…to de-clutter. Fa la la la la, la la la la. And to teach our children values…ya ya ya ya ya, ya ya ya ya! Whatever the Scrooge equivalent is for Hanukah, you are reading her blog. My husband is thrilled I am no longer forcing our family to buy my son educational or sensory toys for the holidays. After five years, I’ve lost the battle. In the next few days, my house will be filled with Paw Patrol, Mickey Mouse Roadsters, and some other random toys that help Target and Amazon make their fourth quarter sales quotas. So, to warm my cold holiday heart, I will take the opportunity to share some holiday hints that are not on a Pillsbury cookie sleeve or Pinterest post.
Pay It Now, Pay It Later, Pay It Forward
Parents are always looking for a way to direct the moral compasses of their kids. We are successful in teaching the rules of morality, holding doors open, saying “please” and “thank you”, and taking turns. But, these successes are only in one-on-one relationships. Without fail, my clients consistently ask me how to teach their growing children how to be moral members of a group, their family, their school, their community. The answer is to set up a system of “paying” for things now, saving for later, and donating to others.
When talking about a lifelong lesson, it is best to start young. Here is how the morality code system works for toddlers, the youngest age you can effectively begin to mold morality. Consider each step using the commodity of toddlers, toys.
- Pay It Now – Setting priorities: Every parent has suffered through the nightmare of turning down the wrong aisle in Target and landing smack dab in the sightline of the seven aisles of toys. At that moment, we all become Monty Hall and make deals with our toddlers. Getting one of the toys asked for during that shopping trip is a great experience for our young ones because they needed to decide which toy was too special to leave on the shelf.
- Pay It Later – Understanding patience: Psychologist Lev Vygotsky introduced the idea of providing children the opportunity to achieve goals just beyond their reach with the help of a caregiver. He called this the zone of proximal development, or ZPD. Most of us practiced this theory instinctively when our infants’ hands couldn’t entirely grasp their spoon off the feeding tray, so we propped it up for them to snatch it. Buying, or better yet, allowing doting grandparents to buy, toys they are targeted for the next age bracket achieves the same goals. Toddlers love “work-for” toys targeted for big boys and girls; parents love watching them learn how to wait for gratification.
- Pay It Forward – Learning empathy: The best trick I learned from another mom was the concept of a bag or bin of “non-sharing” toys for playdates. The idea is for your child to identify toys that are so important and special that nobody else is allowed to touch them. (When you “pay it now,” they have already internalized that decision-making skill.) Parents can take this one step further, especially during holidays and birthdays, by working with your child to sort through toys that no longer hold interest or develop advanced skills. A quick car trip to the Salvation Army or donation to CASA gives our little ones big feelings of empathy and pride.
Spark Note Summary
The reason why parenting is unanimously considered the hardest job is because its goal is to make the world a better place, one moral person at a time. We cringe at words like “bully” and “apathy” and lose decades of sleep hoping they don’t apply to our kids. The earlier we start to teach our kids what good morals look like, the earlier they will know what good morals feel like. And aren’t those warm feelings what the holidays are all about?