Thanks to Chanukah being earlier than Christmas this year, we have a load of gifts littering the house. And it’s not that fun. Since this is an upcoming event in most people’s homes, let me remind you that the giving of gifts is great, the receiving of them is wonderful and the ridiculous amount of toy clutter that ensues is horrifying.
But what happens when I tentatively suggest that perhaps the ignored-Playmobil castle that is chewing up a large piece of real estate in son number one’s room be relocated to the basement so everyone can enjoy? Incredulous yelling. As if son number one would move it to a general area so that son number two could play with it! How could I be so ridiculous? It doesn’t matter that the Lego is now blocking any pathway to the bed or door (or most importantly laundry hamper) and some freed up space would benefit everyone. My response, is obviously: “How could he be so selfish?”
Son number two gets his most-desired Ben 10 creature maker, and when his siblings ask to play he has no less than a “hairy conniption” and runs into his room with all his new toys.
The real gift of the holidays is the constant reminder that you are bringing up a bunch of selfish, toy-hoarding unappreciative kids. Feels great!
So I called Alyson Schafer and asked her:
“Isn’t it fair to ask the kids to pass on their toys that they no longer play with to their siblings?”
Once again, she surprised me and answered:” Possession is 9/10ths of the law.” (Just once when I am talking to a parenting expert I would like my first instinct to be correct but that would break one of Alyson’s rules which is to ignore your first instinct.) According to Alyson once a child stops playing with toys they should not be forced to give them to the needy (i.e. their siblings). They can organize a garage sale to get rid of their toys. Their siblings can shop at the garage sale; they can even be the first customers. And yes, the kids get to keep the money too.
She says that forced sharing is actually stifling generosity, not teaching it. Because if you do something out of guilt or force then you are left with resentment and resentment can build and then be expressed in other ways.
If your kid is not generous, I would say stingy or greedy, but Alyson always terms things in a really positive way. She says if your kid is not “quite there yet”, then you have to remember that the character stuff takes more than a day.
She essentially paraphrased my old-before-his-time son when she said that for kids being appreciative is beyond them because they are so powerless in their relationships. Appreciative kids are ones who feel that they are empowered because they make real contributions to the family.
It can also be a creative journey to find what will hit each kid’s generosity button. Last year I had wanted Aaron to contribute some of his allowance the food bank that I fundraise for, but he was more interested in donating to the Humane Society (oops) because that was where our cat had come from.
Alyson says there is nothing wrong with combining charity with something fun, and it is up to the charities to find a way to tweak kids’ interest. Her family got together with their cousins and made donations to the Great Turtle Race and watched their turtles swim across the world. She suggested getting kids to donate their used sports equipment to local community centres, or their best-loved books to a children’s centres.
Yesterday, Alyson tweeted: “Parent Tip: Willingness to sharing is more likely to occur when a child feels they have control. Don't force them to share new toys.” Oh great. Thanks. Because the best part of the holidays is when your child refuses to share their new toy with some distant relative – that makes for great family relations. At least now when I ignore the situation I can say it’s Alyson-approved.