Four Foundations

Giving “the Right Stuff”

Day 28 - Unwrapping Christmas gifts
Day 28 – Unwrapping Christmas gifts (Photo credit: PictureWendy)

Have you ever met a parent who did not what to do the best they possibly could for their children?  Unfortunately, sometimes that beautiful wish gets translated into massive piles of consumer goods.  Stuff.  And it might not be the right stuff.

 Our intentions may be good, but over-spending, “over-gifting” behavior can teach our children a number of things we might not want them to learn.  I don’t think, for example, that any parent wants our children to define our love for them by the gifts that we buy for them.

 What other messages can we send when we repeatedly overindulge our kids’ material wants?  Are they learning about the difference between “wants” and “needs”?  How about saving versus “buy now, pay later”?  And, if everything they want just “shows up” are we teaching them to expect “something for nothing?”

 We all love to give our children nice things, but the things we buy for them can never replace the pride that comes with earning their own money and making their own decisions about how to spend it.  Things they are given without work or personal effort have little lasting value for them.  When children purchase something by contributing at least a portion of the cost with their own hard earned money, they learn valuable lessons in money management and the self-esteem that comes from realizing that there is a relationship between their work and the result.

 And those are gifts that keep on giving.

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  • Esther Jantzen

    A quote attributed to Jesse Jackson fits well with what you’ve said: “Your children need your presence more than they need your presents.”
    I agree wholeheartedly.

  • Andrea

    Thanks, Esther…. that’s one of the reasons I like your materials so much. I think they really help parents to remember to take advantage of all of those teachable moments!

  • Dawn

    It’s easy. They want. You buy. You want them to be happy. They are happy until they see something else they want. BUT, it’s a never ending cycle. Of course, it takes lots of time at work and lots of work to maintain those things. We are making the effort to live more simply these days and filling our time with more “I’m here and I’m listening moments.” The way you spend your resources says so much about what you value and what you’re kids are learning is valuable too. We all want something… it’s important that our kids know that THEY are what we want. Our family and friends are something so precious that they can’t be contained in a store. And, you don’t need lots of ingredients (stuff) to make you happy. What a gift to teach them!

  • Andrea

    It’s easy to get trapped in the “you want ->I buy -> I need to work more (and be away from you) because I spent too much cycle”!

    Time is an irreplaceable resource — and I think a simpler lifestyle gives us a bit more of it. Of course it takes DISCIPLINE to simplify…..