Author Topic: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has  (Read 7246 times)

WhatMomWears

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This morning I hit a tipping point. A big one. For the umpteenth day in a row, J asked me for a new toy. He knows I keep them in a big bin up on top of the cabinets in his playroom. A box full of things I've bought to use as rewards and 'just becauses'. He got a new one on Monday (just because)(a shish kebab set for his kitchen) and here it was Wednesday and he is asking for another one after having barely played with the toy he just got.

Before I go any further, let me state that I am COMPLETELY and TOTALLY aware that I have created this situation myself. In the 'Five Love Languages' (A book I have not personally read but have read about on Wikipedia), I apparently am a 'gifter' for my way of saying I love you. Huh. Thinking too long about that could probably could lead me to therapy. I have a problem with over-gifting my son and I am aware of it. I never thought it was a huge deal until today. When he asked today, as he did yesterday,  as he does almost every morning, for a new toy. Though he was surrounded by TONS of toys and had just had a new one on Monday. Then I hit my tipping point and suddenly I saw.

I saw that he was too surrounded by things. Because of all the stimulus, he can't concentrate on any one thing. Because I have always been providing new toys, he hasn't learned to play with his old ones. Because he has so much, he doesn't have to invent or create anything. I have done my son no favors by giving him so many things. He also doesn't appreciate what he has. Why should he? He's constantly being given (or expecting to be given) something new so why should he appreciate that he is already surrounded by fantastic toys? I don't know anyone who would. Especially a three-year-old child.

He is growing up exactly how I'm raising him and the last thing I want is to raise a child who doesn't appreciate all that we are able to give him. That sits back and expects it. That doesn't think he has to work for these things too. Tipping point. Time for a change.

I'm working on bagging up sets of toys in paper bags and labeling them. They go in the bin. When he wants something new, we will go to the bin and pull something out/put something in. I'm donating toys that he has outgrown or has never shown interest in. I am guessing that what he has will last him till he's 5 before he starts outgrowing things. When he asks for something I am starting to say "we can put that on your list for Christmas". That's the next time I plan on buying something for him. It's also time he starts learning that Daddy works so that we can pay for every single one of those toys. Not in a heavy-handed way, but so he starts learning to appreciate what he (and we) have. He is three years old, will be an only child, and if anyone has any suggestions, I am very open to them.

Zamboni

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2013, 07:53:18 PM »
He's really young, and will adapt very quickly to new routines.  It sounds like you have a good plan.

I would encourage you to get him involved in putting things he doesn't play with in the box to go to "babies and younger children who need toys."  He's not to young for this type of decision making, trust me.  He will be able to identify some things as "baby" toys and books, and this will get him on the path.  If he really wants to keep something in particular, then don't take it!  Even if it's super baby and as far as you can tell he never plays with it!  My son initially had trouble with this process, but my daughter filled her box right up.  I was surprised by what she put in the box:  things I had bought because I thought they were fun (Barbies and the like) she tossed right in there without a second thought.  Most of the toys they get are Christmas and birthday gifts (one grandma in particular is over the top with toys), so both of them eventually got good at it.  For awhile we did this culling twice a year, but now they don't hardly have toys at all so it doesn't really come up except for the odd trip to the toy store to buy a present for others.

How much television does he watch?  I found that getting rid of cable cut my children's wants WAY down.  They were very inspired by the toy commercials, and now that we only have netflix they never see those. 

I also don't like hearing "I want . . . " so that became an ineffective way for them to ask for anything.  "May I please have . . . " is so much nicer to listen to even if someone just would like a glass of water.

Kids barely need toys.  They can have fun playing with rocks, sticks, paper, pots and pans, etc.  If you really want to get fancy you can give them some balloons to bat around or blow up without tying and then let go to fly around. 

Good luck!

Kriegsspiel

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2013, 08:06:31 PM »
In order for the conditioning to take root, the beatings must continue until the behavior is ceased!
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englyn

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2013, 08:09:53 PM »
Well done!

WhatMomWears

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2013, 09:17:09 AM »


How much television does he watch?  I found that getting rid of cable cut my children's wants WAY down.  They were very inspired by the toy commercials, and now that we only have netflix they never see those. 

