My Greedy Kid

January 17th, 2013 by Dionna | 14 Comments
Posted in Children, Eclectic Learning, Gentle/Positive Discipline, Guest Posts, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting, Preschoolers

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Having a hard time sharing or acting “greedy” are fairly common stages for most kids. Some kids have a harder time growing out of these stages than others. Here is what my friend, Shannon of Pineapples & Artichokes, is doing with her daughter to help work through some of the “my my mine” issues.

Please share in the comments how you have gently addressed this with your own kiddo.

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Code Name: Mama - My Greedy Kid

My kid likes stuff. She has always wanted lots of things, and has a very hard time seeing someone else get something if she’s not also getting something. We have left many a play date in tears because the host owned a toy that she wanted to take home. We have had to leave play dates in our own home because she screamed every time the other kids touch anything we owned. Some days she ends up crying in a pile of precious things because the very idea that another person might look at them is terrifying and overwhelming. Recently, she discovered the idea of “lovies” and so, of course, she tells me now that ALL her toys are her lovies, and must come with us everywhere, and are too precious to be played with, even by her.

I cannot give her a treat, or have a treat myself, without that being the topic of conversation for the next week. When can we have hot chocolate again? Why can’t we have hot chocolate today? Why do you get a coffee and I don’t get a drink? Why are we not buying a toy for me, only a birthday present for that friend? Can we skip the party and keep the toy? Can we go to the party and have cake, but not give them a toy? Can we keep the toy and give them this old, broken toy, I don’t want anymore? Can I also keep the broken toy? When is my birthday so my friends will bring me toys? Can I have a half birthday party, so my friends will bring me more toys? Can I have a birthday every month?

It is exhausting. It is maddening. I worry about her future as a hoarder, about her ability to ever share anything, about her ability to make friends if she won’t ever let them touch anything she likes. How can she interact in society when sometimes the dog can’t even look at her toys?

So, despite our belief that you should only say “no” if there is a very good reason, and that my children’s wants should be respected as much as my own, I have set up a number of limits, regulations, and rules around this one area of our lives.

  1. She started getting an allowance around 2, as soon as every trip to the store turned into a gimme fest. At first it was 25 cents a week, but it was enough so that when she asked for random things at the store, she had the power to buy them, or not because she’d spent all her money. I had a little change purse with her money in it, that we could pull out and count, to see how long it would be before she could buy that thing.
  2. I’ve been intentionally creating a world for us where everything is not available at all times. If we go out to lunch we can have dessert or a non water drink, but not both. She can only have one dessert a day, so if you choose dessert at the restaurant, you cannot have a cookie at home. If I buy her something special at the store, we can’t buy something else tomorrow. She gets to pick out one special snack at the store when we grocery shop, but only on our big weekly shopping trip.
  3. When we have a special treat, like making popcorn, I emphasize the fact that this is something that is just happening today, not something that happens all the time. She has started parroting this, and the last time we made cookies and I handed her a beater, she happily told me that this was a “special thing Momma, but we can’t lick the beaters tomorrow!”
  4. There is a limit on how many things can be on her wishlist at once, currently 15. If she wants to add something to the wishlist and there’s already 15, something has to come off before the new thing can go on.
  5. When kids are coming to visit, which she absolutely loves, even though it can still sends her into fits of anxiety, she can pick two special things to get hidden, and everything else is available to be played with under normal house rules. I also remind her that friends will play with your toys at your house, but when they go home, the toys stay with us. Just like we can’t take our friend’s toys home from their houses.
  6. Related to that, since she now has a sibling to share with all the time, all the toys that I buy, or that were already in our possession before she came along, and all books belong to my husband and me. Anything she was given is hers, but it turns out we LOVE to share, so it’s totally okay for that kid to play with “my” truck, or “my” stroller. She seems to find it much easier to share my toys than hers, and the more limited number of things that are hers means she spends less time all around trying to keep her things safe.
  7. We have recently, started talking to her about second choices. While standing in line at the fair and eyeing the pink motorcycle is good, but which one would you ride if the pink one is taken? If it’s E day at preschool, so Eve gets the pink spoon, which color is your second favorite?
  8. We do a lot of giving to other people throughout the year. We don’t force her to participate, like this Christmas where she announced that she didn’t want to pick a tag from the giving tree. We also pay attention to when she wants to give, like when she noticed the request for school supplies for foster kids at her ballet class.
  9. Finally, we try not to attach negative labels to this part of her, and push back when other people do. She is not selfish, she is still learning to share, just like most of her friends. It’s normal to want lots of things, everyone wants lots of things.

