Early one December, when I was a preteen, my parents asked what I wanted for Christmas. I said that I didn’t really care about the specifics, but liked the idea of lots and lots of gifts under the tree – overflowing piles, filling every inch from the floor to the lower branches.
You can probably imagine the reaction I got. My wish was seen as greedy and ungrateful, considering how many gifts my family was already in the habit of giving, and how few some other children receive by comparison.
No one asked me why I wanted that, and I didn’t even think to ask myself.
The reason was purely aesthetic. Storybook tropes were my biggest special interest from childhood through late high school, and I felt the urge to create a fancy, bountiful, Nutcracker-like scene in my own living room.
That urge would have been fully satisfied by empty boxes, wrapped in shiny paper with large bows. But that possibility never crossed my mind.
My intentions have been similarly misunderstood many times throughout my life. Over time, I’ve gotten better at explaining why I want things, and learning how to fulfill the wish behind the wish.
Most children don’t have those skills. So explore their motivations, then explore possible solutions. Ask why, then ask how.