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Do you ever want to give your child everything you never had growing up? Do you ever feel guilty when you can’t buy them that toy they had their eye on at the store? If your answer is yes to any of those questions, then you are like most parents. Us parents want our children to have a better life than what we were given when we were little. We want our children to receive opportunities that we didn’t have. Overall, it boils down to our drive in wanting our children to enjoy life and get the most out of it. However, parents choose different ways to accomplish this. Some choose to buy their children any type of gift or gadget they can find. Others choose to provide their child different experiences throughout their lives. Let’s examine both ways and discuss what both can provide for children.
You can give your child a gift any time of the year (we tend to focus on certain holidays though). The excitement one will have when receiving a gift provides some sort of instant gratification especially if it is something they have been longing to have. However, those feelings of excitement can be fleeting as the newness of the gift wears off and becomes dull. The only way to combat the dullness of the old gift is to buy a new one if you SOLELY rely on gift giving as a way to provide your child with happiness. Over time, those gifts your child receives will likely collect dust as they receive new gifts.
The other factor to consider is the fact that if one SOLELY depends on new “stuff” for their happiness then this can lead to materialism. I am not suggesting that this happens to every child as there are children who are grateful even if their parents buy them everything. That being said, if you as a parent communicate to your child that the only way to live life is through receiving gifts that can lead to your child being materialistic. However, certain experiences can fall into this category as well. Studies have shown that people who are materialistic tend to have more feelings of anxiety and depression, unpleasant emotions, report more physical health problems, and feel less satisfied with their lives. This concept is probably one reason why people say money can’t buy happiness.
Just like gifts, you can give your child experiences any time of the year. Experiences can be as extravagant as taking a trip abroad to going on a small “date” with your child. I talk about the importance of “dating” my daughter here. The one difference between gifts and experiences is that experiences aren’t fleeting. Experiences can be put into your child’s long term memory. If I asked you what happened when you were 10 years old, you are more than likely going to remember a memory of experiences (good or bad) over gifts. This is likely to happen with your children.
There are other advantages to providing experiences for your children. Children will be able to form a closer bond with those that are present for that experience. Experiences will give your child the opportunity to socialize and learn from those around them. Unlike gifts, there aren’t as many downsides to providing experiences for your children (besides what I previously mentioned).
Gifts are great to give and receive. They can provide a great source of entertainment for our children. For myself, I tend to place more value in regards to providing experiences for my daughter. I want to have a tight bond with her and want her to know I care to spend time with her. I am not suggesting that parents stop buying gifts altogether for their children. What I hope to do is inspire parents to provide opportunities where their child has to interact with them. Children need attention from their parents at the end of the day.
One other factor that may not be taken into account is parents’ attitudes towards gift giving. While I cannot prove this with a study, I believe that any gift giving (object or experience) has to come from a place of gratitude from the parents. If you as a parent put down any type of gift you receive from others, your child is likely to embody that type of mindset. If you are the type of person to try and “one up” with a family vacation, then your child will likely take on that behavior. I believe those types of behaviors can lead to the materialistic views that our children can take on. For myself, I will teach my daughter that we should be grateful for anything we receive from others. Those good feelings are a lot more pleasant than feelings of disgust, insecurity, and envy.
What are your thoughts about this topic? Do you agree or disagree with my analysis? Be sure to leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.
Cameron is the creator of Supportive Fathers. He created Supportive Fathers as a way to help explore topics other dads encounter in everyday life. Cameron is very passionate about being a father to 2 year old daughter as well as being the husband possible to his wife. To read more of his story, please click here.