Our children love to go out for hot chocolate. It’s become a weekly ritual for us; an opportunity to sit talk about what’s happening in their lives – school, friends, and anything interesting they’ve learned. The time and space to connect and tune-in with our kids has a lot of upside.
On the downside, my 8 year old’s desire for his weekly hot chocolate has become something more of a habit and I’m finding myself contemplating the balance between ‘ritual’ and ‘right’. I see how easily we can slip in to the habit of saying ‘yes’ to things simply because we love our little people; and the joy of seeing their face light up when we indulge them. But it can be a slippery slope when treats so easily turn into expectation.
Last week my son experienced an important paradigm shift. At his second request in a week for hot chocolate, I put the issue back on him. Instead of saying ‘no’, I asked him whether he had any money to pay for it. He was a little surprised that he would be expected to contribute, and then responded that he didn’t.
He stood quietly beside me as I paid for my coffee (mean Mom) and then said – “what if I washed dishes, do you think I could get a hot chocolate?” I encouraged him to ask the owner of our favorite ‘watering hole’ that exact question. To my delight he said yes, but not today, another time.
So, here we are today, at said coffee shop, and my son asks for his hot chocolate. I remind him of what the deal is and he immediately approaches the owner with his offer to wash dishes. And next minute he’s out the back working his way towards that elusive treat. For a good ten minutes (not bad for an 8 year old) he put in a solid contribution at the dishwasher. He did a great job and was rewarded with his hot choclate.
Most surprising about this, was the response from other adults in the cafe. They were delighted to see our younger generation hard at work and earning their stripes. I was proud, he was proud, and his actions didn’t go un-noticed.
So what’s the lesson. Gratitude starts early. An understanding of the value of money and ‘reward for effort’ starts early. If we teach our children independence and responsibility, we give them the gift of self-actualisation. The experience of believing in their true value.