Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Creating Memories That Stay with Your Children

For some reason, many of today’s parents feel they have to go all-out for their children, whether it’s for birthday parties, vacations, holidays, or celebrations after recitals or sporting events. And later, with engagement parties and weddings.

I’m not sure whether it’s competition with other parents, a feeling of guilt that maybe they’re not doing enough for their child, or something else.

Whatever the reason, it can lead to the development of an entitlement mindset, which does nothing to prepare young people for the challenges they’ll face as adults.

If you find yourself struggling with issues around how much to give to your child, my encouragement is to stop and ask yourself this all-important question:

"WHY am I doing this?"

And then dig deep for the real answer. Because my guess is that your actions have more to do with what’s going on inside you than what your child may need or expect.

My parents with their 6 "kids" at family reunion July 2010
Rob, Jim, Me, Mom, Dad, Lynne, Claude, Phil
I grew up in a family of six children, with one older sister and four younger brothers. Birthday celebrations were pretty simple. We didn’t take many vacations. And looking back, I don’t feel I was deprived in any way.

My parents gave us the really important things – love, discipline, stability and time.

I’ll always cherish the memories of sitting on the floor together playing games and working jigsaw puzzles.

Or the times Dad would take all the kids bowling. I can still see his head shaking when one of us tossed the ball into the gutter several times in a row. (I used to wonder why my mother never wanted to go with us. It was only years later that I came to appreciate this was one of the few occasions she could have some time to herself!)

The fact is, if you have children, you can create memories they will cherish 40 or 50 years from now without showering them with lavish gifts or events.

The deepest need every human being has is to feel loved, valued and understood. If you can meet those needs in your children, they will be better equipped to handle both the difficulties and successes of life.
“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” – Jesse Jackson


  1. The whole point of parenting is to gradually prepare a child to deal with the challenges of life as an adult. Giving kids everything they want not only doesn't prepare them, it does the opposite. It keeps them from learning how to earn things through hard work - what they'll have to do as adults. It's terribly hard to be a teenager, many tough challenges. Parents who had it tough when they were kids often don't appreciate what those tough times did for them. So they compensate with this misguided strategy of generous giving. This may meet the parents' needs for making up for other things they aren't doing, but it teaches the wrong things.

  2. Denny, you're so right about the giving of things often having the opposite effect than a parent intended. You've also pinpointed an important reason why many feel the desire to give so much to their children. I thought of another question, based on your input: "If I give this to my child today, what will be the consequences one year or 15 years down the road?" Thinking about potential future impact may help the parent make the right choice for the present.

  3. When I was growing up, my mom would tell us how her parents would give her everything and that she wanted better for us kids. So they gave us very little. Sometimes that was because they had little to give but sometimes I think it was simply reactionary on my mom's part to do the exact opposite of her parents.
    I like the question, "why am I doing this?" Sometimes giving my kids something, like a birthday party at a laser tag place because it is how my soon to be 9 year old really wants to spend his birthday, is okay. It is the why of what we do that is often more important than what we do.

  4. Thanks for sharing your own experience, Jen. Glad you like that question. It's actually a very good one to use anytime we find ourselves getting into "automatic" mode with a specific habit or activity!

  5. Good reminders in your post, Meredith. Thanks. Might be okay to pay for housekeeping, lawn work, or office chores, but money can't buy true connections of heart--and without those connections, respect is not built either. Perspective: how much love and obedience would you get from a dog by giving it all the toys it could chew, but never petting it or playing with it?

  6. Noname, I love your example about the dog. Thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom!


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