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My Daughter Has a Serious Case of the “I Wants”

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These days I’ve been noticing a frequent phrase from my almost-three-year-old that is quickly becoming a worrying trend. As we walk up and down the aisles of our neighborhood one-stop-shopping-center there’s a phrase I keep hearing from her:

“I want it. I need it.”

The phrase is typically being used in an attempt to solicit food treats or toys, and it’s being used often. Too often. And when the answer is no? Well, let’s just say that the tantrums can be embarrassingly epic.

I didn’t think this would be my kid and yet here we are. But, it doesn’t mean that here is where we have to stay. As much as I love my child and would like nothing more than to provide her heart’s greatest desires, I am also realizing that maybe the most loving thing I can do for her is to start telling her “no” more often and to begin teaching her the meaning of gratitude.

I know it’s pretty typical for toddlers to ask for treats and toys from time to time, but my child is definitely not lacking in that department. On top of the occasional things that I buy for her, she has two grandparents who live nearby and love buying her little things here and there. She also benefits from some of my blogger perks — regular deliveries of fun things for her delivered right to our front door. But I want her to realize that a good chunk of the world doesn’t just wake up to big boxes of Frozen swag on their front porch on a regular basis. I want her to know what it means to appreciate what she has and to learn to give back to others.

I refuse to raise an entitled child. Which is why we’re changing things up this holiday season. Instead of my daughter receiving more “stuff” that she really doesn’t need this year, we’ve asked our families to join with us in giving our daughter the gift of experiences. Instead of boxes upon shiny boxes of gifts, we’ll be giving the gift of activities and quality time. That doesn’t mean that no one is allowed to spend any money, but we’re working on being more thoughtful in this area and giving her things she can remember beyond the blur of gift wrap tearing on Christmas morning — like a membership to our local children’s museum or a date to the zoo.

But, building gratitude doesn’t just happen one day a year. So we’re laying some ground work to begin exposing her to others who we can give back to. The other day we had a talk about children who have less than we do and how they often don’t have the clothes they need or enough food to eat and they definitely don’t get new toys often … if at all. My daughter said that was “sad” and I suggested that maybe she could help by sharing some of the things she has — things we could donate to a local children’s charity. This made her excited, so we sat down and went through all of her toys and clothes and came up with things we could give. There were some things that she didn’t want to part with and that was OK, but I also reminded her that she has so many nice things that have barely been used that could make other kids really happy and that it was important to give our best and not just the things we didn’t like. I was actually really proud of her for some of the things she parted with. This is something I would like to keep doing with her on a regular basis.

We will also be purchasing gifts and meeting needs for others during the holiday season and I will be involving her in shopping for these things so she can be a part of giving back. We would also like to sponsor a child that we can share with throughout the year — a little person whose photo she can see and who we can write letters to and get to know so she can put a real face to others in need and begin to understand the importance of giving to others.

I know that I am not a perfect parent and I will make plenty of mistakes along this path of parenthood, but it is my goal to raise little people who are kind and generous citizens and who will go out into the world and love other people well. So this is where I’m starting, but there will definitely be more to come.

Image courtesy of Lauren Hartmann

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