Wisdom Wednesday: Too Much Stuff and Not Enough Responsibility

April 22, 2008 at 11:32 pm | Posted in 1 | 2 Comments

Too Much Stuff – Irresponsible Kids.

Here is one more place that too much stuff interferes with positive energy. You know that too much stuff ruins your closets, makes your house a mess, and embarrasses you when people get in your car. And now you learn that it makes your kids be unable to be responsible. So you wonder, should I just throw all this stuff out? But some of this I need, some I want. And I spent so much to acquire all this.

I am not going to say become monk-like and give it all away. But I do want you to understand what happens when you keep adding things onto your life and your children’s lives and then I will to give you seven skills to help you reduce things and activities. To conclude, I will share how making these changes will increase your child’s sense of responsibility and give your child a much higher self-esteem.

In our culture we have very easy access to quantities of goods and activities. But we are not the first to have this. Throughout history you will find periods where abundance was common. The biggest difference between the past and present isn’t the ability to have, but the ability for even the less well-off segments of society to have in abundance.

But this still does not touch what is happening now. We have a very strong media. Entertainment is simple and easy to come by. But in every single area of the media we are taught that we are inadequate unless we acquire something… more. This more can be tangible- the latest anything, or it can be intangible – kids being signed up for the correct/best program. The problem with this mathematically is we are all living under the influence of pi: That number that mathematicians can never find an end to. There is no end to accumulating.

As your kids keep accumulating, they lose who they are in the process.  They become a responder to the media, peer pressure, and most outside sources. Comfort and satisfaction are not a part of the equation. By having too much stuff you are actually causing your children to become dissatisfied and uncomfortable with their lives and more importantly with themselves.

Here are seven neat and (maybe) simple strategies of reducing too much stuff and activities.

  • Each month have your child choose a specified amount of objects that leave the house- either to trash, charity, or friends and relatives. Pick a day and just get right into it with them. In my house we have 30 for each kid; 15 pieces of clothing and 15 other objects. And believe me, without even actually purchasing much we still have this much to get out of the house each month without much problem.
  • When thinking of getting a new object have your child decide where it will go BEFORE it becomes his or her property.
  • Decide to say “no” and stick to it. It is OK for your child to want something and not have it. And sometimes it is good to yearn for something for awhile.
  • Have your child actually have chores that must be accomplished before an activity or purchase is made. Let them know you are starting a new program. And by all means follow through. Check up on them. Don’t let them slide. Expect them to try and do a good job.
  • Have your children pay with their own money for things they want. This includes activities. And not money that you give them for being your child, but money they earn or receive from others as a gift. You can have them pay a portion.  When my children become 12 they must earn $500 a year to be put towards their activities.
  • Create jobs around the house that your kids can be paid for. These are not regular household chores. The pay is decided before the work, paid at regular intervals, and only if the job is done satisfactorily.
  • Insist that your children create a way to save money.

By creating an atmosphere at home that you do not support accumulating for the sake of accumulating you will give your children the strength to actually be responsible for themselves. This responsibility will spill into every facet of their lives. It may start small, but it will grow and develop.

In the end your children will blossom into individuals with an amazing sense of wellbeing. They will be responsible for their own actions, without the need for others to defend or approve of them.


Tickle Me Tuesday: Do We Expect Too Much of Our Kids?

April 22, 2008 at 12:23 am | Posted in children, dads, Families, moms, Mothers, parents, Self Esteem, siblings, toddlers, Tweens | Leave a comment
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Do we expect too much of our kids? Too little?

Both, actually. Our expectations of children start as fantasies when we are children ourselves. “I’m going to have one boys and two girls.” The fantasies become moreserious during pregnancy as we dream of the child-to-be.

In the newborn period, sleep-deprived as we are, we think about our baby’s future. Like a parent in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone where all the children are above average, we have dreamy expectations of our little offspring. We expect our child to be the first on the block to achieve developmental milestones; to excel at school; to have a great personality and be liked by every peer; to be physically coordinated, athletic, and a good sport; and to be of good character, never tell a lie or bully another kid, or smoke pot.

Well, folks, these expectations ain’t going to come to pass for all of us. Reality always trumps dreamy expectations. In general, parental expectations fall into two categories: expecting too much of our children and expecting too little.

Parents tend to expect behaviors before the child is developmentally ready. For example they expect a toddler to share toys in play group, siblings to always get along, kids to remember what we said. Such parents are expecting too much of their kids. They are being unrealistic and are also worried. “Why doesn’t Max listen to me? What’s wrong with him?”

Parents also expect too little in some pretty crucial areas. We don’t expect young children to do chores and gradually assume their own responsibility for stuff like chores and homework so we keep reminding them. We don’t expect babies to selfcalm so we rock them to sleep or let them fall asleep at the breast long after they should be learning their own sleep associations.

The best way to develop realistic expectations is to pay attention to the child’s temperament and personality and learn a bit about child development. Parent in the moment. Don’t worry about what you or the child did wrong yesterday, don’t worry about how the child is going to turn out tomorrow. Think about parenting today in as realistic a way as possible.


Marilyn Heins, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Marilyn has written over 800 parenting columns published in the Arizona Daily Star. The column originally appeared in 1989 in the Food and More section, however the Star found reader response so strong that it moved the column to the Sunday Accent section, with its larger circulation. The column is often listed in the newspaper’s front section as one of the highlights of the Sunday paper.






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