By Judith Costello
Advent seems to be the season for an outbreak of a terrible disease called the “Gimmies.” “Gimmie this. Gimmie that. Please!!! I can’t live without it.” I’ve been seeing it at stores everywhere.
So I asked my mom how she kept six kids from driving her crazy with begging for stuff. She reminded me, “You all knew better than to ask for the things on TV or that other people had. We just didn’t have the money. But I channeled your cravings. We had a Good Deed basket during Advent where we kept track of how many good things you could do. And we channeled your free time into old-fashioned work! Remember the ‘rec room’ in the basement? It was created by sanding, painting, sawing and scraping. The reward was that you had a place to hang out with friends. And that was better than a lot of stuff.”
talked to others too about how to deal with the dreaded Gimmie disease. Here’s the list I came up with:
• Limit TV time. The ads are geared toward kids and the pressure is hard to handle. The message is, “Everybody else has this. Why are you missing out?” Kids need a lot of maturity to resist those messages. So it’s best to limit TV time and tune out the commercials. The real world of conversation and games has so much more to offer.
• Give ample opportunities to be creative and read about faith heroes. Children who are encouraged to read and create become more independent and self-assured than those who are educated primarily by mass media. Have art supplies and books readily available. Give such things as presents.
• Use humor. Refuse to say brand names correctly. “You-Go-Girl” becomes “Yu-Gi-Oh.” “Aeropostle” becomes “Going Postal.” We refuse to be in awe of brand names. Our daughter caught on and was going to make a shirt that said, “Hold-it-‘ster” instead of “Hollister.” After discussing it, the kids realize that putting a name all over the front of a shirt is just doing free advertising for a company that charged you a lot of money to do this for them!
• Remember the value of time. When children’s desires aren’t immediately gratified, the intensity of the desire passes. Thus time helps dissipate the need. And if that time is spent in thoughtful interactions with mom or dad it becomes “rich” — far beyond what accumulating things could ever offer. My husband likes to say, “Time is the most valuable gift we can give. Teach children to give the gift of time…‘I will do the dishes’ or ‘I will read a book out loud to the family.’ These will be remembered.”
• Be a good role model. Teach children to appreciate usefulness instead of the planned obsolescence of many goods. The purpose of a sweater is to stay warm not to show off a label. Talk about such issues.
• Use reminders. Phrases like, “You are suffering from a failure of the imagination” help to remind children not to say, “I have to … I need … I must… Gimmie. …” Imagination says, “Make your own. Find something more meaningful. Create your own fad.”
• Use the rule — one thing in, one thing out. It’s an old practice worth remembering: Teach the children that for every new thing coming into the house something old has to go. This creates a balance and helps children realize that they may not want new stuff if some of the old treasures have to be given away to make room for the new.
• Helping others teaches selflessness over selfishness. Children need regular opportunities to share with others. Visiting nursing homes, handing out food at shelters, delivering baskets at the holidays are all ways for children to learn that giving is better than getting. When children see others who are less fortunate, they learn to develop kindness and compassion.
My kids are teenagers now. I posted a joke to poke fun at Gimmie disease. The photo shows a gauze patch and the caption read, “I got what you asked for. It was so nice that you asked for something cheap. Here is your Eye Pad.” My daughter didn’t think it was funny. But an iPad is not a Gimmie at our house!
(Judith Costello, OCDS, is a freelance writer who grew up in Davenport and lives in rural New Mexico. Her website is www.thedailychristian.com.)