As the Christmas holiday approaches, I’m starting to shop for my kids. We have one in college, one teenager and one preschooler. Of course, out of the three, the preschooler is the most excited. I tend to go all out with the “magic” of Christmas for him: Santa letters, Santa pictures, and cookies and milk. There is something magical about seeing his eyes light up with excitement around the upcoming holiday. My teenager and college student are a lot harder to please these days. Most of what they want they pick out themselves or they ask for a gift card so that they can buy what they want.
Every year, no matter my kids’ ages, I am conflicted about how much or how little to buy them for Christmas.
I must admit: my children are quite privileged. They haven’t known days without. There has always been abundance: new clothes, iPads, cell phones, video games, etc. But how much is too much? As much as I like to see my kids happy, and as much as I appreciate them being genuinely good kids, I often wonder if I am crippling them, making them into adults who feel the world owes them the abundance I’ve given them.
Throughout the year, I’ve noticed moments in which my kids are so accustomed to me giving that they have a hard time functioning without.
My teen daughter is always planning to hang out with her friends, and while I don’t mind letting her be social, it always comes with a price. If they want to go eat, there has to be money for that. If they want to skate, that costs too. If there is a friend’s birthday party, we have to buy a gift. And while these things are typically part of growing up and provision from parents until kids are able to work, I’ve noticed that my kids feel that these things are a part of what I owe them in some way. They make plans and I am supposed to execute them.
More and more, we hear people comment on this generation of kids and their entitlement issues. But what is the root cause? Have we made them this way? Have we given them too much? One thing I am grateful for is having the ability to show my kids that not all children are as fortunate as they are. At least twice a year, my kids and others prepare food and clothing for the homeless in our area. My kids are often shocked to see kids around their same ages living with so much less. I try to instill in my children the knowledge that we could very well be in a less fortunate situation and while we have more than enough, it is even more important that we give to others. This starts as early as having my little one donate his toys. Volunteering for teens is another good way to teach empathy and the reality of the world that many kids don’t often see.
At the end of the day, I want nothing more than for my kids to be decent and kind humans, and that starts with me. Modeling a giving spirit, presenting them with opportunities to give back, and many times just saying “no” to all the extras. I know one day my kids will be on their own and can buy whatever they want.