Bucking a common mentality in our culture will help preserve your child's joy and wonder.
If you want to keep your children happy, make sure they don’t have absolutely everything they want.
This idea is in contradiction with the popular mentality that preaches that we should have “everything, right now,” in a world in which many people in developed countries have everything they need. People often (mistakenly) believe that the way to make children happy is to bend to all their desires and satisfy their every whim, making sure they never get bored. And yet, “if we want to re-enchant childhood, we should stop spoiling children,” say Valerie Halfon, budget management consultant and author of a book in French on this topic.
Avoid giving too soon
The current trend is to consider children as mini-adults. Marketers call this phenomenon “kids getting older younger” (KGOY). This is promoted especially by fashion, entertainment, and electronics industries, but also by an educational system that leaves no time for play, discovery, or boredom. Maria Montessori said, “Let our children grow at their own pace! Let’s stop overstimulating them … This is useless! it exhausts them, and it exhausts us! Just accompany them and let them fly freely!” This remark rings true when children have packed schedules like business executives, and where girls are already dressed and made up like grown women.
Avoid giving too many things at once
Mountains of gifts at Christmas, a host of diverse and varied activities during the holidays, abundant sweets and snacks that put to shame the dessert carts of great restaurants … In wanting to please children, we sometimes achieve the opposite effect: they become tired of everything, bored by instant gratification, and eventually disillusioned.
On the contrary, “experiencing need develops in them an essential quality: gratitude,” says Valérie Halfon. “Parents don’t always realize how much getting their kids used to things may make them jaded.”
It’s by overcoming small frustrations that kids learn to excel and grow. “Children who don’t expect to be offered the moon on a platter are happy with everything they receive. And when they are accustomed to feeling gratitude and empathy, they’re much happier. ”
Avoid serving everything on a silver platter
Excessive consumption, overabundance, and overflowing options make children passive. Everything is easy, at your fingertips. But “if we want to allow them to become autonomous, creative and happy, we must avoid spoiling them too much, because it’s not having something that motivates us to search for ways to obtain it,” says the author who asks this important question: “If you give everything to a child, if he finds everything at hand, why would he want to make an effort?”
Teaching our children to live and play within certain limitations will prepare them more realistically for adulthood, make them more grateful for what they have, and help them to explore their toys and world around them more actively, getting more fun and wonder out of them.
It will also allow them to discover the joy of anticipation, studied by psychologists. Truly, as paradoxical as it may seem in a consumerist and materialistic society, “having it all and having it now” won’t make us as happy as knowing what it is to experience want and how to savor the good things we have.
Valerie Halfon is the author of “Tout le monde en a un, auf moi!” (“Everybody has one but me!”)