There is so much of everything around us, especially around the holidays. As soon as you walk into any store, the packaging smiles at you, putting a spell on you, and in an instant it becomes part of your shopping cart. When you have an almost five year old in tow, every possible object becomes a potential purchase. I keep telling my daughter, it’s about people, not things. The reality is that it is hard to maintain this philosophy unless you make a conscious choice to do so.

My daughter nor my family are around true poverty. When we pass an occasional homeless person on the street, we offer a couple of dollars to him. My daughter immediately asks “Why did you give him money?” We tell her that he doesn’t have a home. In the last day or so, my husband attempted to explain the word orphan and my daughter simply can’t comprehend that little children are without parents. She keeps asking, “Where did her Mommy and Daddy go?”  My daughter’s life is easy. She sleeps on a bed, has every meal provided for her and has a plethora of fun activities to do.

The question then becomes how to raise a child who is sensitive to the world’s plight. Nearly 15 million children, just in the United States, live below the poverty level. Some of these children’s best meals are at school. The percentage of young children living in low income families are on the rise, increasing from 41 percent in 2000 to 46 percent in 2009. My daughter is wholly insulated from these facts as is my family. Poverty is something imbedded in numbers that I cited above. It’s something that isn’t a tangible in our world.

But there are things as a parent I can emphasize. My daughter doesn’t get everything she wants at the store. I will let her cry and remove her from the store before I succumb to her demands. Every three months she goes through her toy closet and she makes two piles, toys that she wants to keep and ones that she wants to donate. She knows that she is donating these toys to children whose parents can’t buy them toys. She accompanies me to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army store and watches as I turn in the plastic bag filled with her toys. As she gets older, I want to emphasize volunteering at local charities and saving some of her money from her piggy bank to donate. I realize these are small steps and ultimately it is about educating her to raise awareness. And maybe all of the things I am doing will not amount to much. I certainly don’t have any guaranteed answers.

Is there a full proof way to raise your child from being spoiled? I am not certain. I do know that  I want her to focus on people and the sheer joy of experience. This past weekend, she spent time with her friends in a park, swinging on an old tire, the giddiness I only hear when she is playing with people, not things. Maybe she is already getting it. I hope so.

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How do you strike a balance with your kids when it comes to things? Do you have a method in place not to succumb to their every demand when going shopping? Do your children know about poverty? How do you explain homeless people or orphans?  Any advice on how to not spoil your children?

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