Our society gives the message that things make us happy. This falsehood is shoved upon us repeatedly from the day we are born. We are programmed from a very young age to want more and better and bigger and more expensive. We are assaulted with advertising and our media outlets barrage us with messages about when and where to shop. Black Friday and Cyber Monday seem to get as many mentions on social media as legitimate, calendar based holidays. And we, parents, get caught up in the current. Our children make us targets for their wish lists--and we oblige as best we can. The tragedy in all of this--is that it is based on a basic lie. Things don't make us happy--at least not in the big picture of it all. They make us happy in the little picture, immediate gratification picture, fleeting picture. The picture that fades out when something bigger and better comes along. Giving our children "stuff" makes us feel good in the moment. Giving our children stuff allows us bask in the temporary glow of their excitement and appreciation. But that glow is only temporary...and so may be their appreciation--especially if you have never taken the time to teach them gratitude.
This is a cautionary tale. Some of the most miserable young adults I know, have been given everything they ever wanted. And the result is either they are hopelessly shallow and narcissistic, or they are never satisfied and directionless. Or a combination of both. Being a parent does not mean that you sign a contract to give your child every material thing that they desire. In fact, being a good parent means withholding things and allowing your child to learn what it feels like to wait and work for something. If you serve everything up without any struggle, you are robbing your children of feeling the accomplishment when they earn something on their own. Being a good parent means saying no sometimes. It is hard to do. I know. But it is crucial!
In this holiday season of excess, take a moment to think about what is really important to you and your family. Don't allow yourself to become the mindless, zombie shopper that is hell bent on making each and every one of the items on Santa's list magically appear under the tree. Limit your gift giving to a few special gifts that are meaningful or educational. Reflect on what knowledge would be a gift to your child and his/her successful future and put a plan in place to teach these valuable life lessons. Thoughtful and intelligent parenting is the best gift you could ever give your child.
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