Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Entitlement versus Appreciation

Jonas has a pink satin pillowcase.

I bought it for him to try and help him sleep better.  A lot of kids love those satin "loveys" and we're really looking for ways to help Jonas sleep better at night.  So we were at the store,   I showed Jonas the selection and he chose pink. 

He likes it.  So does Owen.  A number of times Owen has taken it up to his bunk to sleep and we've had to tell Owen that it was Jonas' pillow and he needed to give it back.  But I don't want Owen to think that we don't love him or aren't willing to get him nice things--it's just that that pillowcase was purchased for Jonas. So we talked about getting Owen his own silky pillowcase.

But the next time I was at the store and I walked by the pillowcases I didn't buy him one--I didn't feel like I needed to right then.  I started to think more about it.  How do we give things to our children that they want, and we want to give them, in a way that doesn't breed a sense of entitlement, or the idea that they get everything they want right when they ask for it?  How do we instead foster feelings of gratitude and appreciation in our children for the things they receive--even the basics of living? 

I had Owen with me at the fabric store when I was picking up fabric for my advent calendar.  We walked past the satins and I showed him the nice color selection.  He liked green the best--as in all things these days.  I went back later with a coupon and bought the green satin. 

I used a very simple pattern (adding in the ribbon trim)and made the pillowcase.  I'm going to save it for Christmas to give to him--though he has seen the fabric around the house and knows what it's for.  Gifts don't have to be a complete surprise to still be special. 

I don't know how to guarantee that our children won't have a sense of entitlement but in this situation I used three different techniques. 
  • Delay the giving --I didn't just give it to him the first time he asked
  • Create, don't just purchase --For this pillowcase I could make something just as good (and maybe better) than what the store offered.  The process both helped to delay the giving longer and break the idea that whenever we need or want something we "just go buy it."
  • Give for a reason --I chose to wait and give this to Owen for a Christmas present.   The title of "gift"  will hopefully make it more special to Owen.  My mom also suggested making him earn it through fulfilling responsibilities.  The title of "reward" for hard work would make it more meaningful of a possession as well. 
My hope is that this pillowcase will be something that Owen truly appreciates.  That he will recognize the effort I put in to providing it for him.  That his waiting for it will have increased his anticipation and excitement for it.  And most of all I hope that this process will not have left him with the impression that "I get everything I want whenever I ask for it." 

Have any more great ideas?

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