Here’s my theory: Teach your child how to give, and get a less demanding, materialistic, whiney kid in the long run. Teach your child how to give, and get a generous, kind-hearted person in return! It’s not just my theory, any child development expert will give the same advice, but I’m starting to see it play out in my family, and it’s pretty exciting.
Last week when D was preparing for his trip to Haiti, I was telling the family at breakfast that we could help Daddy pack a few small items to give as gifts to the Haitian children who come through the clinic…that when I bought Ellie some new big-girl panties, I was going to buy an extra pack for giving away. MJ excused himself, and came back to the table with a stack of his own used underwear for sharing with the children! He asked if the people there were hungry, and I explained that many were because they could not afford food. I later found that he had put 2 onions in Daddy’s suitcase. He also enjoyed choosing a few items at the Dollar Store to send along, and in this way, we are participating in this giving experience as a family.
Today MJ and I had a “Mommy and Me date” volunteering together in the WEE VOLUNTEER “Meals on BIG Wheels” Event for MLK Day of Service. We joined other families on a festive party bus to help deliver over 50 meals to hungry elderly residents in Dallas.
On the way home, we passed by Flag Pole Hill. MJ started talking about this mini-ATV we had seen a kid his age driving around there after Christmas one day, trying out his new present, no doubt. (We drive by FPH several times a day, and he’s never mentioned it before….kids’ brains are so funny.) Michael James said he wanted one, too. Well, that is not in our plan. I commented on how I understood what a really cool toy that was, but that we were not going to spend our money on one. I explained that it was too expensive, but that someday when he was 16, if he proved to be a responsible driver and student, we would split the cost of a real car with him. He began crying. He doesn’t want a real car. He wants a toy car! Why can’t he have it? Again, I empathized, and told him it’s hard to not get what you want sometimes. But we needed to spend our money on food and rent, and we also choose to share some money with families who need help buying food and healthcare for their children. We have lots of nice things, and some people, like the ones we visited today, can’t even afford food. So we try not to have too much, and do our part to share with others. Because he had just been to these subsidized housing projects, knocking on the doors himself, and handing the hot tray of meatballs and green beans to the poor elderly residents, he knew what I was talking about. And he stopped complaining immediately. (Whew! That worked better than expected. I believe in the value of giving kids a little perspective through volunteering, I just never expected to see the results of it in such a real way so quickly! Thanks, Michelle!) Back in the car, we quickly began talking about meatballs and flying kites, instead. (Not flying meatballs, although maybe that would make a good story for tonight…)
See my post on The Top 10 Reasons to Give Back WITH Your Kids
Wanna know what we did on the bus? I helped to make it valuable “QT” for parents and kids by connecting us through singing and conversation. Of course, we started with “The Wheels on the Bus”! We played “Name That Tune”, and I reminded parents that this is a great game for the car that helps children with audiation, an important pre-reading skill in which they are hearing words in their head. We sang “You Are My Sunshine”, followed by conversation about our favorite things to do in the sun. I asked if they knew why we had the day off, and a couple older boys knew about MLK Day. One of them knew about the “I Have a Dream” Speech, which led me right into the next rhyme…this is how I’ve taught my kids about this important American hero.
“Martin Luther King said, ‘I have a dream.’ Martin Luther King said, ‘I have a dream.’ “
Nothing fancy, but when you say it rhythmically, and add some body percussion, it connects to your brain, and you never forget it! Pat knees in rhythm for “Martin Luther King said”, clap your hands together 2 times for “I have” and clap your partner’s hands for “dream”. Not only are you teaching history, you’re playing together, experiencing rhythmic movement, sharing eye contact and physical touch, all great for developing brains and bonds!
Next, I asked the parents to ask their children what one of their dreams was for the future – something they want to do someday. Answers varied from opening a cake shop to having 3 baby girls to riding in a race car! One girl said that she can do whatever she wants to do! Certainly part of MLK’s dream for our nation… that every child, no matter what they look like, can achieve their dreams in our country! I told them that MLK’s dream for his children was that one day they would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. (I was gonna have the parents tell their children what “character content” they admired about them to help them understand what that meant, but we arrived at our first stop.)
We sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee“, focusing on the last line, famously used by MLK in his “I Have a Dream” speech, “Let Freedom Ring!“. Then I invited the parents and children to talk about their favorite freedoms. Most of us got to explain this concept to our kids, and we agreed that the freedom to travel, to get an education, to worship, to volunteer are all great freedoms that all Americans should have. MJ continued to ask about this concept in bed tonight, and I heard him falling asleep singing that last line, “Let freedom ring!” The whole bus experience was a good reminder of the many opportunities to connect with our children in the car.