Q. My husband and I are childless by choice. We have one nephew — a delightful 5-year-old.
We love spending time with him. He is, however, “spoiled” by the fact that he regularly receives toys from his parents in exchange for good behavior.
I am concerned with what lies ahead. He has already figured out that he can get what he wants by bargaining with his parents.
Christmas is approaching and I would like to help him to realize that others aren’t so fortunate (to have so many toys), and steer him away from this increasing materialism.
I would like him to learn empathy and charity, but I’m at a loss as to how.
Last Christmas my husband and I bought him one toy from his massive list and made a colorful “certificate” for him, informing of a donation we made in his name to a local charity. It was a charity to benefit animals. He was interested, but I’m not sure this was effective.
I keep very few toys at my home, so when he comes to visit we play more “imagination” type games. He does not complain about the lack of things to play with; he is happy to interact with us. He seems to enjoy our outings.
How do I help to guide him toward a more charitable future?
A. One of the many joys of being an aunt or uncle is that you can influence the children in your life, without facing the daily challenges of learning how to be a parent. It can be a lofty perch, so I hope you don’t judge your nephew’s parents too harshly.
You can inspire a message of love, generosity, and charity.
Five-year-olds are fascinated by friendship and kinship. How can your nephew be a good friend? He can share, take turns, and demonstrate kindness and empathy. These pro-social attitudes are linked to being charitable, and you should foster and encourage him in this regard.
This Christmas season help him to find a toy and take it to your local Toys for Tots collection bin. Let him put it inside the bin, and talk to him about how excited the child who receives it will be. Have him pick out some cat and dog food to take to your local shelter, so the animals will have good food to eat.
Stop at the Salvation Army’s collection kettle. Give him some money and let him put it in the kettle. Then you do the same.
Help him to make tree ornaments to give to his parents and grandparents. Let him help you make banana bread to take to a neighbors’ house.
These simple acts are all ways to demonstrate your values without being too heavy handed.
Q. I recently gained a follower on social media who seems to have a serious eating disorder and issues with body image/self-hatred.
I started to type a message urging that they reach out for help, but then I worried that this might scare them off, so I’ve just started sharing a lot of body positivity posts, in hopes that might provide a good example. Is there anything else I can do?
A. Social media is a great tool for connecting, but reading a “distress call” from a stranger can be upsetting and stressful. It is important for you to understand that — while it is kind and compassionate for you to be concerned — you should not get overly involved with someone who is curating their own story in ways you may not realize.
The person you are worried about is making descriptive statements that alarm you. It is completely appropriate for you to express alarm, and suggest whatever solution you think is appropriate.
It is thoughtful of you to not want to “scare” this person off, but you should not assume responsibility for their choices.
Q. Your answer to “Woman Ready to Roar” made me roar with anger! I could not believe my eyes when I read this passage: “The fact that your overlords feel a sense of protection and condescension toward you translates into liking you.”
What they are really telling her is that THEY don’t respect her because she is a woman. That’s sexism, plain and simple.
A. My comment was meant somewhat sardonically, but you make a great point.
The next line in my answer was: “They have created an opening for you to communicate with them about advancement. Get in there, and “roar” (professionally) for yourself.”
I hope she does.Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.