But I don’t want to…

Posted By on Oct 25, 2019 |

How many times have you heard your child say that? And, how many times have you wanted to say that yourself? A child’s list of “I don’t want to” clean up the toys, sing that song, let my friend go first even if she’s the line leader today and I know I’ll get my turn tomorrow could easily be translated into my list of figure out next week’s schedule, clean out the stroller shed that the squirrels have gotten into, sing that particular song for the hundredth time. (I once banned Old McDonald for an entire year.)

How do we learn to do the things we don’t want to do? Sometimes, we don’t. We figure out how to get someone else to do them. Don’t want to cut the grass? Hire someone to do it. No time or energy for grocery shopping? Amazon pantry has that covered. Laundry not a priority? Um, maybe it’s not that dirty.

Seriously, though, how do we teach our kiddos to internalize enough self-control and discipline to do the things they don’t want to do? Every once in a while, a simple suggestion that a generous, unselfish sacrifice can make someone else happy might motivate a little one. There has been a lot of ‘my turn’ and ‘me first’ happening the past few weeks. In conversation with our preschoolers, we challenged them to make a sacrifice. One child let a friend wash hands first. Another served snack to everyone else before taking his portion. (He was the snack helper that day, but kudos for performing his chore so courteously and serving himself last.) And one sacrifice took my breath away — it was so subtle, I almost missed it.

The kiddos were passing around a container of mixed fruit for snack. They chose among pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon, taking one piece at a time then passing the container to the next child. The first child noticed what seemed to be the only piece of kiwi and took it. The container was passed around the table a couple of times, everyone choosing a piece of fruit, and a child noticed another piece of kiwi. It was his turn, and he could have taken it, but he excitedly pointed it out to the first child so she could choose it when it was her turn. She eventually chose another type of fruit instead, and he waited patiently for four more children to take their turn. When it was finally his turn again, he chose the kiwi. He had wanted it all along.

Generous? Check. Unselfish? Check. Sacrifice? Check. He had accepted the challenge; he made a sacrifice in order to make his friend happy. In the end, he got what he wanted, too, but that doesn’t negate the sacrifice. It was like the book The Giving Tree — in giving something away, he was happy. What an inspiration to me. Don’t want to do something? Do it anyway as a sacrifice — joyfully.