I know the intentions behind donating toys is good, but sometimes we send the wrong message.
Figuring out how to get kids on board with letting go of toys can be tricky. One of the most common ways I see parents getting their kids on board is by donating toys no longer wanted or needed to kids who don’t have any, or many.
This made me feel like I was sending my kids mixed messages.
One message it seems to send is that kids who don’t have a lot of toys, are somehow unhappy and need more. If we are instilling values that say things don’t make us happy, then why are we saying these kids will be happier if we give them more stuff?
It also sent the message to be that I had internalized and deeply hurt. The message that I was a better parent when I got my kids more toys. I know that’s not true, and I spent a lot of time undoing that belief. Yet, I am telling my kids that kids are happier when they have more toys. Which must also mean, better parents with happier kids, give them more toys.
What a weird backward message I was sending myself.
I am not saying to NOT be generous, or giving or teaching to help improve and give value to other people’s lives
I am saying, be mindful about practicing what we preach. Make sure that what we say and teach, aligns with what we are actually doing. If things and toys don’t make us happy and secure, don’t tell our kids OTHERS will be happy and secure if we give them our stuff.
Which brings me to the next point that didn’t sit well with me.
I grew up with one parent who utilized a Christmas program a couple times that delivered gifts to us as a family. The message was that we needed more stuff, when really what our family needed was connection, community and support. Not some bags of toys.
Living in alignment with our values is important. Supporting families and others in a meaningful way matters.
I was using giving them to others who didn’t have any a scapegoat
Now here’s a confession. I have used this tactic before and told my kids almost every time before I knew better, that we were giving them to kids who didn’t have any.
I was telling them that to make myself feel better. Guilt was already taking over me for getting rid of their toys. I really thought they might be mad or sad with me for letting them go. Instead of getting to the root of those feelings, I put a pretty bow on it and acted like we were doing something kind.
It would have been totally okay to just be honest with them and say, “we’re getting rid of these toys because we have too many”. Then taught the lessons of overconsumption, budgeting, and contentment.
Honesty always wins.
The Toy Decluttering System