The Meaning of “Enough”: Part 1

I posted this essay a couple of years ago. Recently, several people in my life have been asking my advice about how to handle incorporating their children’s belongings into their homes in a reasonable way. As we head into the holiday season that often comes coupled with the overwhelming desire to over do it for the people we love, it seemed like a good message to share.

There is an almost universal common emotion experienced amongst busy professional parents: guilt. I experience it too. There is a constant nagging at the back of my mind wondering if I’m giving her enough, worrying that I don’t spend enough time with her. Considering what things she might be telling her therapist about me in twenty years…I’m kidding, sort of. This guilt causes me to feel almost compelled to spoil her when I am with her. I understand, though, that I must be cautious in how I go about “spoiling” her.

We are fast approaching the season in which parents seem to feel exponentially compelled to give to their children. This is the time when celebration can lead to gluttony and we end up feeling exhausted and, ultimately, unfulfilled. Parents can take this moment before the terminal velocity of the end of the year fully sets in, and pause to think about the message all of this endless “giving” is sending to our children. One of the greatest lessons we can teach our child is the true meaning of “enough”.

Take a moment to consider how much stuff your children have. Picture your home. Where and how are all of the toys and clothes stored? Does it look like two grown-ups are renting a bedroom in a house owned by a couple of preschoolers? Is this how you envisioned living in your home? This is your opportunity to start teaching your children about the place that “things” should hold in our lives and re-claim your home as the beautiful, warm, organized place in which your family comes together.

There are three guiding principles in a Montessori setting. The children are welcome to do whatever they want to do as long as they choose to act with respect for themselves, respect for others, and respect for the environment in which they are absorbing. We keep our classrooms beautifully organized and easily accessible to the children. We engage the children in the respectful care of the environment. Caring for and organizing this environment demonstrates to them one of the ways in which we show respect for ourselves and respect for others. They take pride in this process and they have a deep respect for the materials on the shelves. This is possible in your home as well.

The first step is to get organized. Get shelves, baskets, storage units, and a table and chair appropriately sized for your child. Get your children involved in the process if they are old enough. Choose items to keep, donate, and throw away. Take your child with you to donate the items and model this giving behavior. Categorize the items you keep and figure out how much you have. Involve your child in deciding which items will go into baskets on the shelves and which items will go into storage. Mark the calendar together for the day that your child will choose which toys to cycle out of storage and into the baskets and which toys to cycle into storage for a while. When your child gets a new gift it is an opportunity to cycle something else out as well. This shows your child that the amount of toys that fit on the shelf and around her room is enough.

Teach your child to properly put his things away by having a specific spot for everything that is out. This empowers your children to take responsibility for their own belongings. When a child has a playroom that is overflowing with toys that are piled up and stuffed into toy boxes, she is unable to recognize that she has a responsibility to be respectful of her things. When we learn to be respectful of our possessions, we also learn to be grateful for them. When we are grateful for our things, we understand that we have enough.

As you begin purchasing toys and clothes for your children, stop and consider how much they really need and how much you really want in your house. Instead of buying them something, consider “spoiling” them with quality one on one time in which you do something simple and special together such as read books or bake bread. This is what they really want. This teaches them that the most fulfilling times in our lives happen in moments of sheer simplicity. When we relieve ourselves of the burden of overwhelming possessions, we free ourselves to have the space to appreciate our lives and know that we have enough.


“Plainly, the environment must be a living one, directed by a higher intelligence, arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission.” -Dr. Maria Montessori


~ by vegucationmama on November 19, 2014.

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