I know you mean well and it’s just a little treat. A small toy. A few bucks. Nothing. Except it isn’t nothing. Too many gifts and treats are wrecking my kids. I am begging you, please stop wrecking my kids!
When I was a child, treats were sort of special, and gifts came on just a few occasions. In my family, those were Christmas and birthdays, with very rare exceptions. This has changed and gift giving to kids, any time and all the time is now the norm.
The problem is, that this is more of an adult indulgence than a kid one. It is fun to give stuff to little kids and now more than ever, it is monetarily cheap, and easy. But it is costing our children dearly.
Here is why constant gift giving is bad for kids:
1. It takes away wishing and hoping.
Think back to being a kid when you wanted something very badly. I remember the first thing I really wanted – a Baby Alive. I wrote to Santa. I told everyone. I memorized Baby Alive’s information (Wets her pants! Batteries not included!). I thought about Baby Alive a lot! And I hoped that I would get one for Christmas. When I got my Baby Alive, it was a VERY big deal and this remains a happy memory for me to this day. Kids deserve a big deal too.
2. It reduces creativity.
Kids do not need a toy for everything. There are few things more amazing than watching kids with something as basic as a yoga mat or a wooden spoon or an empty yogurt container, making up some crazy scenario and working through it. It helps them learn and create and problem solve. It is fun!! I am not saying that kids shouldn’t have toys but too many actually can slow the fun down.
3. It creates entitlement.
My kids, who actually have very nice manners and are (usually) very nice children cannot help but expect mountains of crap when they see certain relatives and friends. They expect (and get) junk food, stickers, small plastic toys pretty much every time. They consume the food, play with (and usually break or lose) the toys, and the plastic pile in our basement grows. None of this makes their life any better. It doesn’t make them especially grateful – it isn’t special after all – nor does it make them any happier or nicer to be around.
3. It commodifies love.
Children are pretty literal. They absorb all the information available to them to build their understanding and knowledge of the world. Constant gift giving sends a message about love. That it must come with stuff. I know some adults that feel this way and they are not happy people with fabulous relationships. They tend to be disappointed and not very nice to be around.
4. It’s gross.
This is last but not least. Most of the toys that kids get are cheap plastic junk that will become cheap plastic landfill. North American children have too much and it is not sustainable. It really is gross!
I am not suggesting the end of fun or gifts but I am suggesting a return to thoughtful, less frequent gifts that are appropriate to the occasion. Will your gift (note no ‘s’ at the end of ‘gift’) be special or meaningful to the child? Or will it become flotsam in their home?
Please. It is the only way to stop wrecking the kids.