I am not a parenting guru by any means – but I do have a few tried and tested experiences that, I think, are worth a try. I have to precursor this though with my standard disclaimer whenever I get the rare request for parenting advice, every child is different!
What works for one may not work for another, even for siblings. Each kid responds to tactics, affection, criticism, humour, discipline, guidance, etc. differently. It all depends on the environment, experience (as minimal as it is), personality, and approach to things. The odd time though there are some issues that can be handled in a way that would positively work for “most” kids. If not, that’s fine but some are worth a try.
So we are lucky to be surrounded by a lot of generous family members and it is hard to manage our son’s life expectations. The risk of being spoiled is so great that there were times where I just gave up. Having lived in a material based circle of friends in Dubai (which can be avoided if you try) didn’t help. He was surrounded by those with more than what he has, but what he had was well above my standard for too much. Too much attention, too many outings, too much enabling, and especially too many toys.
He got to the point where he would play with a new toy for literally an hour or two before moving on to the next. He always had ample new toys and between that and the outings he barely had time to savour and truly “play” for a long time with all the toys he did have.
Then came a rare period of time where he “glanced” through all the toys he had, plus those we kept for a “rainy day” unopened until needed. Then cam a moment where he literally said “I have nothing to play with” – meanwhile his room was a hoarder’s paradise (a clean freak like me’s nightmare) with piles and piles of underused toys. That straw broke the camel’s back for me, time to take drastic action for this kid to have some toy appreciation.
So initially I thought of donating the toys (which I did), some to other family members with kids, and the local charities. Some toys though were harder to give up. They were great toys, some very educational, almost new and barely used. It was really a shame, and the people who gifted them, made a lot of appreciated effort to buy them for him.
After a couple of unheeded threats, I had asked my wife to take him to the park as a temporary distraction. Literally took all the toys (ALL), maybe kept a teddy bear and a few hot wheels. Stuffed them in any storage space he couldn’t access (my room closet, top shelves, under my bed, etc.)
The shock on his face coming back made it all worth it. I don’t usually get amusement from my child’s utter shock (and visible pain), well not always I should say, but this was much needed. I had told him the toys were given to kids who were in need of toys (which was a partial truth), and if he wanted them back I would have to go and ask them individually and see if they are willing to give them back. Remember this is after at least three threats of getting rid of his toys if he didn’t play with them.
Over the course of weeks (a toy every few days) I slowly brought them back. I also needed my storage space! As he played with his toys he appreciated each one and actually had time to enjoy them. That shock still rings true. My threats are no longer hollow to him and if every few months he leans towards a sense of ungratefulness I make my threats. 4 years in and they still work (obviously this won’t last in a couple more years). But this did save him from a sense of entitlement when it comes to toys, a lot of pain for me seeing wasted things, and gave him perspective of those with no toys in directly. He also told me he thought there were many nice kids who were willing to give back the toys – an added bonus.