About the Author: Zombie Mum is back this week with an interesting insight on how to teach your children about gratitude and also includes great tips on how to teach them about saving money!
Celebrations run all through the year. We have cake-a-licious birthdays, quarterly Eids, mothers-fathers-siblings-grandparents days, and let us not forget the fun traditions of Christmas. I cannot even keep up with any other moneymaking celebrations, so if you can think of more then please feel free to note them in the comments. Personally, growing up I only knew and cared for my birthday, Christmas, and one Eid – you all know which one – Eid-ul-Fitr where you celebrate the fact that you do not have to starve yourself anymore. Oh and let us not forget the Tooth Fairy! She is most certainly getting more and more generous too, especially for those who forget that their child still has to lose another nineteen baby teeth.
As the years have gone by and the new generations have taken over like little termites, more and more reasons to buy gifts have been created, slowly nibbling away at our already-slim wallets. Society has made it almost imperative to celebrate every person who exists (rightly so) and every little milestone, that we have forgotten what is truly important. Why are people only important on one day?
As parents, all the twinkling lights and delicious cakes most definitely captivate us. I personally think there is some kind of ambient advertising going on because every time there is a cake in my view I have to buy it and claim to be celebrating my birthday, 5 months down the line. The same goes for toys and our kids; they ‘must’ have the newer version of a toy they already have, they just ‘must’. And as parents we feel we need to celebrate like everyone else and therefore we buy the toy, wrap it, and gift it (I hope to the child who requested it).
Has anyone stopped for a moment and pondered over this cycle that we take part in every single year? We get the kids super duper excited one year and the next year they expect the same. I personally make the same mistakes. Every Christmas and Eid I bring my tree down, fill the base with as many presents as I can find, and then wake the kids early in the morning to begin the hunt for what is theirs. Oh the excitement within me is tremendous! I pull out my video camera wanting to cherish the moment forever and film each child ripping away the wrapping paper. My big giant glistening smile slowly starts to tire as one by one the kids begin to feel disappointed by the gifts. “I wanted the blue one of this; I never asked for this; I wanted one like so-and-so; this is the old version,” and it goes on and on. Where is the bloody gratitude? You know what? I’m sending them all back! Fools!
This scenario happens over and over again for every celebration. It is not that my kids are spoilt and ungrateful, well maybe a little, but they have been misguided by me and led to believe that it’s easy to receive anything they want. After all, Amazon on your phone is magic! My kids failed to see how hard their dad worked or how much time I took to spend his money and make the celebrations so special. They do not realize they have more than anyone else because economic welfare is so much better now than it used to be. Did they even notice the balloons or streamers or homemade cake that took bloody hours? I think not. Things had to change.
I took a stand! I promised myself the kids would only receive 1-2 gifts for their birthdays and Eid. I called the grandparents and told them specifically that they could only buy books or one item of whatever the child asked for. For everyone else, I suggested that if they really wanted to give something then money or a gift card would be the best option. You’re probably thinking that this does not really solve the gratitude issue, right? WRONG! (I feel so powerful saying that)
Now, my kids are excited to receive just a few gifts that they asked for and then count the money or gift cards they received. Oh, they get so excited putting their money into their wallets, which of course I wrapped and gifted of course. Then I tell my kids, “Once every two months we can go to the toy shop and you can get whatever you would like using your own money.” Aha, I do not have to spend another penny for the rest of the year if I choose not to. I’m also letting them know that they are responsible for their choices in how much to spend and what they dispose of it on, so they cannot complain and they usually become a little stingy on how much they then use. In their eyes money is treasure and must be savoured for as long as possible.
Easy so far, right? Now I take it a step further. I tell my kids to count their money and set aside 10% of it (10% is encouraged by investors). I have them then set aside another 10%. Sometimes I have to pull out a little extra on the side and tell them to leave it in the wallet and save it for next time. This is to ensure they do not get overly excited and use it all at once. Now, the child puts the 10% set aside into a charity of their choice. The other 10% is put into an envelope labeled ‘Savings’ that I keep safe. Whatever money is leftover is spending money, but a suggestion is thrown in; “If you would like to buy another car then let us think of one of your many cars that can be given away,” for example.
Having a child search charities makes them aware that they are so lucky to be in a Western world with an abundance of food and toys. Having them “save” their money allows them to see the benefits of their wealth accumulate in the long run by making small contributions. Having the kids give away a toy to make space for a new one prevents hoarding and gives the power of choice too.
All small acts help to create gratitude. It’s a word thrown into every conversation. Adults and children alike are forgetting how to be grateful for anything and everything. By all means celebrate all you want because I know I will. I will find any reason to party and eat cake, it’s what makes me happiest, but enforcing my children to do small things to increase their gratitude will only encourage me to do the same for myself.
‘The apple does not fall far from the tree’ so feed them well so they can grow great roots of their own one-day.