My kid is kind, and caring, and giving. She also struggles with sharing. But I refuse to let that define her. It would be ridiculous to attach a label of “incontinent” to a child who struggles with potty learning, and give up helping them figure it out. I think it would be just as silly to assign my child the label of “greedy” just because she’s struggling to learn to temper her desire for things new and old.

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Shannon is former nanny and a current stay at home, crafty, geeky mom to two very energetic kids. She writes about sewing, radical homemaking, and playful parenting at Pineapples & Artichokes, along with featuring her photography. She is passionate about breastfeeding, compassionate parenting, and green living.

Photo Credit: Author

14 Responses to:
"My Greedy Kid"

  1. realmomofnj   realmomofnj

    Greediness is completely intolerable in my house. The second my 3.5-year-old daughter gets selfish or greedy, she starts losing things. If she won’t share, she has the choice to either suck it up and share or I’ll take what she has (“You can either give this to me/your brother/your friend or I will take it and no-one will have it.”) We explain the concept of greed to her, and explain that she has a lot of stuff and plenty of others have nothing. We explain that it is not OK to want more without reason or purpose; you can’t want more for the sake of having more.

    If she starts complaining or getting loud about wanting things as we’re shopping, I explain why she can’t have whatever she wants, or I suggest she save her money for it or ask for it for an upcoming holiday or birthday. That almost always works.

    Hope that helps!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      The problem as I see it is that as adults, we’re not forced to share. Do you give your children your portion of dessert anytime they ask for it? I mean, if not sharing is not tolerable, then that would create a really hard standard for an adult to keep as well. Sharing isn’t the most natural state for any of us, so in our house, we do allow for ownership and “special” things that don’t get shared. Honestly, it’s a stage that every child goes through. It helps me to remember that whenever I’m feeling resentful or annoyed by it.

      • I feel that punishing young children for being greedy doesn’t help because it takes a long time to develop impulse control. Why would I punish her for something that is literally out of her control? I feel like punishing her for losing control and wanting to have all the toys would be like punishing a 2 year old for peeing on the floor, it’s not going to help them be able to get to the bathroom in time, but it is going to instill a huge feeling of shame in them. I am hoping to teach her how to make informed decisions about buying things, and an ability to control her rampant desires through modeling and patience.

  2. Destany   Destany Fenton

    I think you have a really good take on it. My daughter struggles with it too, as all children do.
    I really love your idea of coming up with a second choice when this can be done before hand. That will help me a lot as my girl is very particular about her wants.

  3. Sarah

    We struggled with this for a while, but found talking about her feelings associated with sharing really helped. Also protecting her right not to share.

    We have many broken toys around the house, as well as boxes, packages, wrappers – memories. We talk about how 1 wrapper from halloween candy can save a memory, and she doesn’t need all of them. We give options: does she want to use the wrappers, broken toys etc for a craft, or recycle them in another way?

    We also talk about our process for buying things, or not, we talk about when we get rid of something and where we get rid of it. For instance we buy groceries – we make a list and buy nothing else that way we know how much we’ll spend and have room in the budget for other things elsewhere; we also only go to one store b/c for us this saves us money and time even though we don’t always have access to certain items. We see something we like in a store, we have enough money, we talk about whether borrowing would work, or if buying is best. We bought a TV, so we shopped at different stores, looked online, spent 2 months talking about it, then got it.

    It might seem like a lot of work, but how an adult chooses what to buy or get rid of can seem very confusing and arbitrary to a child.I find the more we talk, the easier it is.

    In the span of less than 2 years our DD went from not sharing, to sharing on her own, to gladly asking to buy this or that for someone or another. She also makes presents for friends pretty much everytime she sees someone. Now she is so incredibly generous we’ve had to break it to her that we can’t actually afford to give as much as she wants.

    Oh my DD is 6 now and I do believe both temperament and development play a lot into it. I also am certain that forcing her to give up something would do much more harm than good. We want our children to enjoy sharing, not sharing because they have no choice.

