We gave our son Yaseen a Samsung tablet to play with since he was little. He is 7 years old now, and he’s going to be 8 this August. God, how time flies! He is going to be taller than me in a few years. Anyway, the 5 years old device has many problems so he stopped playing with it. Sadik suggested maybe we should buy him a new one— new version, a better one. We talked about that and realized that we shouldn’t do so.
We noticed that when Yaseen is with any kind of gadgets, or even when he watches TV, he seems to be so into those things that he doesn’t even hear us talk. We used to let him bring the tablet to the restaurants because he wouldn’t bother us there. He often traveled with it so he would miss the beautiful scenery and other inspiring moments on our trips. Then when the tablet stopped working, he left it at home, and he began to love exploring the world again.
I am not against technology. Although old traditions and the idea of rustic lifestyle strongly influence our family, we love modernism. New innovations, developments and growths excite us, but it’s so important to have limitation and boundary.
Limitation and boundary here don’t mean you need to restrict and control yourself, but they define the importance of living consciously.
Before I discovered minimalism in this year, I used to think I did the best I could for my kid by stretching my capacity to buy everything I wanted to give him. I began to admit to myself that he wasn’t the one who wanted so many toys but it was us the parents who offered things and influenced things. He became attached to soft fluffy items—things that shouldn’t matter that much. Then, as the idea of having so many toys worked in his mind, he demanded more— more toys, more games, anything he saw other people have, anything he saw on TV. The worst part is a circle where he played with the toys twice, threw them around the house, and then he wanted new stuff again. As parents, Sadik and I wanted him to have the best we could provide. We bought him everything he wanted. We bought things for him even when he didn’t really want them.
One afternoon, we relaxed in our living room watching TV. Sadik and I were on the couch while Yaseen was on the carpet playing with clothe hangers. I looked around the house and saw toys scattered everywhere. He didn’t care about any of the toys we bought for him. We was captured in the fantasy of alien laser fight in the galaxy as the clothe hangers was used in the play. I wondered if we indirectly forced our kids to be very limited by exposing them to new stuff on the market. He learns and improves creatively when he uses his imagination to play with things that aren’t already designed for specific purposes.
At that moment, I realized that I could do better for him by giving him less stuff.
Remember the quote I told you, ““It is we who teach our children how to be greedy by giving them diamonds instead of sticks and stone.” – Shefali Tsabary from the book the Conscious Parent.
Items and new toys cost money, and they become clutters in the little minds. I’m not against having toys that help in development, but are we distracting our children from their true potential by limiting their minds to certain models and prototypes? Are we teaching them to be attached and to invest their emotions into things like soft fluffy fabrics, plastics and electronic devices when there are other important matters in the world our young generation should concentrate on, like animal conservation, global warming, peace and poverty?
I didn’t change things overnight. I couldn’t take away all his toys at once. That would turn his world upside down. But in the process of 6 months, I repeatedly asked him one question: “How this thing can make your life better?” The question seems very mature, I know, but his answer always surprises me. While answering the question, he learns to think and to be honest with himself. Of course, all answers need to be evaluated and discussed. For many months now, I have noticed how this process makes him feel content and selfless. He has donated more than half of his toys. He rarely buys toys now. He has learned about the real value of things he owns. Furthermore, he cares more about other important issues than the items in his room. He reads more, he enjoys travel, he love cooking, and he takes interest of studying about Carnivorous plants.
Now when I look at his room where the floor lacks colorful plastic clutters, I see things that contribute to his development and items that teach him to be a better person. I see books, painting supplies, sport equipment, and fewer toys.
Instead of buying Yaseen a new tablet, we opened a bank account for him. We are teaching him about saving and the value of money. We encourage him to read and learn, to create and to travel.
To be honest, Yaseen plays with anything whether they are expensive or cheap, soft toys or pillows, and colorful plastic guns or clothe hangers. The thing is when he plays with clothe hangers and pillows, he has to be a bit more creative with his imagination. And that’s exactly what we want him to do. We want him to think, to solve problems, and more importantly, to rely on his own ideas and to be independent. When you are content with who you are and what you have, you want so little and feel like contributing more.