Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Parashat Re'eh and How to Buy Happiness

This week's Parasha is full of great lessons. We are focusing on charity today.
Photo Source

Hashem tells the Jewish people, "you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother" (Deuteronomy 15:7).

That verse rings true for kids and adults alike. For young children, toys are their most prized possessions and they hold onto them so strongly. Many adults (myself included) do the same with their most prized possession, their money. 

So we focused on the art of giving and sharing with toys.
Our inspiration came from the following Ted video:

If you have the time, definitely watch the video, but I'll give you the bottom line of it. A study was done where they gave people an envelope with money. Some were told to spend the money on themselves, whereas others were told to spend the money on others. 

Their happiness levels were measured before and after they spent the money and they found that those that spent on others were happier. This was true for people in over 100 countries and the amount of money and how they helped others made no significant difference. So, we actually can buy happiness it's just through others that we can accomplish this.
So today I brought out a basket of toys and treats and told the girls that whatever they pick has to go to their sister. They loved the act of giving to each other and I drew their attention to the happy emotion they caused in their sister and in themselves.

Another great source on dealing with sharing and sibling issues in general is:

Here are some ideas we have incorporated from this book to help our girls deal with sharing and learn to give more generously:
  • Whenever we see that a situation is about to get heated over toy "ownership", we preempt the tension by telling our girls "We know you are a really good sharer and we know you want to make your sister happy by taking turns." This really works most of the time. 
  • Now, I am not trying to whitewash our reality. With a 3 year old a 20 month old spending the majority of their time together, we have our fair share of screaming matches over who got what first. In those cases, I console the victim and say something like "I am so sorry your sister took that from you, that must have really hurt your feeling, etc." Ususally within a few moments the agressor will return the desired item.
  • This one isn't from the book, but I set a timer for 5 minutes and tell the girls that if they can play together and do good sharing until the timer buzzes, they will get a special treat. Of course my plan is to extend the time on the clock and wean the reinforcer. 
Ok, so today's post is getting long, but here are some more ideas that actually have to do with money and charity.

We made our own tzedakah box with a pint sized container (it was Rich Whip) and construction paper to decorate. 

You can have your kids take ownership of this project  by asking them to research different charitable organizations/causes or think of causes that are meaningful to them.
Finally, here is a great resource for step by step activities to teach kids about money and saving: 

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