How to Make a Monster in Three Easy Steps
- Monday, December 08, 2008
A few years back we rearranged our furniture. We wanted to move the TV into a position that would better suit all six of our kids. We found the perfect spot: we moved it into the dumpster. We figured the easiest way to screen programming and commercials was not to bother with it. We're lazy like that.
Anyhow, for the many years that we did have a television, there were a few programs that my family liked to watch. One of them was a funny video blooper family show that caught all sorts of hilarious mishaps on tape. Most of the home videos were truly funny, but I always cringed when they played their "heinous kid" segments featuring children who behaved like little monsters. They would show kids going into a rage over having to eat their green beans or flying off the handle because they were trying to sing and their brother kept interrupting them, or falling down into a crying tantrum because the parent walked in on them as they were doing something naughty (like smearing toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror). And of course the audience would cackle with hearty delighted laughter.
This program would often include a montage segment of ungrateful kids. The video would open with a scene at a birthday party, or a Christmas morning, and show a kid ripping open his gift, staring at it, and crying, "This isn't what I wanted!" He would proceed to throw it, stomp on it, or drop it into his younger sibling's lap with an air of indignation.
I can still remember my surprise when one particular segment featured a clip of a little girl opening a gift. While she was exuberantly tearing into her present she didn't notice that the new dress inside accidentally flew out with the wrapping paper. When she got to the heart of the package, the only thing left inside was the hanger. I cringed and waited for the wailing to ensue. Instead, the child's face lit up like the sun and she squealed, "A hanger! A hanger! Thank you! I love it!" I couldn’t believe it. It actually brought me to tears. Now that was a clip worth smiling for.
When I was little, I was a dreadful little wart. I could write pages and pages filled with examples about how heinous I was. I made Nellie Olsen look like a saint. However, I had one redeeming quality. I was thankful for what I got. My parents did not lavish my sister and me with gifts or treats. Going to McDonalds was reserved for birthdays or important occasions. It was a special thing to go out and eat in a restaurant--any restaurant. I could never understand going back to school after the holiday break and hearing kids complain about getting clothes for Christmas. We did not have lovely wardrobes; new clothes were like gold to us! My dad was in the Air Force, and if I asked for new clothes, he would joke, "I wear the same outfit every day--you can too." My parents were in very good shape financially, yet they taught us to be thankful and grateful by not giving us stuff. A gift was extraordinarily precious to me. It was precious because it was rare.
Consider diamonds and gravel. Diamonds are precious because they are rare. Think about it--no one weaves gravel into a wedding dress; nobody sets gravel in gold or wears gravel earrings, bracelets, or necklaces. Why not? It's because there is an overabundant supply of gravel. Things that are commonplace are naturally taken for granted. Food, water, air, homes, our health, and so on, are not given much thought, nor do they seem very "praiseworthy" until suddenly they become out of reach or are threatened. For the most part, people have been programmed to believe we deserve these basic things in life. And why be thankful for something we deserve? If we deserve something, then somebody should pay big time if we don't get that to which we are entitled.
One of the hardest things for many parents to do is to follow through with "no" (many parents find it easy to say "no"--it's easy to say, but they don't really mean it). There have been so many times that I've heard parents say, "I just want little Timmy to have all the things I didn't have growing up," or "I want my kids to know they deserve good things," or "I want my kids to learn to stand up for themselves and realize their self-worth." Egads ... ideas like that are some of the quickest ways to mold a kid into an absolutely selfish little canker sore. If you want to build a mini-monster, that's a good way to start.
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