Lots of people say that kids today are spoiled, unappreciative, and overly materialistic, and wonder how to help them develop a sense of gratitude for what they have. My response to this has been pretty simple, but very effective. Give them less, and they will appreciate everything more!
It sounds like I am joking or being stingy, but I’m not. I’m not advocating depriving our children of necessities, or even of luxuries. But I am suggesting strongly that they be consciously limited. It is a reality that the more a person has, the harder it is to appreciate it all. There reaches a point of diminishing returns, where it takes more and more to make you as happy as you were in the past when you got something much smaller.
So many people insist that if they just had x more dollars, then they would be content. But what actually happens in the vast majority of cases? Once they achieve their first goal, they simply raise the bar and then declare that they will truly be happy once they have x more dollars! Kids aren’t any different! When kids are given every thing they express the slightest interest in, and then some, they become jaded, unable to enjoy what they have. Many parents try harder and harder to find something their kids will really love, thinking they just need to find the right present and the kids will be thrilled. But the excitement is usually short lived and then the gift is just one more thing in their piles of stuff that they don’t pay attention to.
Kids need help becoming consciously aware of all that they have. They don’t know any other life but that which you have provided for them. I often talk with my children about how lucky we are to have a home, a vehicle, etc. Being preachy when talking about these things doesn’t work, but just naturally sharing your gratitude and happiness about your life does. When I pay bills, I tell them how happy it makes me that we have money to pay those bills, and I share with them the joy we have in being able to use what we have to help others less fortunate than ourselves. There have been times when things were financially really tight, but we still made it a priority to give 10% of our income to charity, no matter what. Giving to others helps you remember that no matter what you don’t have, or wish you have, there are so many others who have much less than you do. Even very young children can take pleasure in sharing what they have with others.
The holidays are around the corner, and lots of parents are trying to find just the right gift for their child. Enjoy your shopping, and enjoy getting your child something that they will enjoy! But remember that when it comes to material goods, sometimes less is more, and that there is always someone who is not as fortunate as you whose life you can enrich. The memory of the joy you bring to someone else is something that will stay with you and your children long after the nicest gift is just a distant memory.