Early in May 2016, a journalist approached me with the following 3 questions. She needed clarity for an article that was later published on DRUM Magazine for the second week of May. I have posted my responses here so that we all learn from it.
Question. Entitlement – I want what
I want and I want it now? Can you give a short example?
Answer: Before I answer this question, I will like to introduce the controversy that parents today are themselves very entitled. They want what they want and they want it now. Our inability to acknowledge and control our urge has played out in our children. In my family, we are practically at the stage where our children do not often consciously feel entitled and if they do, we are quick to call them to order. However, to take the route that I am travelling now, I consistently told my children that they need to proof to me that they want what they want. I told them that what becomes theirs is what they worked or paid for. If they do not work for something and needed it, they have to get into a communication with the owner of the thing. I started teaching them that they have to express their wish to have or share what is another person’s. As a result, we adopted the phrase ‘you want, you don’t get’ to groom our younger children. We still use it today because no matter how hard we try, children will always be children and both natural and unnatural characteristics will always play out. So an example is ‘mommy I want yoghurt’. Of course I buy yoghurt for my children, but they cannot want it because I bought it with my money. They have to ask if they could have some yoghurt. Want is a strong and destructive word and children must be taught the meaning of this word from when they are very young; by ages 2 to 3.
Question: Delayed gratification – teaching your child to wait for what they ask for.
Answer: Well I now do scheduled buying. A short example is that I keep ice cream for them in the freezer. If they ask to have it on an outing, I tell them that they still have that which we bought at home, and that they could have it when we get home. It does not matter how long that takes. I do not really negotiate with them, but I often explain the benefits to my children most times when a new concept is introduced. I make sure that my children cannot have now what they have to have in an hour. An ongoing practical example of delayed gratification in our household is the popping of champagne. For the past 3 years, we have popped champagne at the end of every term to celebrate our children’s hard work. They had been into this routine and instead of looking forward to a holiday of rest, they verbally looked forward to the champagne. In the evening of the last day of term one, champagne was brought out as we had dinner in the presence of 5 visitors. As we ate, I announced to our children that unfortunately we will not be popping champagne on that day. I told them that we shall do so on the last day of the holiday (2nd of May). My children were disappointed, but guess what, my first son turned around and said ‘at least it gave us reason to look forward to the start of the term’
Question: Teaching your child to work hard for what they want? An example will be appreciated.
Answer: I have so many examples where my children work towards their daily living and not what they want. We provide what is due to them (needs and related luxury), and the word WANT would start existing when they leave our house as independent adults. For this reason, the cleanliness and tidiness of their individual bedrooms is their responsibility. So too is the tidiness and cleanliness of their bathroom, TV room and play areas. Sporadically (when we are home) they clean the house, do the dishes, mop the floors, cook meals like stew and rice, spaghetti, pasta, etc., bake what they would like to have and make breakfast if they would not like the boring cereals. They clean the house, make and sell lemonade on our streets, sell avocado from our yard, help me in the garden. My children are still a little younger, so my helpers, husband and I often polish what they do; sometimes we have to redo it completely. However, they are brought up to believe that the people my husband and I pay to work in the house are working for us and can occasionally help them. Note the different between work for us, and help them. But the most important thing to me is that my children are all saving money from sales, gifts and earnings in their personal bank accounts towards their future. It could be for or to subsidise their first car, house, education, trip oversea, etc. not wants.
Victorine Mbong Shu
Author and Conversationalist on Involved Parenting
Availability of book
Copies can be bought from the following avenues;
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