Not much - some Backyardigans but mostly he is into watching a movie during 'quiet time'. I am not a fan of most kids tv (commercials, idiotic programming, etc). Plus he's only 3 so we limit tv. He has just started school but it doesn't look like the kids bring toys with them which is good. He does see new things at other kids houses though...I've learned that if I buy what another kid has it's not as good as playing with it at their house. That one took me a while to learn! 

I also don't like hearing "I want . . . " so that became an ineffective way for them to ask for anything.  "May I please have . . . " is so much nicer to listen to even if someone just would like a glass of water.

This is great! Thanks - I'm going to start this today. I much prefer the way this sounds.


Kids barely need toys.  They can have fun playing with rocks, sticks, paper, pots and pans, etc.  If you really want to get fancy you can give them some balloons to bat around or blow up without tying and then let go to fly around.
 

Sigh. I know. First and only child. I went overboard. I know I did. All he wants really is time with me. I think I may have been compensating because I don't really want to get down on the floor and play trucks. Argh


Forcus

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2013, 12:02:17 PM »
I was your child in 25ish years (scary). We (my brother and I) definitely did not have as many toys as wealthy friends but we had way more that what we needed. End result (when we were grown), hoarding, collecting, buying of shiny new (and used) things that we couldn't afford. Not taking care of things we have bought. Using credit cards to scratch the itch. Etc...

Good thing is... you know theres a problem and you have loads of time.

How best to resolve? Demonstrate behavior. Don't buy alot. Be somewhat austere in your belongings. At a later age, show him how to take care of stuff. For example, show him how to clean and wax his bike, lube the chains, etc. You may already be doing this so it might just be gradual behavior modification. Buy toys that are more meaningful (obviously age appropriate). One toy I'm glad I had was Legos. Could build anything I wanted with the same basic toy. Or Lincoln logs. I also built models. Required lots of concentration and attention to detail, and patience to get to the end result. Just some ideas..

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2013, 01:59:30 PM »
Addressing it and putting your foot down, as much as it's painful to do so, is the biggest step to take. Just stay strong! Can you put the not-yet-given toys out of eyesight? My 3-year-old hasn't yet figured out that I have a stash of new and new-to-him toys and books in the basement. If he knew about it, he'd probably ask! Heck, when my spouse found out about it he raided the book pile almost every day. :/

Out of sight, out of mind!

Also, with the toys he has now, it might help just to rotate them. Pack up a diverse box of toys and put it away. If your son asks what happened to XYZ you can pull it out, but for now just let that box sit. In a few months, take out the box and switch the items with items that are currently out. Again, if your son asks what happened to ABC, go ahead and grab them from the box. But otherwise, he probably will never notice. This will also be a good technique for when you're ready to put toys away permanently -- just never rotate them back in, but put them through a dormant phase first.

Hamster

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2013, 02:22:18 PM »
They can have fun playing with rocks, sticks, paper, pots and pans, etc.

Those aren't real toys... I much prefer Bag o' Glass for my kids.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2013, 07:51:58 PM »
They can have fun playing with rocks, sticks, paper, pots and pans, etc.

Those aren't real toys... I much prefer Bag o' Glass for my kids.

LOL! Classic.

oldtoyota

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2013, 06:51:54 PM »
No child has truly lived until they have the "TSA Security Checkpoint" by Playmobil:

http://www.amazon.com/PLAYMOBIL%C2%AE-36138-Playmobil-Security-Check/dp/B0002CYTL2

Joshin

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2013, 12:38:57 PM »
I second packing up toys into bins and rotating them out every few days. Also, even a three year old can help sort through their old toys. We have over-exuberant gift givers in the family, so the basic rule is "new toy in, old toy out," which we began implementing around three.

Even better, have a well-stocked craft closet or bin. When my youngest was around your son's age, we started to encourage him to make his own wants. You want a new track set for your trains? Here's an old rug, fabric paint, and a selection of boxes to build it. Yes, mommy will help. I didn't want to play trucks either, but I enjoyed helping him build his own playset to his exact specifications. The things he came up with! By five he was adept with a hot glue gun and was making Mars rovers from recycling bin detritus. Now at eight, he taught himself to solder with a kit so he could build his own robots. This kid doesn't ask for toys often, in fact there wasn't a single traditional toy on his Christmas list last year. Now, when he sees something he wants, he sits down and draws up plans to make it. Of course, visits to Radio Shack for supplies are just as pricey as Toys R' Us! He has a true DIY attitude and sharp problem solving skills that surpass that of many adults I know, which I credit heavily with us spoiling him with supplies instead of play sets.

