Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The difficulty of teaching life lessons

As a conscientious parent, you work hard to instill good values in your children and bring them up to be good people.  I think everyone has slightly different values and so you bring your children up along the lines that you believe are correct.  Some things of course always remain, hopefully we all want our children to become kind, hard-working, honest people to name a few.  It is not always easy to know exactly how to teach these values to our children, especially when they are young and things can be misunderstood or misinterpreted by a young child.

Values I think is important for me to teach my children is humility, empathy and to know the value of things.  I dont think I am hugely materialistic, (or maybe I am) but I have a habit which drives my husband to annoyance is that when my oldest ask me, for instance, about a large number on a calculator or about an item, I refer to it in a monetary sense.  Now, I know this is probably wrong and teaching her to be materialistic to a degree but it is something that I just do without thinking, and it wasnt until he pointed it out to me that I realised I did it.  I was brought up to save money, to value items.  My parents financially were well but I didnt not get big, expensive presents on my birthdays and christmas, as some of my other friends did.  So somehow it seems the message got a bit messed up in my brain and I now look at things with a monetary view, except I truly appreciate the value of money, nowadays more than ever!  So in this way, as I am trying to teach my daughter the value of things, I am not doing it in a healthy way.

Also in this way, as I want my children to appreciate the value of things, I want them to appreciate what they have and understand how lucky they are, that there are people who dont have all that we do.  To teach them humility.  One of my pet hates in life is spoilt people, especially children, I feel sorry for these children, whose parents have too much money and too little interest that they throw money and gifts and gadgets at their children.  Of course, every parent want to give their children what they want, but there has to be limits, right?  My daughter is always asking for things, as probably a lot of children do, and it drives me crazy.  We dont have a lot of money and she has so much stuff already, that it annoys me that she is not happy and always wants more.  So I try to explain to her how fortunate she is to have all that she has and that she should be happy with what she has.  And then I was thinking about this lesson, I was trying to teach, probably unsuccessfully as we have had this conversation many a time.  And it occurred to me, am I teaching her the right way, or am I teaching her to 'settle', to be happy with her lot and not to strive for more?  Are not the two lessons quite similar and could potentially get mixed up?  What do you think?


  1. Instilling values in our children is one of the most important aspects of parenting I think, and I think that by by teaching her that she can't have everything isn't encouraging her to settle with little. I think children should understand at a young age that there are many ways to be frugal when it comes to spending. It is also very important to teach them the benefits of saving. Fm often has pocket money and wants something bigger than the money she has. It is a fine balance of the two but isn't everything in parenting! :)

  2. There's a happy medium. Just help her understand that 'happiness' comes in other forms than material possessions and she'll be just fine....

  3. We too are trying to severely limit the material stuff because it's just so rampant these days (the sheer amount of "stuff" most kids have and seem to think it's fine to expect).

    Like you we try and teach our kids that happiness is doing family things together and in helping or at least just as much in the little things as the big.

    One of several solutions we found was that our kids are weak in Maths, school asked if we could get them to do more practice and gave us website addresses where the teachers have set up appropriate tasks for each kid, they can also see how many points the kids have scored (per week and globally).

    Our rule is now: each kid has to give Mama and Papa 1000 maths points per week for free, after that they can get a small amount of cash for every *extra* 1000 points added.

    I made a sheet with the weeks on it, their points and how much they earned that week so that they can see their "cash" mounting up a bit like savings book. I put in things like the date of the annual Dutch street market (Queen's Day, end April) and a holiday date later in the year so that they can be inspired to save their accumulated cash to maybe spend some at those times.

    I also made puzzles http://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/new-305/

    where they earn pieces by helping with age appropriate tasks in the house (sometimes they are lazy and don't earn much on these at all). We don't give pocket money as a standard thing... if they want it then they have to earn it.

    Maybe something like the puzzles would help your kids 'earn" their stuff...and learn the value of it?