My daughter recently recovered from a bad case of the Gimmes. Of course, it’s like the cold, there will be different variants of it that pop up over time—particularly over the holidays—but thankfully we seem to have found a quick solution.
After a rough week of the Gimmes, my daughter came home from ballet class immediately demanding MORE. She wanted to eat out for dinner, she wanted to be entertained, she wanted someone to play with her. All this from the child who had just had a grandparent visit and gone to her weekly ballet class. That should be treat enough, right? Of course, the Give Me bug can be a nuisance to anyone, but I seem have a personal pet peeve that goes beyond normal reactions. So I was upset, more upset than I should have been, and I set out to fix it.
We talked. As any [honest] parent of a preschooler will admit, that does nothing. So we moved on to the next step and read a nice story about generosity. Also nothing.
Step three. This is where the real magic happened. In a particularly lucid moment, I grabbed a brown paper bag, a paper plate, and two green markers. I handed my daughter the paper plate and markers and told her to color a big, scary, green monster. She did her absolute best. I told her to keep adding details until we both felt it was complete. Then we glued the monstrous head onto the paper bag to make a puppet and we played two games.
The Green Monster Games:
- The first was a tickling game. The Green Monster would attack unsuspecting passersby, growling, “I want more!” And the only way to stop him was to name something you were thankful for. So that mean old Green Monster attacked my daughter, nibbling at her ticklish neck and growing for “More! More!” until my daughter shouted out, “I’m thankful for my dress!” And with a whine, he melted away like the wicked witch of the west.
- The second was reading game. We have a book of Aesop’s Fables, so we pulled it out and found the story about the goose that laid golden eggs. In short: a poor couple discovers their goose lays golden eggs and they soon become quite wealthy. But they always want more. Eventually, they cut into that goose to get all the gold at once, only to find it’s a plain goose on the inside. Throughout the story, I had my daughter hold the puppet, and any time she heard a phrase like “I want…” or “I wish…”, she was to attack the book (or me) with her puppet.
Honestly, with fun and giggles, it worked magic. She even started to think wanting or wishing was bad, so we had to backtrack a bit and tell her it was alright to want something, but we needed to stay grateful for what we have. The Green Monster got such a workout that the paper bag died before long. But since then, when she starts to catch a case of Gimmes again, we are usually able to offer a quiet reminder that “it sounds like you have the Green Monster,” and she tends to calm down.
Going into the holiday season, when they are given so much, many children begin to get the idea that they can have anything and everything they ever wanted. As Joshua Becker beautifully explains on Becoming Minimalist, “You allow them to keep looking for happiness in the next toy, the next game, the next purchase… Maybe if they were required to find happiness in the toys they already have, they just might find it.” (Quote changed slightly from “he” to “they” because hello, girl mom here.) It’s also part of the Diderot Effect. The more we have, the more we want.
So as we wrestle against the tyrants of consumerism and marketing to keep our Christmas sane and sweet, we’re probably going to need a new Green Monster to have on hand. And in the meantime, we’re focusing our November on two immune-building activities: Thanks and Giving (not just giving thanks). We’ve cleared out toys to give to others and we’re filling in our Thankful Tree every evening at dinnertime. It’s been a sweet month and I see my children growing, but I know they (and I) will continue to wrestle against the Gimmes throughout life. It’s only natural. I’ve realized my original anger at the problem was unjustified—she had simply caught a bug that we all catch from time to time. But I want to do everything I can to help my children grow a healthy immune system. Because hey, I need it too.