5 Reasons Your Kids Don’t Need Everything You Never Had
Whenever I hear parents repeat the phrase “I just want my kids to have everything I never had” I internally cringe. Not because I think their kids should be deprived (I don’t) but because I think this kind of thinking can often get the better of otherwise rational parents. Don’t get me wrong, I understand it. I grew up lower middle class to poor (depending on who I was living with at the time) and I understand all too well the indignity that goes along with not having the basic necessities.
But this phase isn’t usually used to discuss giving kids the necessities. It’s used to explain $200 fashion dolls and $600 homework desks. Things kids would never actually “need” in a million years. Of course, if giving this type of thing to your children gives you pleasure, I wholeheartedly say “go for it!” You don’t need my permission, and who the hell am I to judge. But don’t try to make it into some noble undertaking. You’re buying pretty things because pretty things are awesome, not because you’re righting some cosmic wrong.
Your kids don’t “need” everything you never had. They just don’t. I learned this lesson the hard way many moons ago, so here are my oh-so subjective reasons why.
1. Giving them fancy things won’t bring back your childhood
If giving your kids a $40 toy wheel chair makes you happy, great! But doing so won’t make the things you missed out on as a kid easier to think about. And I think that giving your kids the specific things you wanted, but couldn’t have, sets up a lot of expectations. I say focus on the things you can afford that your children actually want, rather than trying to live vicariously.
2. Kids want you more than they want things
This probably sounds totally counter-intuitive, but the most valuable thing you can give your children is your time. I think most kids want that more than they want a punch of meaningless trinkets.
3. In the real world, you don’t always get what you want
Another phrase I hate is “My children want for nothing.” I think this is an awful way to live. Giving a kid everything they desire is a terrible way to teach not only the value or a dollar, but the value of hard work. I made my first major purchase at age 15 with my second paycheck (it was a beeper, don’t judge me). I worked damn hard for that ridiculously dinosaur of technology, and nothing felt better than earning that little reward. If my mom had just given it to me, it wouldn’t have been much less meaningful.
4. You can’t let guilt guide your parenting
Because I grew up with so little, I often feel overwhelmingly guilty when I refuse my children something I know I can afford. But I eventually learned that I can’t let guilt make my parenting decisions. And no one smells guilt easier than a kid. They will use that to their advantage if you don’t shut that shiz down ASAP.
5. Money doesn’t buy happiness
Trite, but true. Money doesn’t buy happiness and the things you own shouldn’t own you. There is nothing wrong with having the latest tech toys for your kids, but I think it’s vital that they understand that it’s things like intelligence, integrity and compassion that define you as a person, not which version iPhone you have right now.
(Photo: Cheryl Casey/Shutterstock)