How Do Parents Deal With the Gimmes?
By teaching children to do research and then some.
Every child goes through a stage of “gimme, gimme, gimme” at some point. How this is handled from the beginning will dictate if the child continues on this path forever or learns that not everything is given to them. A colleague of mine recently told me that each time she goes into a toy store with her son, she comes out having purchased something for him. I asked “What does he do if you say, ‘I am not buying you a toy today.'” I have never said ‘no, to him,” she replied. I feel this is a mistake. Her son has developed a sense of entitlement. He expects to get a toy each time she goes into a toy story. Does this sound familiar? Do you know anyone who does this? The next time she went shopping, she did tell him he could not have a toy. He proceeded to have the worst temper tantrum ever. I am not surprised. Imagine if he had been a teenager! Now that is something to think about.
Have you heard of ‘The Berenstain Bear’ books? One of my favorites is “The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies.”It is a story about how a brother and sister bear want everything in sight. They throw temper tantrums whenever they do not get what they want, when they want it. The family resolves this by teaching about family budget and being appreciative for what they have. When my kids were little they went through the same stage. When they got closer to six I thought how can I turn this into a life skill?
So I came up with this idea. I believe it is my job to teach my children how to survive in the world around them. I believe that means teaching them life skills. Every time one of my children wanted something, I would have them do the research on the computer or in the library as to what the item is, where to buy it, where to purchase it at the best price, etc. I started them doing this at the age of six. At the beginning they found this difficult, but with persistence they have become experts at it. Sound familiar? Then I would go one step further. Even though they have done the research and have presented their findings, they still have to convince me they should have it. I discussed this strategy with them even before they started the research so they knew, even after all their work and effort, they still may not get it. Why? Everything has a price. If they receive one thing, they do so in exchange of something else. This is how a budget works.
Sometimes after doing the research, they discovered they really did not want it after all. Sometimes they would only present the research when they knew the item had gone on sale. Hmm, that is smart. It is all about the value one puts on an item. So now, after more than ten years of doing research, my children are both proficient at it and excellent shoppers at getting deals. They also could become lawyers as their presenting skills are so refined I am convinced they could win any debate that they have done the research on. Seriously, it does not serve you or your child to give them everything whenever they want. We are setting them up for failure and a need for instant gratification. Even though it takes a bit of work to teach them how to do research, the benefits outweigh the effort it takes to start. After all, won’t we rest easier at night knowing we have empowered them with skills that will serve them their entire lives?
Kathleen Boucher is the author of A Simple Idea to Empower Kids and A Simple Idea to Empower Kids: Teen’s Edition
As parents it is our job to teach our children life skills. When children are young it is to their advantage to learn how to do the research for items they want. Then they have to convince us as parents why they should have the item in question. We have now taught them how to do research and how to negotiate.