By Ari Margolis, LAC. Chanukah is just around the corner. You know what that means; it’s “gift giving time.” For some of us, that can be dreadful. Our children are creating their list of “must haves,” and we are going to start hearing, “but my best friend has it,” it’s not fair!”
It bothers us. Why can’t our children just be happy with what they have?! “We just spent so much money on presents and they’re still not happy.”
We all want to raise children who are happy with their lot; children who are content and who are not looking over their shoulder to see what the other person has. Below are some points to be on the lookout for or to work on that may help you and your family through the Chanukah season. Please note, however, that the values that we want to instill in our children don’t happen overnight and especially doesn’t get taught when the children (and us the parents) are not ready to listen, like on Chanukah. These ideas should be implemented throughout the year. If done with consistency and with heart, it can be done.
We have to look at “what is a gift?” The balee mussar explain that giving creates love. The act of giving in itself is what is important. The fact that someone took the time to think about the person is what counts. Just handing something over to someone is not a gift; it’s just doing some mundane transaction.
A true gift is giving with feeling and giving without expecting anything in return! That’s giving.
We get lost in the hoopla of giving presents and all that goes with it. We forget what a “gift” is.
We have the opportunity all year round to teach our children and to practice this idea; for example, when your child asks to pass the ketchup. There are three ways we can think of when passing it. 1. There is noise on the other side of the table and in order for it to be quiet; I have to pass the ketchup. 2. I am a nice person and another person asks me a favor, “sure I will pass you the ketchup.” 3. I love you. The person I love wants ketchup and so I will pass it. Now that’s giving!
Particularly if you have difficulty connecting with a specific child – the child needs all the love he/she can get and therefore, the answer is to give.
As parents we have to look inward and ask ourselves; are we practicing what we preach? Do our children see us chasing after the Jones’? Do they see us getting or talking about getting whatever comes to our mind? Do we say thank you, when someone does us a favor? Remember, most learning is done by watching what others do, especially people that we look up to.
There is nothing wrong with saying no. No is an answer. You don’t have to and you shouldn’t negotiate with your child. When you make up your mind to say no, stick to it. Saying no is actually a good teaching experience for your child. The adult models the setting of limits and teaches wants vs. needs.
If you find that there is some reason that you can’t say no, you have to ask yourself; are you scared to say no? Deep down, do want your children to have everything because you as child didn’t have the opportunity to have what you wanted? Or maybe we don’t really understand the implications of not saying no.
It also pays to find out why your child really wants that toy. Is he having some type of unusual social pressure from the classmates or neighbors? He might think the only way to have friends is by having the best toy on the block. He might feel like he HAS to have the toy to be socially accepted. – This is more than “I want it because my friend has it.” Therefore, you would want to investigate if he has “healthy” relationships with his peers.
On a deeper level, the child might be testing the relationship he has with his parent(s). The child might be asking himself, “Does my mother love me?” Not realizing that the toy is not a barometer for love, and that would be signs of some deeper emotional issues.
Don’t forget, overindulgence happens because we love our children and it is all around us, especially during the Chanukah season but we definitely can change the way children perceive gifts. It has to be taught and it takes self-discipline on the parent’s part. But it can be done.
In closing, we cannot lose the opportunity as parents to instill this value of gift giving and receiving and in return we can raise a healthier child.
Don’t forget, what a child really need is you. That is the biggest gift a child can receive. A child whose heart is filled with love and security will not have to look for outside stimuli to satisfy them and their self-esteem and, in turn, their self-worth will be strong.
May Hashem help us to come out from the Chanukah experience as stronger parents and in turn we should see nachas from our children.
Ari Margolis LAC, has masters in Mental Health Counseling, is a therapist at Counterforce and has a private practice in Lakewood NJ. Ari Margolis specializes in children and adolescents. He can be reached at 732.664.0949