Raising our kids
Last night Jundo invited members of Treeleaf to think about and perhaps start a new discussion thread on how to raise our kids to be more altruistic, especially during special times such as Christmas, birthdays etc. when it is “all about me”.
It is interesting that Jundo brought this up; I had just had a conversation with my Daughter who was having the same problems with her girls. So many gifts were coming in the mail from grandparents, uncles and aunts that her kids were going nuts just waiting on what would come each day for them. She asked me how did we raise her and her brother so they never felt a great need for things, were content and busy with their lives and both having chose careers of service. We kicked things around, like their being raised in National Parks, a long way from shopping malls, that it was before the internet and the proliferation of electronic toys, computers, games etc. But still that was not it.
We finally came on the idea that it was not enough to just tell kids that they were lucky and that they should “give” toys to other less fortunate kids. Dropping the toys off at collection points for “Toys for Tots” is too removed for young children to grasps the concept of giving. What is necessary is to engage the kids in activity that reflects the Buddhist practice of Samu. Engage the children in the giving process where they see and meet the children they are giving the gifts to. Take them to a community center, orphanage, to make the giving real, little hands to little hands.
When I hung up, my daughter was excited. So will have to write an addition to this post some time after the holidays to let you all know if the idea worked.
I think in some ways we did this for our kids. Not intentionally, but by example. They experienced injured visitors coming to our house in the middle of the night for first aid or other assistance, they were there when my wife provided food and water for Mexican nationals coming out of the desert; through out their life they experienced first hand being engaged with people and families in need.
So following the practice of Samu that includes the whole family seems to be part of a solution to “all about me” in this age of computers, electronics and instant gratification.
Peace for this New Year.
Re: Raising our kids
I think you have some excellent suggestions there, and I'd like to hear how it turns out.
I speak as a kid-free person, but I think setting an example rather than just talking about it really is key. My father worked 40+ hours a week and commuted over an hour each way to work, but, somehow, he found time to be a volunteer firefighter and serve on the school board. Seeing him do that -- and seemingly tirelessly -- instilled the idea that work wasn't my only obligation when I became an adult; I was also supposed to contribute to society in other positive ways, for which I would likely receive no compensation.
Now I work with college students, and I see that a lot of them have been shielded from real contact with suffering. Even those that have had harder lives still have this desire for the latest [insert consumer good here]. Combine this with the barrage of advertising and the planned obsolescence of so many things that they're seduced into wanting/buying, and the focus really does become the pleasure of the new advertised thing, and there's no sense of gratitude for what they already are quite lucky to have.
I'm not sure if there is any place that offers volunteer opportunities for families in your daughter's area, but that would be an option to get the kids involved, and to decrease the emphasis on the getting and having of stuff. Even something irregular, like participating in park clean-up days and the like, might help give valuable perspective. Limiting exposure to what TNH calls the "toxins" in the media would also help, but kids are so marketed-to that it's hard to avoid.
Best of luck to your daughter -- and to all of you raising children in this stuff-saturated environment!
Re: Raising our kids
I consider myself lucky that Jen and I's boys really are pretty good at this compared to their peers. Yes they have the natural child tendency to drool over a new game, or toy...yet they never " expect it" they never " demand it" it's quite common for my oldest son ( 8 ) to flat out say " It looks cool, but I don't need it". When it comes to holidays our oldest actually rather give...he was more upset that " mom and dad" did not have as many gifts coming in and offered to " turn over" a few to balance it out. He very often makes it a point to donate many of his things to other children who he thinks could use something more than himself...
I noticed that they both, again being only 8, and 3 are easily content, and even prefer simple things, like time out...visiting the Japanese tea gardens here in Spokane for a few hours...packing up a traditional Bento lunch ( though my wife has gotten VERY skilled at bento art for the kids) and just spending the time away enjoying the park, watching the koi , or trying to read the kanji on the stone lanterns...and taking the time to watch the Sakura fall in the spring is better than Christmas for them. They understand if things are tight, and have a clear understanding and respect for the separation between what one " needs" and what one " wants".
To be honest I don't know exactly how that came to be, but I have the idea that it is observation, and emulation of his parents, as Jen and I are pretty good about this " though that came more through necessity rather than choice, however bloomed into a philosophy we continue to follow even when wealth is plenty...we dont NEED that extra phone, we NEED to pay the electric bill.
Im a child of the 80's, the age where your worth was measured by your material wealth in all social levels, rich or poor...Im from the " now" generation.. fast food...faster, and much much easier credit....pay for mc donalds on a credit card rather than use it only for big buys like a house, college, or medical emergencies...faster and faster computers, computers that need upgraded every few months... information and communication coming in faster and faster...The generation of no responsibility for choices and actions, one can always blame it on something else... And I see that " I want it all, and now" mentality very heavily out of my generation ( that being the final days of Gen X- early gen-13) and to no shock I see that in the children of our generation.
I could rant forever on this, but a child who see's nothing but this behavior, will know nothing but this behavior, the nature of the parent is the key component here In my humble opinion