We learned this lesson a little late with my older son. He is much more attached to stuff and likes to buy things. He prefers the lazy way out. Why fix a bike when you can get a new one at a garage sale for $40?  Fortunately, he's a seasoned thrifter and likes to hunt out a bargain, and is willing to wait until the price is right.

adventure league

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2013, 12:04:47 PM »
The good news is, he's only 3.

Sounds like the person you need to work on isn't your son but yourself.

If he has as many toys as you suggest. I would get rid of half of them. Yes, get rid of half, not put half away in a closet. Yes, you spent a ton of $ on those toys but let it go. Sell them on craigslist or something if that makes it feel better.

Of the other half that are there, take half of those away and use it as a toy library. You can swap out a toy with one from the library so he's not totally overwhelmed by so much choice.

You can do it (:

MrsPete

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2013, 07:30:54 PM »
First, he's three.  Three year olds don't stick to a single toy for several hours like an older child will.  You can't expect him to be anything except his age! 

Second, when my kids were small, I read several parenting books by John Rosemond, a conservative Christian author.  He believes in old-fashioned methods; for example, spelling things out in advance, setting limits, and holding kids responsible for their actions.  One thing I read years ago in one of his books was the idea that kids should have -- at any given point -- no more than ten toys.  I can't say I ever quite accomplished that goal, but I think it's a good idea to cut back on the number of toys.  With kids, you reach a point of diminishing returns;  if you have too many, the sheer quantity can prevent the child from using anything.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2013, 09:20:53 PM »
First, he's three.  Three year olds don't stick to a single toy for several hours like an older child will.  You can't expect him to be anything except his age! 


The beating will continue until morale improves.

JennieOG

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2013, 09:25:13 PM »
I have two kids and I have had really good luck with this.  First of all, I got them used to not getting something every time we go somewhere so on the rare occasions I get them a gift, they are really happy and appreciative.  We will go to a children's museum and there will be a gift shop and they might ask for something and I will say "our gift was getting to come here today, we aren't buying anything." and that's the end of the discussion. 

If they see something they like at a store and ask for it, instead of saying no I say, "if you still like that at Christmas or your birthday, you'll have to put it on your list!"

I have also started pointing out to my nine year old, who is very smart, how a lot of marketing tricks us into wanting things.  He sees it a lot now too and points it out to me.  We were just discussing this morning how a commercial we saw was tricking people on pricing by saying something was only two payments of $19.99 and $9.99 shipping and handling.  My son was like, "but that's really $50!" He is also really good at spotting junk toys that he wouldn't play with for more than two minutes. 

When my kids were small, I read the Tightwad Gazette and was really struck by something Amy Dacyzyn said about raising kids.  The jist of it was that if you keep buying your kids ice cream cones, they get used to it and are no longer grateful so most parents will up the ante and start getting them bigger ice cream.  She instead chose to stop giving the ice cream until it was exciting again.  This is what I do, and boy, do I have some grateful kids!

Zamboni

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2013, 09:25:49 PM »
Tonight my child said to me:  "Mom, I want to know what it is like to be poor."
Me:  "Just a little bit poor, or sleep on the dirt without any food poor?"
Child"  "Really poor, like in Africa."

While I appreciate her sentiment in this regard, I hope she never really experiences this in the first person.  In some ways she never can really know what that is like, because:
She's had basic vaccinations.
She's literate and understands basic math.

I can think of a couple of experiences over the past few years that might have caused this.  On the plus side, I've noticed in the past year she doesn't really ask for anything for herself.  I can only think of two things she asked for this year:  a rainbow loom and a backpack.  Even when offered, she usually declines.  Does she want new clothes?  Not really.  Shoes?  Those are pretty beat up.  No thanks, she like the ones she has.  Something while we are here at Target?  Naw, let's go Mom.  She wants books and movies, but is perfectly happy using the library.  It drives her shop-a-holic NaNa NUTS!  I'm sure NaNa blames me :-)  It's great, I've got to say, but it seems like surely it will wear off at some point. 

