It is a material world out there: the latest toys, the fanciest gadgets, the most expensive clothes. Children are specifically targeted as consumers and are being encouraged to become more materialistic than ever in this age of instant gratification. They want what their friends have and sometimes may demand material rewards for work or for good behaviour.
While it is not wrong to buy things for your child, as parents we must recognise the dangers of materialistic values, for example, when our children start to value material possessions over people and relationships. Prepare your child to live in a materialistic world by equipping him with values that will ensure that he respects and values people above things.
Children can be self-centred and up to a certain age, are unable to comprehend that others around them have needs too. Kindness, thoughtfulness and consideration are values that your child may not understand in the beginning, but you can begin in small ways. For instance, remind them not to make noise when others are talking on the phone, encourage them to help the maid clean up if they have made a mess, and have them share the television with other family members so that everyone has a turn.
Thankfulness is a value that takes time to nurture, so start small: teach your children to say thank you whenever the maid prepares a meal, or whenever they receive a gift.When talking to your child about his day at preschool, encourage him to tell you about the positive things that have happened, rather than complain about all the unfortunate ones. Putting up a calendar in your home where your child is asked to contribute one thing he is thankful for each week will also help inculcate the habit of being thankful.
Any form of relationship requires give and take. Teach your child both so that he can appreciate the joy of giving and accepting from others with grace. Encourage your child to invite his preschool friends over to play, or if your child is much younger, you can invite a family member or friend who has a child of the same age. Let your child have fun making friends and use this opportunity to teach him what it means to be generous, for example, sharing his toys with others. Young children can also be taught to be generous to people who are in need. They can be encouraged to give away toys, clothes and books to good causes.
Inculcate politeness from an early age. Introduce the words “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”. Teach your child the meaning of these phrases so that he understands why they are important. For example, we say thank you to the maid because she helps us keep the house clean. Use these words consistently yourself and make it a part of every family member’s behaviour. Your child will soon pick it up and when he does say his first “thank you”, praise him for doing so.
WALK THE TALK
Your children are like sponges – they learn by observing the words, actions and the values you exhibit every day. So, be thankful, thoughtful and generous with your child. Respect him by being polite even when you are being firm. Never expect your child to do things that you or your spouse are not prepared to do. Remember, the most effective form of leadership is by example.