Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Project: Raising Empathetic, Generous, Un-Entitled Kids

It's a topic that comes up a lot. It's written about a lot. Here's the latest one for your reading pleasure:

I think about this a lot. I generally have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to this (or parenting in general, tbh) so I wanted to document what I've done so far and what I want to do in the future, so I can come back here, see where things have progressed well or not so well, and adjust accordingly. I also want to ask other parents what you do to raise empathetic, generous, un-entitled kids. Please share your awesome ideas with me. See? Sometimes the internet IS good for something other than looking up those burning but completely inconsequential questions that come to you just as you're about to fall asleep (like "are grizzly bears and black bears the same thing?") (btw, no, they're not).

I really liked the article above because it provides some psychological background as to why kids are the way they are. And it also gives some solid, practical ways for parents to help their kids better understand the world around them and in that process, hopefully become un-entitled. I've been reading A Path Appears and it actually quoted the same book about how we are more eager to help an individual in need than a faceless many. And I say things like "L! So many kids don't even have enough food to eat so eat that green vegetable!" or "L! You don't need any more Shopkins--some kids don't have any Shopkins!" but I feel like that doesn't really do much for the cause. Who are these so-called "kids" anyway, mom? And truth-be-told, I have, in fact, become my mom because she used to mention the poor African kids all the time as a way to combat our entitlement, and now I'm doing the same thing even though as a kid all I did was roll my eyes. After reading that chapter in A Path Appears, I decided that I wanted to give L concrete examples of how others are less fortunate than her, with a hope that it will instill in her a deep sense of gratitude as well as a tireless drive to help others. I signed up to sponsor a child through World Vision. I actually thought long and hard about the child we should sponsor. At first, I thought maybe we should sponsor a child in Africa, because the need seems particularly great there. But I ended up sponsoring a child from the Philippines. I did this because I wanted to show her the child and say, "look, here's a girl in the Philippines who's your age, she likes stickers like you, she even looks sort of like you, and yet her life is dramatically different than yours." We looked at her pictures together and read her profile that tells where she lives, what she likes, who's in her family, etc. and I could see L getting more and more interested. Just like the story in the article (where the guy's kids are excitedly shopping for two needy kids for Christmas), the WV child's birthday is coming up so L and I went to Target a couple weeks ago and L was way more excited to pick out gifts for her than she usually is for her own gifts.

As the kids get older, I want to make it a part of our lives to regularly and routinely volunteer. If you know of organizations that welcome little volunteers, please let me know. I know soup kitchens and food pantries can use kids for serving, sorting, etc. But knowing J, we might have to wait until he is 16.

I've been praying a lot that my kids would grow up to become people who are marked by humility, empathy and generosity. And you know how it is--raising children is often a very honest, unforgiving mirror of our own lives (and apparently I have one of those mirror mirrors that talks back to you because L will call me out so fast if I exhibit less than exemplary behavior). It challenges me to live my life in a way that exemplifies all these traits that I want to instill in her, because they're watching us all the time, like little stalkers. Well I was away on business the past two days, and when I got home, SH told me that last night, before bed, L prayed for the WV child. She remembered her name, remembered that she's from the Philippines, and said "God, please help my friend J in the Philippines who doesn't have a lot of things." That really melted my heart.

One big thesis of A Path Appears is that the government spends so much money for things later on in life (welfare, prison, etc.), but if even a fraction of that money were spent on babies and toddlers and preschoolers for programs like subsidized childcare, education for poor parents on the benefits of talking to and reading to their children, visiting nurse services to help poor mothers learn how to breastfeed and care for their children, etc., we would, by investing in people from the very beginning, radically change our country (if you can't tell already, I'm a big fan of this book--go buy it and read it). Maybe it won't happen in the near future, but for those of us who are fortunate enough to worry about raising un-entitled children, we have the opportunity to shape our country's future by raising those kids who will then become the adults who will fight for these causes, especially on behalf of those who can't fight for themselves. The world is going through a lot right now. I find myself feeling so sad on a regular basis after reading the news. We often bemoan to each other, "what kind of world will it be when our kids are grown up?" But the funny thing about that statement (which I admittedly say all the time) is that, it sort of makes our kids seem like passive inhabitants and inheritors of this world. But that doesn't have to be and shouldn't be the case. They can make their world better, and I think we as parents have the responsibility to raise them to be the citizens who will make their world better. It's a tall order, but it's also a really noble and privileged one. And please, remind me I said that last sentence when L complains about how her tutu doesn't have enough sequins.