I saw this on Failblog and was really impressed. I clicked on the 300 comments thinking they’d all be similarly pleased, since Failblog is usually populated by harsh jerks, but I was….unpleasantly surprised. At least half were comments on how this was far too harsh, and it was just teaching the child to always fake gratitude, and it was punishment over not liking something. I won’t get into all that here, except to say “Fake it till you make it,” but thought I’d relay a story from my own childhood about gratitude.
A Christmas that haunts my memory was when I was about five years old, when I really wanted this particular Barbie, as she came with a squeaky Orca whale. Priorities. There was also a dolphin version, but for whatever reason, Orca for me. The local fire department asked for donations of children’s toys to give to needy children in the area, and my parents of course bought toys to donate.
One of which was Orca Barbie Ocean Adventure or what the hell ever.
The knowledge that my mother was donating the thing I wanted to some other kids created in me a meltdown of toddler proportions. I don’t remember much of it, but I remember screaming at her as she wrapped it in the hall that next time she should give her OWN child gifts first instead of some other people.
I think I felt bad right away. If I didn’t, I sure did on Christmas morning when I unwrapped that Barbie, Orca and all. She’d gotten one for me, too. I’m sure I had a lot of fun with that stupid thing, long since gone, but I never shrugged off the memory of that moment and my sense of shame within myself. It’s something I’ve always cringed at and endeavored to forget, even in childhood, but with reminders like this, I’m glad I never could.
Is it an embarrassing, stupid moment that you just expect with children? Probably. Is it an important teaching moment? Definitely.
This is not abuse. Taking away an expensive toy from your child for acting like a brat sucks, but it may be necessary. He’ll be angry, most likely, for a while. If there’s any hope for the kid left at all, in his adulthood, he’ll look back and be ashamed of himself. And with any luck, it’s something he’ll never have to teach his own children. If he is lucky – if the world is lucky – the seeds for gratitude and giving will be planted within him.
And he can teach that reason for the season to his own children, and perhaps us all.
If we’re lucky.