I can't take credit for any special parenting skill as her brother would buy the latest sneakers every single month if it was up to him.  It's still a constant battle to get him to appreciate how good he has it.  They grew up with approximately the same amount of toys.

oldtoyota

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #16 on: August 04, 2013, 11:40:10 AM »
Was just reading The Tightwad Gazette. She addresses this question. Her answer is to provide less. One time, she took her kids for a junior ice cream cone. They savored it. She said most parents would then take their kids for a cone more often. However, the novelty of it wears off. The parents would move up to a banana split and so on. She said her solution was to remove the number of junior cones instead of moving up to the banana split.

Same goes for toys. If they have a lot of toys, they can't appreciate what they do have.


Rebecca Stapler

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2013, 08:19:35 AM »

I have also started pointing out to my nine year old, who is very smart, how a lot of marketing tricks us into wanting things.  He sees it a lot now too and points it out to me.  We were just discussing this morning how a commercial we saw was tricking people on pricing by saying something was only two payments of $19.99 and $9.99 shipping and handling.  My son was like, "but that's really $50!" He is also really good at spotting junk toys that he wouldn't play with for more than two minutes. 


I love this! I used to work in youth tobacco prevention education, and that's how we approached it -- media literacy. We showed them tobacco ads and asked them to deconstruct the ads: What does this ad say tobacco is going to do for you? (beauty, value, etc.) Is that the reality? (wrinkles, expensive, etc.) It's so much fun to see them understand how manipulative marketing is. I did this for children as young as 6th grade and they completely understood.

homemadelatte

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2013, 07:59:59 AM »
The good news is, he's only 3.

Sounds like the person you need to work on isn't your son but yourself.

If he has as many toys as you suggest. I would get rid of half of them. Yes, get rid of half, not put half away in a closet. Yes, you spent a ton of $ on those toys but let it go. Sell them on craigslist or something if that makes it feel better.

Of the other half that are there, take half of those away and use it as a toy library. You can swap out a toy with one from the library so he's not totally overwhelmed by so much choice.

You can do it (:

I agree with the get rid of half.

I read a great book called Simplicity Parenting and that is what she suggested (and then halving again if you really have a lot still!)

We do a toy library with our almost 4 year old and it works wonderfully. We have an Expedit shelving unit in the living room with 6 dedicated shelves for toys (and 4 for books - we have A LOT of books, but that is one thing I don't mind having.....and 99% are from the thrift store!).

One shelf might have a few animals on it from his Schleich collection so he can do some imaginative play, one shelf might have a few toy cars, one shelf has some lego, another with some string, clothespins and cloths he can hang up.

I found having buckets of toys just led to dump it all out everywhere and get overwhelmed syndrome. He is SO much happier with fewer toys!

RootofGood

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Re: How to teach your young child to be appreciative of what he has
« Reply #19 on: September 18, 2013, 05:06:07 PM »
This advice won't help you today, OP, but it helped us in a huge way with our kids that are now 7 and 8.  Sometime around age 4 or 5 start giving them an allowance.  Let them spend it/waste it however they want (with your veto over dangerous or objectionable items of course). 

Soon they realize that money is a finite resource and once you spend it, it is gone.  Sure they will waste a ton of money on crap at first.  Eventually they get it, and realize value in things.  We like dollar store type stores because the kids can still get a couple things with their allowance, and it is a treat to let them go shopping and buy whatever they want with their own money.  It also gives them a reference point when we are at walmart/target type stores and there is useless toy crap that is $5-10 and is nearly identical to the items available at dollar tree.  We gently remind them that dollar tree also carries that item, if they don't mind waiting till we go to dollar tree next time. 

We also point out purchase failures.  When they buy junk, it breaks immediately and is in the trash within 20 minutes of returning home from the store.  Then next time we go shopping they steer more toward the toys or crafts that aren't total pieces of junk.  Hopefully we are crafting some shrewd decision-making skills and teaching them to think critically, and that there are consequences to their actions. Ultimately they are in control of their own spending.