Thursday, May 7, 2015

Too Much Too Soon...

When my little toddlers were ages 2 and 3, I couldn't WAIT to give them a kitchen set!  My husband and I saved and we purchased a Fisher Price kitchen set, complete with pots and pans and a dish set and even groceries.  It was a big purchase for us, and their Christmas gift had to be combined.  I remember Christmas morning when they woke up.  They were totally disinterested in the kitchen set after the big hoopla my husband and I threw over it.

At that moment the realization hit me that I would never again give my children something that they didn't even know they wanted.  I never wanted to take away the feeling of wanting something, working towards it or looking forward to it with anticipation for awhile, and then finally being able to have it!

Without realizing it, parents take joy and anticipation away from their children, often leaving them nothing to look forward to.  Everything becomes commonplace and not too much to look forward to any more!  Nothing to work for or towards; nothing left to impress...

I'm at Disney World, and it amazes me to see little toddler girls walking around with hair, makeup and nails professionally done at at a children's boutique beauty shop, with complete princess costume costing almost $200 for the experience!  When my girls were in high school, I limited their monetary expenditures for Homecoming and Prom to less than this amount!  I wanted them to "save" some of the big boutique things like nails, hair and fancy dresses for their weddings!  I wouldn't let them rent a limo (although many parents were renting limos for their children!), telling them that they could rent a limo when they got married.  My girls shopped around and could choose hair, nails or fancy dress but not ALL of them.  I told them it was way too much money to blow in one evening, for a dress you would take off after a few hours for the after party, and hair you would take down at the end of the night.  After all, they had more important things they were saving money towards that mattered more:  their car and their every day clothing, which we weren't handing to them so they could carelessly spend the money my husband exchanged his life to get!  Consequently, I have very practical girls who balance their expenditures on whether a short-term purchase is worth not having things they need every day.

I am proud of my son and daughter-in-law who just took their 3 year old to Disney and had them spray glitter on her hair and called it a day.  She was just as excited and they were able to spend the $200 elsewhere!  At least if you are going to do something like that, make it something they look forward to for a long time and are old enough to realize what a big deal it is.  Or go for part of it and forego the hair extensions or some of it, teaching a more moderate approach...

It makes me so sad to see little toddlers hauling around a $100+ American Girl doll with her $150 accessories and clothes that cost more than their own clothes!  It is absolutely RIDICULOUS!  When my girls were younger, they loved and read all the American Girl books.  I never bought them a doll. I am not criticizing those who do, but encouraging you to make them look forward to it and long for it for awhile and then make a big deal about it.  I admire one of my friends who waited until her granddaughter was old enough to have wanted an American Girl doll for quite awhile and then took her to get one for her 7th birthday, making it a huge deal.

This is not about the children; but it is a lack of good parenting.  Parenting that supposes that more is better and success is equivalent to achievements.  The sad part is that teens lack purpose and drive more than ever.

In his book, Confident Parents, Exceptional Teens, Ted Haggard writes that in order to impart purpose you need to first:

  • Know your own purpose.
  • Write a Family Mission Statement.
  • Know the power of your words
  • Enjoy the purpose of the present.
Haggard says, Every one of us needs to develop the habit of regularly pausing and thinking about our purpose.  Why did God create mankind?  What is His plan for our lives? What is His plan for my life? Does He have one? Am I fulfilling it? The point is that if we can answer those questions we will know exactly how to live.

People who have lived well know that purpose not only directs your future, but also gives value to the present.  Purpose lets you stop and breath, love and embrace, and look lovingly into a child's eyes.  

We are so busy during our twenties preparing to be thirty that we don't value our twenties until they are gone.  Then, when we are in our thirties we feel a little old, and we're starting to get a little fat, so we wish we were in our twenties again, but we're too busy to do much about it because we're preparing for our forties. When our forties come, we've got to make a lot of money to pay for college expenses for our kids and retirement expenses for us, and now we have reading glasses and our knees ache a little, so we long for our thirties, but have to eat right to prepare for our fifties. On and on the cycle goes. Soon, we find ourselves old, tired, and lonely, wondering where life went and expecting to find a list of accomplishments or travels to justify our lives.

