A couple of years ago, my neighbor had a small party for her young son’s birthday. A friend of his, who was about 12 years old, walked up and asked my neighbor what her son had gotten from his parents for his birthday.
When my neighbor told her that his gift had been a Lego set, the girl then asked, “Okay, so what was his big present?” Although that little girl is a great kid otherwise, her question was an unfortunate reminder of the expectations we set when we spoil our children through an abundance of toys and excessive gift-giving.
Is It Okay to Spoil Kids?
The desire to spoil our kids is strong. We want to buy our kids everything they want, and if you step into any toy store, it’s easy to go down that road. Every birthday and Christmas, many parents feel like they have to outdo the year before and so on, until their kids’ expectations are set ridiculously high.
But is it okay to spoil children with everything they want or will doing so simply set them up for a lifetime of high expectations and disappointment? Rather than spoiling our kids with mountains of toys, we should spoil them in constructive ways that will help them grow into interesting, appreciative adults.
Think of Your Fondest Childhood Memories
Thinking back to my own childhood, which was wonderful in so many ways, I do remember having big Christmases with piles of presents under the tree. What I don’t remember is what all of those specific presents were, and I have exactly zero of them today. They weren’t important enough to me to keep into adulthood.
What I do remember from my childhood and what I still carry with me today are the memories from all of the fun experiences I had with my family. We hiked endless trails, creeks, and ridges for free. We played games outside and still play kickball as a family to this day. We also went on frugal vacations once a year to exotic locales like Michigan and Niagara Falls.
Spoil Your Children with Experiences
I joke about vacationing to Michigan, but the point is that it didn’t really matter where we were going. We were together as a family and, as a kid, that’s all that mattered. We were on an adventure! Even though we couldn’t afford a trip to Paris or Hawaii, we had a ball on each and every vacation we took, and I loved that we got to plan a new one every year. Each vacation was an exciting new adventure, no matter how close to home we actually were, and that’s the kind of childhood I want to recreate for my own daughter.
Since the day she was born, I’ve been working hard to spoil my daughter with real experiences that she can carry with her through the rest of her life, like the ones I had as a child. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on new toys each year for Christmas and her birthday, we make it a priority to explore new places like parks, museums, aquariums, and zoos, and we have fun together as a family.
We are also continuing the tradition of taking an annual family vacation, even though that means going somewhere within a day’s driving distance of our home instead of hopping on a plane. We are creating our own family memories that will bond us for the rest of our lives without spending a ton of dough to do it.
Spoil Them With Your Time and Attention
In addition to fun family experiences, the one thing our kids want more than anything is our time. They spend all day away from us at daycare or school, then they have to wait a few hours for us to get home from work, and then do homework, extracurricular activities, take baths and eat dinner before an early bedtime. It sometimes doesn’t leave a lot of time to spend together doing something fun.
That’s why they always want our attention. Even when our kids get new toys that are intended to occupy their time, they still want our attention. When they get a new bike, they want us to watch them ride it. When they get a new dollhouse, they want us to play pretend with them. I sometimes catch myself getting aggravated when my 4 year-old wants to play “school” for the twentieth time that week, but I sometimes have to remind myself to be grateful for that. What a special thing it is for someone to crave our attention!
Our kids want our attention, so we should spoil them with it as much as we can. If that means putting down our work or phones or turning off the TV then that’s a worthy trade-off. That stuff can wait, but our kids are getting older by the day and once they are grown, they will no longer crave so much of our time. We will be craving theirs by then, so we’ve got to enjoy spoiling them with our time, attention, and love while the time is ripe.
Do you think it’s okay to spoil your children? Were you spoiled as a child? How are you trying to make sure your kids aren’t spoiled?