Little kids can't always tell people what they want, so loving adults pepper them with questions:
Do you want more?
Do you want to play with this?
Do you want a story?
Do you want to go to the park?
Do you want mint chip or almond fudge?
Consequently, kids quickly learn to say "I want _______."
When parents say 'no,' the 3-year-old's brain explodes: "What did you say?! What do you mean it's too close to dinner? What do you mean it costs too much and you won't buy it for me? This is outrageous!!" Your toddler doesn't have all those words, so she reiterates the obvious for stupid Mommy/Daddy: "BUT I WANT IT!!!!!" Tantrums don't always work, but they work often enough to keep hope and self-centeredness alive.
Between the ages of 3 and 4, kids become more aware of the family's power dynamics and they start testing boundaries. That's when a parent's "Do you want ______?" may take on a sinister ring:
Do you want me to take that away from you?
Do you want a time out?
Do you want me to tell Daddy?
Do you want me to give you something to cry about?
Kids are crafty and they learn that coupling a request with a good reason increases the chance of getting what they want.
I want __________, because I am old enough!
I want __________, because I'm the only one who doesn't have one!
I want a new __________, because my old one sucks!
If you are trying to raise kids with a sense of social responsibility, you may need to provide an attitude transplant to move them from "I want to get _____." to: "I want to give ______." Not always easy, but we can do it! We have the technology to connect with organizations doing awesome work. We have longer days during the summer to walk the talk.
Why wait until December when we're hit up for donations from dozens of .orgs? Summer is an excellent time to look around and see where you could spread a little sunshine, some volunteer time and/or some green. Oxfam America, International Rescue Committee, Good Weave, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF and Kiva are some of my personal favorite charities. And there are a million other absolutely inspirational organizations effectively working on local, national and international challenges. Giving to any of them makes you (and the entitled kid you want to inspire) part of the solution. Find out who's doing what and support their efforts. Start your search with Charity Navigator.
Warning: Giving can become habit-forming, in a healthy, life-changing way. Do your kids really need more stuff or might the whole family be in the market for some good karma points?
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