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Parenting Lesson: The best things in life AREN'T things

Lesson to be taught: The best things in life aren't things.

Why it's important: As parents, we have a bad habit of spoiling our children. We're so caught up showering them with material things that we didn't have as children, that we forget to give them what we did have; real friendships, family dinners, and priorities that aligned with our values.

Today's world is so full of the need to be successful, wealthy, pretty, famous, etc. If you don't have the latest tech gadget or the hottest car, then what's the point of living? Kids these days are pretty confused at what's actually important in life because every time they turn around, our materialistic society is staring them in the face. How are we supposed to convince our kids that the people around them are more important than their fancy dream cars, the designer clothes their friends are wearing, and the latest, greatest gaming console? Convincing kids that the best things in life aren't actually things is a pretty hard sell. Which is why I have this family fun activity for you to do!

This activity can be done with a single mom and her child, a family of 12, or in a classroom! I did this with my family (a few years ago) and now again with our Sunday school class.

Group size: 2+ people

Age: 5 +

Materials: Large sheet of paper & colored pencils or blackboard & colored chalk (enough for each person)

Step 1. Assign each person their own colored pencil or chalk so that they can differentiate their answers from everyone else's.

Step 2. Go around in a circle and ask them, "What are some things that make life worth living?" If this question is too hard for the younger kids to process, you can ask them, "What are some things that would be hard to live without?" (Exclude food, air and water as those are obvious necessities. Specific foods, like 'ice cream' can be added to the list though.) Write each response down in that person's assigned color.

Step 3. If the children are only coming up with materialistic things (ipad, xbox, toys, makeup), try to help guide them by suggesting things that are more meaningful (family, love, friends). If they start to get stuck, help encourage more answers by asking, "What are some other things that help you get through the day?" or "What are some things that make you feel good?" Every answer will be different and that is encouraged!

Step 4. After you have created an exhausted list of items (10 or so per person), ask each person to take turns crossing items off their list. These will be items that they could live without if they had to. At first, this step should be easy, but as you start getting down to the last few items, it will definitely start to get difficult. There are no right or wrong results here. We need to accept anything that gets crossed out, as this shows us what his/her values are at this moment. If it's not something we're proud of, we know where we need to work harder as parents and/or teachers. This step is finished when everything but one item is crossed out. You can circle that item and that is what you value the most.

***If God makes it on your list, circle Him right away, you're allowed one other item as He is the biggest necessity above food, air and water.***

Step 5. To go one step further and make it even more meaningful, go around and have each person explain why this is the last item remaining on their list.

This is a fun activity for children to realize what they really love the most. Although we may be disappointed to see 'trampoline' or 'robux', more often than not, 'family', 'friends', and 'love' will be what's remaining. Especially if you guided them towards those answers during the writing part of this activity.

This lesson is meant to help bring about discussions of values and priorities in life. We must show them that the most important things in life are not actually things.

My 5 year old had a very hard time circling just one thing, so I let him circle all the things he just ABSOLUTELY couldn't live without. And that gave me a list of things that are of great importance to him. I wasn't completely disappointed in his list :).

*Also, please note this list was shared between my son, my mom and myself. My 5 year old CAN live without red wine 😆

Supermom tip: Watch closely to see what remains towards the end of your child's list. If 'piano' was one of the last 3 remaining, but then got beat out by 'family', you now know just how important piano is to your child. Sign them up for lessons, or splurge on getting them a new keyboard. If an item is 'art', take her to plaster-craze for her next birthday!

Encourage others to take notice too, because giving to someone always feels better than receiving. Don't believe me? Ask this one last question, "What was your favorite gift you received on your last birthday?" Now ask, "What was the best gift you ever gave?" People will remember (more times than not) a wonderful gift or experience that they gave to someone, over a toy they received, played with for 5 minutes, and brought downstairs to the playroom closet never to be seen again.

Encourage others to take notice of what is important to their family, friends, and classmates, and watch the value of priorities take shape.

Love always,

Lauren Elizabeth

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