Not the Christmas list!
This week on the Podcast I answer some questions that parents have recently asked, either through he blog or by email. Here's one of them...
My kids are talking incessantly about what they’ll get for Christmas. The school is promoting it and getting them to write letters and TV isn’t helping both in programme content and adverts.
I want to give my children Christmas presents but it seems to be all they talk about.
I always ask – what have you said or tried?
She said that she's talked to them about not being able to have everything they want.
And about 'giving' and who they’d like to give to. But she said, "It’s hard to get their minds off their own wish-lists."
She’s concerned they’re going to be disappointed. But what’s really bothering her is the character issue, the ‘I want’ thing.
But when they’re talking excitedly about Christmas lists, it’s not the moment for a little lecture on giving. It’s actually a moment to lean in.
They have a need
It’s to share their hopes and dreams.
Leaning in doesn’t mean committing to 'the list.'
Understanding and agreeing are not the same thing. Just because you listen to them and hear their wants and hopes, doesn’t mean you have to provide them.
Let me give you an example.
If I was just about to close on a house sale and the buyer pulled out and I shared with you that I’m completely thrown and concerned, and that I just wanted it to go through. - when you empathise with me, does it mean you have to buy my house?
No, it doesn’t.
I realise that this analogy isn’t perfect because it’s not a parent/child issue with an expectation involved, but the point to take is that empathy is always ok.
You can lean in.
Let’s see what that could sound like.
Child: "We wrote our Christmas lists today at school."
You: "Oh did you, what did you put on yours?"
Then the child lists off all sorts of wonders they’ve seen on screen
And your instinct is to say, "well, don’t get your hopes up!"
But leaning in would look like...
"Oh wow, wouldn’t that be amazing! Tell me what you love about those things."
Or pick one thing;
"tell me what you love about the Millennium Falcon lego set (at the steal price of 140 quid)
Get in their shoes!!
Their imaginations are critical to their identity in their formative years.
Let them dream
Let the agenda for the conversation be to dream and share without fear of reprisal
Remember, this is all practising ground.
They're noting, 'Can I dream big with mum or dad or do I get shut down?'
If the agenda is managing expectations, they won’t get the dreams out.
Does that mean you have to come up with the Millennium Falcon? No it doesn’t.
So how do you do that? I would say, not necessarily in that moment.
Perhaps you could go on to share what you would love in your wildest dreams.
Go with the flow...
I’d love a Mazda MX5, with a soft top.
I’d love some GHD hair straighteners
A new Kenwood machine
Enjoy their dreaming
Dream with them.
They may ask whether those things are likely, and you can be honest and say, well, I don’t think I’ll be getting all of that, but there are some things I’d love that perhaps I might hope to get. Again, you’re not managing their expectations, you’re just having a dreamy conversation.
The thing is
I may not get the MX5, but it doesn’t stop me wanting one.
They may not get the six-storey doll's house with all it’s furnishings, but it doesn’t mean they can’t want one.
Desire doesn’t go away just because someone told you that you can’t have it.
'Ah, but' I hear you say. 'then how do I ensure they’re not cataclysmically disappointed on Christmas day?'
And the answer would be - because you can have had some expectation-managing conversations. You can have conversations about what we give as well as what we get. But just not when they’re in full flow of dreaming big dreams.
In a quiet moment you can chat to them about what sort of things they can expect and how to prioritise on their wish list.
In a quiet moment you can decide as a family or individually how to be generous at Christmas time.
To each other
To people in need
And with time-
Whether that’s inviting or spending time with someone who needs a friend
Or walking through town and taking some warm drinks to homeless people on the streets
Or doing something kind each day or each week.
These values are really important and there is time to invest in the principles, but they can be two different conversations.
So hopefully you won't feel too concerned about their wish list and enjoy their big dreams and have some of your own too.
This week I also answer questions on consequences - and when not to use them.
How to lean in
how to help them to manage themselves - when to zip up and let them in the driving seat.
pop across to this week's blog here
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