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Jennifer, School Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 397
Experience:  Collaborative parent consultation on everything from modifying behavior to child development.
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My 10 year old son has a birthday coming up. We gave him a

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My 10 year old son has a birthday coming up. We gave him a choice between a party or a special family trip to an amusement park a few hours from here. He chose the amusement park and wanted everything purchased right away. He likes doing things online, and when he decides he wants something, he gets fixated on it. Often after he gets it, the fixation drops away, and it is onto the next thing. That doesn't always happen, but it sometimes does, and it did here. We purchased the tickets right away, even though I told him I would rather we waited to buy them. He was insistent, and I gave in. Now, he is upset because he has changed his mind and doesn't want the amusement park trip. I told him the tickets are non-refundable and he can't change his mind. I don't want him to develop a lifelong pattern of getting fixated on something and making commitments prematurely without thinking them through. I also want him to develop a strong sense of gratitude for the very good life he has. Advice?
Hello and thanks for using!

First of all, I applaud you for sticking with the initial plan of going to the amusement park. That in itself will be a lesson in thinking things through before making decisions and in the future you'll be able to refer to it when discussing the reasons why it's important to weigh decisions carefully.

That process, however, is not something that comes naturally to everyone and often needs to be taught. Talk to your son about how sometimes we need to take take to make better decisions. Practice with hypothetical situations so there's not pressure -- Ask him to come up with the "good" and "bad" (or pros and cons) about two possible choices. Explain that he may think he knows what he wants today, but it may change tomorrow -- Better to wait a few days to make sure he's still happy with the initial decision. Place the list on a shelf to come back to in a few days. The physical act of making this list and putting it aside may help him to let go of the decision until it's time to reconsider it. Tell him also that sometimes we need help in making our decisions (e.g., we need more information, want to talk it over with people we trust, etc.) Practice this a few times and model it for him in your own decision making as well. When he does choose something, stick with it. There are natural consequences for impulsive decisions. Learning to "stop and think" will take practice, but with time he'll understand how important it can be.

Regarding the development of gratitude, there are a number of things you could do. Gather non-perishable items to take to a local food bank, go through clothing to see if there are items to be donated, or participate in a local fundraiser to support a charity that helps those less fortunate. Each of these provides an opportunity to discuss gratitude for what we have. I think it's never too early to teach the importance of giving to others in need.
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