the trigger for these particular parenting goals? I looked around my home and took stock of the many toys and items cluttering every nook and cranny, I realized that my kids had everything they had ever wanted or asked for. The realization dawned on me that their sense of wonder and delight was fleeting with each new thing. A consequence of too many possessions. There was also a manner of entitlement that permeated the air. It was Christmas time and I really needed them to understand the true meaning behind the holiday, instead of their current impression that Christmas is a time of collection and consumerism. I wanted them to assign value to the gifts they received and fully comprehend why they were receiving it. Right then and there, I decided to institute a three-present maximum rule for every present-related occasion (birthday and Christmas). I found a service in Singapore that allows celebrants to request that their friends and partygoers donate a small sum of money, half of which goes to a charity of the celebrant’s choosing, and the other half which is allocated towards their gift. This has worked out well for both Kieran and Lila’s recent birthday celebrations. Kieran took a bit of convincing but finally understood why I wanted him to donate half of his birthday money to people who are less fortunate.
When I think back of my childhood, the birthday and Christmas celebrations that I had, I remember fully appreciating every toy that I got (the clothes perhaps not as much) but my parents instilled in me that whatever you received, you were grateful for. I remember the overwhelming feeling of excitement and anticipation when a birthday would approach. I remember feeling so happy and thankful for all that I had received. I remember that Christmas and birthdays were my favorite times of the year as they were filled with happiness, laughter, and yes, presents that I had dreamed of for a long time. There was something magical about those days. I want my children to experience the same kind of joyful memories while simultaneously nurturing characteristics such as gratefulness and patience that reflect a virtuous individual.
This is how I decided that it is my responsibility to educate my children about gratitude, respect, and value of what they have in conjunction by talking to them about its significance. My aim is to combat the current atmosphere of consumerism, expectation, and instant gratification that I fear grip this generation in such a hedonistic manner.
With hope, it works.