But that rationale misses the point. Life isn't just going somewhere and doing something. Life is relationships. It is enjoying the day, working and laughing with a friend. Shut off the television and stop wasting life by watching others live - get out and live life yourself. Breathe, smell, gaze at the sky, listen to the birds. As a parent, this means embracing your children while they are young. Enjoying the spilled milk, the late night fevers, the children sleeping in your bed because they are scared...

Purpose cannot be discovered or defined for our futures until we can do it now.  Right now. In this moment, this hour, this day. By being content with the great things and the little things. once we're content, then we can project into the future and decide why we are here and where we are going. But if we don't stop and live, life will be stolen from us by urgent matters.

What does this have to do with being a confident parent? Everything. It is worth our time to learn the secrets of enjoying parenthood. Not only will we be happier but we will create a mood in our home of freshness, security and trust. Our kids will love seeing us laugh easily, they will enjoy sharing their lives with us, and they will be free to discover the wonderful purpose for their lives. (Taken from Confident Parents, Exceptional Teens: Creating a Teen-Friendly Family by Ted Haggard and John Bolin)

To have purpose we need to simplify.  “Many of today’s behavioral issues come from children having too much stuff and living a life that is too fast. I would visit from breakfast to bedtime, I helped the parents simplify their routines and lives and very often the parents see an improvement their child’s behavior within days,” says internationally recognized author and counselor counselor Kim John Payne.
Payne asserts that many of today’s child behavior problems comes from TMS – Too Much Stuff. “All children are quirky, that’s what makes them lovable, who they are. But these cumulative stresses slide those quirks along the behavior spectrum into disorders – the dreaded “Ds”. Simplicity Parenting is a way to slide the child back down the spectrum. They go from having a label back to being lovable and quirky.”
Payne has traveled through Asia and Africa helping families devastated by AIDS or war. He says children in western countries have many of the same stresses – but for the opposite reasons. “There is not a lot of difference between how kids over stressed are acting in parts of Asia and Africa. “The children in the developing world often have had negative sensory overwhelm, and we give our children sensory overwhelm here – too many trinkets, too many choices, too much information – and this causes a cumulative stress issue in kids that leads to behavioral disorders.” “Our children are living in the undeclared war on childhood.”
“It’s about warmth and connecting… everything becomes easier.”
Payne will help parents at the talk create their own Simplicity Menu for their family, breaking it down into five layers: Simplify the environment (books, toys etc), meal times and food, schedules and information. He asks that parents see childhood as an unfolding experience, not an enrichment opportunity. “If it is an enrichment opportunity, then we’re in an arms race, trying to get the most for our child. This is fundamentally a con, and not healthy."
He adds that children respond well to this approach. “You choose whatever fits naturally in your family life. When a family simplifies, the kids love it. It’s not a battle. We think kids will put up resistance but they don’t; they like it.”
“It’s about warmth and connecting. In simplifying parenting we get closer to our children, they no longer have to fight for our attention, everything becomes easier and it is actually achieved by doing less," Payne says. 
Parents who take steps along this pathway to simplify their homes and their schedules, to introduce more predictable rhythms and to filter out concerns which children are not yet able to cope with, find that their children:
• Are calmer and happier
• Do better socially and emotionally
• Are more focused at school
• Find it easier to comply with family rules
• Become less picky eaters
These parents also find that they themselves:
• To have a clearer picture of what they value as parents
• Are more united with each other in their parenting

• Have more time and energy for connection, relaxation, and fun.

Challenge:  Know your purpose and live it and give more value to your present. Help your family know and realize their purpose as well. Avoid the TMS (too much stuff) syndrome!  Simplify the environment (even putting some toys away for awhile and then switching groups of toys so there aren't so many choices!).  Don't allow your child to make so many choices or give them too much information too soon.  Keep their schedules and their lives simple and predictable and enjoyable!  Learn to say "NO" to the overload!  Don't give your children stuff before they even want it; better yet, give them opportunities to work for and towards getting things they would like!