A new baby is a gift. As parents, we’re so over-the-moon in love with our little bundle, all we want is to make him or her happy. So, from the very start, parents pepper kids with questions that begin with:
“Do you want _______?”
Little ones can’t talk yet, so we fill in the blank:
Do you want more?
Do you to play with this?
Do you want mint chip or jamoca almond fudge?
Their every wish becomes our command. That’s why they quickly learn to say “I want _______.” Being a little kid is such sweet gig.
Then one day a parent says ‘NO’ and the 2-year old brain explodes: “What did you say?! What do you mean it’s too close to dinner? What do you mean it costs too much and you won’t buy it for me? This is outrageous!!” Kids don’t have all those words, so they reiterate the obvious for stupid Mommy/Daddy: “BUT I WANT IT!!!!!”
Tantrums don’t always work, but they work often enough to keep hope and self-centeredness alive.
As kids become more aware of the power dynamics within the family, they test boundaries. That’s when a parent’s “Do you want ______?” can take on a sinister ring:
Do you want me to take that away from you?
Do you want a time out?
Do you want me to give you something to cry about?
This last rhetorical question was surprisingly popular amongst parents during the second half of the last century. Hopefully it’s gone the way of the landline, but I’ve got no empirical data either way.
Soon kids realize how important their happiness is to Mom and Dad and because they want to make it easier for us to please them they learn to be very specific about what they want and why they need it… NOW:
“I want __________. (pause) I am too old enough!”
“I want __________. (pause) ‘Cause I’m the only one who doesn’t have one!”
“I want you to give me what I want and I want you to leave me alone.” (Double demand… impressive language development!)
For those of us in comfortable circumstances (yes, I’m talking about you on the laptop) it stands to reason our kids may need an attitude transplant to get from “I want to get _____.” to: “I want to give ______.” But we can do it! Technology connects us with organizations doing good work. We have the credit cards (which makes donating less painful). Click. Click.
Now is an excellent time to look around and see where you could spread a little holiday cheer and some green. Oxfam America, International Rescue Committee, Southern Poverty Law Center (Teaching Tolerance), Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF and Kiva are some of my personal favorites. And there are at least a million other absolutely inspirational organizations that are effectively working on solutions to local, national and international challenges. Giving to any of them makes YOU (and any entitled kid you want to inspire) part of the solution. Find out who’s doing what and support their efforts. Start your search here.
Warning: Giving can become habit-forming, but in a healthy way. And think about it, do your kids really need more stuff or might your family be in the market for some good karma points?