  4. Kate

    This is a wonderful post and I’m going to save it for the future in case I need it. My youngest sister was always like this and my mother never could bring herself to say no. Now my sister is almost 30, has massive debt from credit cards (that my mom paid off), and still feels entitled to every expensive thing she wants. I want to make it clear that she’s not a bad person (she was in the peace corp and since then has worked for non-profits helping people) but that part of her psyche never developed properly and it’s a real problem for her (and my mom who is still lending her money regularly).

    • My older sister was/is also like this, and now has some problems with hoarding and budgeting. I see so many similarities between my daughter and my sister, and I work really hard not to let those negative associations color how I react. This is who she is, and if I make her think it’s mean or bad, she will have a much harder time learning the necessary impulse control to make this an easier thing for her as she grows.
      I will say that she has had some amazing changes in the last year, and she came up with the idea of getting rid of some of her toys (to make room for new ones) on her own at Christmas.

  5. Love this! We go through many of the same issues. We’ve done the same thing with helping our five-year-old keep her own money and decide if she wants to buy something or not. The other day we went to the zoo and she and her 3-year-old sister got to buy their own toys in the gift shop. It took Suzi forever to pick out just the right thing that her few dollars could buy. She wanted to be sure she wasn’t wasting it. But when her little sister wanted a stuffed monkey that she couldn’t quite afford, Suzi volunteered to help her pay for it. She is actually quite giving, frequently buying little things for others and constantly crafting for them. I think many kids who seem “greedy” in some ways are generous in others. Also, when I think of my own wishlist, and my own precious things I would never want to share, it’s clear that kids are not the only ones. If one of my friends came over and asked to borrow my wedding rings, and I said no, but my husband took them from me and handed them to her because I was being selfish, a tantrum would ensue. It’s hard for grown-ups to understand that children may feel just that attached to what looks to us like a silly little toy or trinket, but sometimes they do! I remember several beloved items from my own childhood. Children need limits, but they also deserve consideration and respect in this area. Thanks for your thoughtful list–definitely saving this to read again later!

    • Oh Jenny, I agree whole heartedly about the giving thing. She is always thinking of things we could buy for people, and her Christmas giving list was super long. I try to really honor both sides of that coin, because it makes perfect sense that someone who is thinking about what they could get would find it easy to think about what other people would want.

  6. Naturallysta   naturallysta

    I love this post too and can relate to it so well! My struggle is always around birthday party time and with the longing looks my kids (6 and 4) give the presents we’re buying :-) I also do wish lists and emphasize the concept of sharing and being happy for a friend who will enjoy getting something so fun. I also acknowledge that it is hard to part with something so nice but that their turn will come soon. It is hard and challenging all the same. One thing that has worked in general for us(and this was my hubby’s idea) was to give ‘badges’ for when they show exemplary behaviour – they’re not given out all the time so they are special and the kids love recounting the ones they have. Thanks for sharing :) x

  7. Natalie m Valles teacher

    At some point you need to teach your child life is not fair! It’s not even! Some people have, some people want, some people need, some don’t. Patience, sacrifice, anticipation, saving up for, sharing, have less of something or none of something, giving to those who have greater need, being deserving of, being selfless……we can go on and on but there’s so much to learn and we have to teach them. There’s no play book, don’t I wish, ( when this happens, do this), and I’m sure we all mess up all the time. It is human nature to want. It is human nature to help and save. Sweet little babies, so cute no matter.

  8. Momma Jorje   MommaJorje

    That sounds very hard on a momma. It sure sounds like you’re handling it beautifully! We kind of… I do not know. We just try and I don’t think we’ve found a good solution here. I know Sasha is too young to really “get” sharing, but we do not tolerate her swiping anything from anyone. She is welcome to trade toys with Spencer, if she can pick something that interests him.

    She has to be reminded over and over again.

  9. Shannon,

    Thanks for your honesty. I have a 5 yr old daughter who has a lot of wants, and not just for things, but for sweets and attention and entertainment and playdates and excitement.

    I really like what you’ve said about not negatively labeling your daughter. My parents were overwhelmed with these qualities in me and called me “demanding” as a child.

    I try and use a lot of empathy. “you’re really wanting another cookie, huh? You’re really wishing that it was okay to have lots of sugar everyday. I wish it were too, but that’s not good for our bodies.”

    I find that when my daughter gets to just have her wants and receive empathy for them, the charge dissapates.

    The trick seems to be for me not to get fearful about what this might mean for her future, but like you say, remember that she is just a child learning and experimenting and working her stuff out.

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