The Secret Gift Inside your Child:

By Joanne Baum

If your child watches television and is able to talk, you are probably being inundated with your child’s requests for the amazing things being shown on television. Remember, those companies pay people large salaries to create those ads your child is falling for. They are well done. They are accomplishing their goal. But at what cost to you?

It actually helps if your child has gotten one of these must-have presents the last year that was supposed to be soooooo cool and soooooo amazing and it turned out to be different than the commercial. You can remind your child of that this year. “Things are not always as they seem.” Explain to your child that “wish lists” are just that, wishes and they do not all get filled. They are for you (and Santa if he is part of your holiday season) to choose from. They may remain wishes. One thing my dad always used to say to me when I asked for things when I was growing up was, “Joanne, it’s always good to want things.” Meaning: it’s okay to want something just know you won’t always get it, but it’s something you can strive for and maybe earn it over time if you really still want it.

I remember one year (and this is showing my age) I really wanted a 3-Speed English racer bicycle. I really, really wanted it. I was dreaming about riding that shiny black bike long before I got it. My dad patiently sat me down and told me he’d like to get it for me for my birthday but that we just couldn’t afford it and maybe I could help. I was about ten years old. How was I going to help? But somehow, a few relatives gave me money for my birthday and I was able to chip in. We went to the store together and bought the bike. It was so thrilling! I know I felt proud because I helped buy it.

At the time, I hated when my father said, “Joanne it’s always good to want something.” I hated hearing that because it usually meant I wasn’t going to get it. And like every child, my wants were so strong and so immediate, like I had to have whatever “it” was. Slowly, over time I realized that a lot of those things I really wanted, when I didn’t get them, and other friends did, I often wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be, and it was really “okay” not to have it. Or, if I got a less expensive off brand that worked as well, I learned the benefit of shopping for value rather than name brand. Sometimes I learned that when I did not get the item in any way shape or form, that the desire went away and life was really okay without having that “thing” I had wanted so much. Another lesson was that my taste changed and sometimes a short time later I didn’t even want “it” anymore. That one line taught me so many things. It’s one of the lines I have chosen to repeat with my child only with a longer explanation than the one I received. He still doesn’t like hearing it but hopefully he’s learning some of the same valuable lessons I learned.

So how do we teach our child respect and limits this holiday season? Here are 8 ways to nurture respect in your child:

1. Be honest with yourself about your limit.
2. Share your limits with your child and discuss them so your child understands.
3. Make some gifts together so your child can feel proud about helping and creating a gift for someone else.
4. Make cards together having your child dictate messages to loved ones if he or she is too young to write a message.
5. Listen carefully when your child speaks and tell your child what you are hearing him say to say you.
6. Ask your child if you’ve heard him correctly. If you haven’t, take the time to go over it again until you know you’ve heard what’s important to your child.
7. Teach your child the differences between needs and wants, especially how both can feel very intense but they’re not the same. If you can teach your child that, you’ll be giving the best gift you can give.
8. Be respectful with your child: talk kindly, be patient, focus on your child, give your child positive messages, slow down to your child’s pace, listen for your child’s needs, and respect your child’s limits. When you treat your child with respect you will get respect back. It follows naturally.

About the Author:

Dr. Joanne Baum is a therapist, speaker, author, mediator, and columnist. With more than thirty years of clinical experience Dr. Baum specializes in issues faced by couples, parents, families, and individuals. Joanne does parent coaching in person, via phone or e-mail. Dr. Baum also works as a divorce coach, child specialist, and Child and Family Investigator for divorcing families. Joanne is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Board Certified Diplomat in Clinical Social Work, and a Certified Alcoholism Counselor, Level III. Dr. Baum has authored four books including her recent book, Got the Baby.Where's the Manual?!? She has a private practice in Evergreen, Colorado. For more information visit www.respectfulparenting.com.

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2 comments

By Mommy Of Two on 08/25/10 at 1:40 am

The first paragraph is what I think about everyday!! I really need to start shutting off the TV and mostly for that reason!

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