Don’t Give Your Children Everything
By: Beth McHugh 2006
Hands up all those parents who want their children to have a better life than they did? This seems to be one of the most universal desires of parents the world over. It’s natural to want your child to have a better education, better nutrition, indeed better everything. We want to provide the very best start in life for our child. What parent wouldn’t?
However, it pays to be very discerning when deciding what exactly you mean by “better.” Today’s children seem to have more toys and more extracurricular choices than we had as children. Our own parents no doubt wanted us to have more than they had as children, too. But when is enough enough?
Watching my own child grow up, I witnessed firsthand during the elementary school years just how many material objects my daughter’s friends owned. My husband and I made a deliberate decision to restrict the number of toys, clothes, and other non-necessities that our daughter would possess, even though we could afford more. Of course, by the standards that we were brought up under, she had much more than we had as children. Yet she had far less than her own compatriots at her school. As you can imagine, this did cause fiction at times!
Yes, she wanted every new trend: some she got, some she didn’t. Some kids at her school seemed to get everything. And we sure got to hear about it! But somehow we endured the pleading and the whining because we looked at the bigger picture.
We both knew that life doesn’t always give you what you want, and sometimes it takes away things that cannot be replaced, like people. We wanted our child to learn the value of things, and also to learn that they are only “things,” and most of them are not necessary to a happy life.
Giving your child everything they want sets that child up for high levels of frustration, rage, and sadness in later life when life inevitably says “No!” Sure, it’s easy to go out and buy the latest toys. It’s fun to see them play with them, and we get pleasure by giving pleasure to our children. But we must also give them other gifts. Gifts of patience, of learning to control impulses, of learning to grieve over something truly lost.
If your child is used to being told “Yes, you may,” what happens when they don’t get invited to that birthday party they wanted to go to? When the girl they think is hot is not interested in them? When they find out they are infertile? When their life partner walks out on them?
By teaching children right from the start that they can’t have everything they want, or they can’t have it right away but must wait, we teach resilience and we teach perseverance. They will need these qualities in great supply if they are to succeed and thrive as adults.
So next time your child asks you for yet another material object, think
about what personality trait you are fostering. Yes, give your children
some things they desire so that they may experience joy and hope, but
let them also know disappointments, that they may also learn strength,
patience, and resilience. These are by far the better gifts to receive.