My child was invited to a party at a popular childrens play centre last weekend. You know the type of place, a large factory unit filled with slides, climbing frames, ball parks, video games and toys for toddlers. The music blared and the place was almost filled to capacity.
There were four party rooms and each was filled with at least 20 children, At $29.00 per child that means the parents shelled out at least $580.00 for the party, without factoring in the platters of food for the adults sitting on the long tables outside the party room, the lolly bags and the present that the parents undoubtably bought for their precious princess.
I had been to many of these parties before but for some reason, this time, I really looked around and I didnt like what I saw.
All around me were children running, playing, screaming and often crying. They had been brought there by doting parents wanting to make their children happy and unable to do this themselves through simple pleasures.
To my left was a father with two boys aged around 4 and 6. He was obviously there on an access visit. He didnt have much to say to his sons and it was clear that he was using money and activity to fill the time he had with them, rather than use the time to try and build meaningful bonds. To my left was a grandmother there with a girl around 4. The grandmother was trying to knit and her grand-daughter was pestering her for food from the Caf. What a shame I thought that the grandmother had not simply stayed home with her grandchild and taught her to knit. Why did she think that such a simple pleasure would not have satisfied her grand-daughter.
The party child herself was so overwhelmed by all the attention that by the time she was put into the party train to be pulled around the Centre, she too was in tears. All the money spent on her was not making her happy. In fact she looked like an ungrateful, ‘spoiled brat’.
What Are We Doing To Our Children?
I understand, of course, that parents like to treat their children but I believe that these play centres are a sad indication that we have gone too far. Children today always want to be doing something. They believe it is their right to be provided with activities to fill all their free time and parents through guilt, or some other reason, comply.
This type of indulgence is destroying our children. We are making them self-centred and taking away their ability to focus on people other than themselves. We are making them totally self absorbed. These children will constantly look outside themselves for happiness and will be a marketer’s dream as they will believe the message that if they buy this, or wear that, or go there, they will feel better about themselves and be happier. Of course there will always be a new message and they will never achieve happiness.
The Message We Should Be Sending Our Children
We should be telling our children that it is not our job to make them happy, or to fill their time and that these responsibilities lie with them. We should teach our children how to enjoy simple pleasures such as talking with friends, playing imaginary games and playing outside. We should also make service to others an important part of our lives and model it. If, for example, your child is having a playland party ask your child to think of a child who is lonely at school and does not get invited to many parties and discuss how happy it would make that child feel to get an invitation from your child.
Never miss an opportunity to show your child that a material life and material pleasures lead to emptiness and loneliness.