My daughter Gianna is 7-1/2 years old. If you have or interact with elementary school aged children, you are probably familiar with the Rainbow Loom. If not, here is a picture below. In a nutshell, it is contraption that allows you to take thousands of little tiny colorful rubber bands and make them into jewelry. It is extremely popular in my daughter's 1st grade world.
She asked for one from Santa Claus this past Christmas. And, the mean Santa Claus did not get her one. Well, actually, Santa was more than willing to get her one. It was mean Mrs. Claus who said no! I am not opposed to eye-hand coordination building skills and spending time making bracelets and necklaces as gifts for people...very far from it!
Rather, I was selfish. I only thought of myself. Because, it would go like this. Gianna would promise to keep them put away in her room and to always clean up after herself. She would promise to keep them high on a shelf in her closet so that younger siblings would not have access to them. Promises!
She would do well for a day or two. And then, inevitably, she would forget and leave them out...or, crafty siblings would drag a chair to her closet and help themselves. And then, they would take over my house! Little teeny tiny potential choking hazards that would make my blood pressure rise at the mere site of them! Instead of calmly picking them up and putting them away, I would RUN to get the vacuum cleaner to suck them up forever :). I would be angry, Gianna would be angry, the siblings who briefly had so much fun with teeny tiny rubber bands would be angry. I decided to spare us all the grief :).
She did not dwell on the fact that she didn't get it on Christmas Day. Because, Santa and Mrs. Claus got her lots of other stuff! Rather, it was when she returned to school after Christmas break. Her teacher, who she adores, DID get Rainbow Loom for Christmas! And, she brought it in for the kids to use during indoor recess (and there's been tons of indoor recess this freezing cold and snowy winter!).
Gianna has become very proficient at making jewelry! She even knows how to use the little clips to secure the ends (which is good because I don't have time to learn how to do that!). I thought she might get it out of her system as she was bringing home a new creation every day (how long is recess, I wondered!?!).
Nope! In fact, she started asking for it double time. At the young age of 7, she was constantly saying, "But all my friends have it!" Ugh!!!!!
I'm sure that lots of parents would just buy it for their children. After all, they aren't even expensive!!! But, I have very strong feelings about this (again, I don't know if my convictions are Holy Spirit driven, my own selfish reasoning, or both!). Christmas is past, and her birthday is not until September. I thought about giving it to her for a good report card (she does very well in school and report cards come out this week).
But, I am reading an excellent book on parenting. My husband just finished re-reading it, and he said, "I think you should read this." I almost always read something when my husband makes a suggestion...I am never disappointed!
The book is called "Compass: A Handbook on Parent Leadership" by James B. Stenson. I haven't finished it yet, but it has already changed me for the better. The chapter on "The Consumerist Family: Kids in Trouble" blew me away. I felt like I was reading about tons of families that I know!
The book points out that these families actually appear quite normal and happy from the outside! To quote, "most children from homes like this are cheery and well-scrubbed, pleasant and smiling, and often very active, but only for things they enjoy. They like to be liked, and in fact they expect to be liked no matter what they do. Since they're used to treating adults (including their parents) like equals, they appear naively lacking in respectful good manner." Etc. Etc. Etc.
You can read the book if you want, but this chapter continues to talk about how in these homes, boredom is the ultimate evil (so we give kids tons of technology, tons of activities, pleasant experiences, etc.), "hassle free" existence of children is the best (anything that keeps kids busy and quiet is key!), parents readily give into children's wishes and feelings, children fail to distinguish needs and wants, etc., etc., etc.
The consequences for kids growing up in these families are dire. I won't get into them, but you can imagine (lots of pleasure seeking with drinking, drugs, driving fast, etc.). The suicide rate is out of control in the United States and it is directly correlated with income ("It is kids from wealthy and middle-income suburbs, not our poorest inner-city neighborhoods, who most often take their own lives").
Okay, if you're still reading, you probably think I've taken this way too far...over a Rainbow Loom...ha!!! But, it really spoke to me. In particular, Stenson's tips which included, "Make your children wait for something they want, and if possible, make them earn it."
So, long story short (much too late!), Gianna is earning her Rainbow Loom! I think they're around $15. So far, she has earned $8. The hardest thing for her is that she WANTS to do chores, but they are not the chores that I want her/need her to do!!! I need her to take care of her bedroom and her things, help with the little ones (within reason...she actually likes holding the baby!), and help keep the playroom clean. She would rather help me make dinner or something more exciting!
We may not be like everyone else, but that is okay...and even good (and hopefully Gianna will love her Rainbow Loom more since it was hard-earned!).
Stay tuned :)
Please Lord, give my husband and I the graces and the "compass" that we need to raise our children up (especially when our world becomes bigger than Rainbow Looms!) into who you call them to be. Amen!