Do you always give your kids what they want?

By Stew

On a couple of occasions over the past year, I have mentioned or referred to anecdotes that we saw while reading through the Little House on the Prairie series with my kids. We are almost to the end of the stories and while a little simplistic and possibly over-romanticized, the books are a great way to develop a love of reading in young children. I have also been struck by the contrast between the 1800’s agrarian family life and modern lifestyles, especially in the United States. Children from that time period rarely went on vacation, typically received new clothes once a year and had extremely limited entertainment options.

Neither time period is necessarily better than the other, Matthew 6 says, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Every time period has positives and negatives, however, having worked with college and high school aged young people for most of the past two decades, I believe that one of the greatest challenges that we face in the contemporary world is how to raise children to be self-sufficient, patient and content in a time when their every want can be solved with money or credit in a relatively short period of time.

Recently, Mrs. Stew purchased a brand-new winter coat for my oldest daughter – who happens to be quite image/fashion conscious for a seven-year old. Our daughter loved the coat and was looking forward to wearing it when the weather grows cold. The coat had been hanging in our closet for only a couple of days when one of our friends called to say that she had a number of clothes to give us, including a winter coat. Our friend has girls slightly older than our children and often sends over bags of clothes after cleaning out their closets.

Mrs. Stew informed our daughter that if a free and perfectly usable coat was coming our way, it did not make sense to purchase a brand new one. Mrs. Stew is in the process of returning the coat to the store.

My daughter took the news well, she likes the clothes that she gets from her friends. However, it was almost harder for Mrs. Stew and I to make even this relatively insignificant fiscal decision because we want our kids to have nice things. This is such a small area of friction, yet our instinct was to use money to prevent our daughter from experiencing even a little bit of disappointment. I cannot imagine the pressure on parents who have the means to solve almost every problem faced by their children with money.

There is a desire on the part of parents to please their children. Christ recognizes this fact in Luke 11:

Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?

This is not a bad thing. Pleasing one’s children is one of the great joys in life, however, too much of a good thing can be bad. How often do you say ‘no’ to your children?

Article by Stew

Photo by ant.ronald

5 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Do you always give your kids what they want?”

  1. Sheila Says:

    This is something I was discussing with a friend just yesterday. We are fortunate (and have worked very hard and done without a lot of things other people opted to do!) to be in a good financial position. Many times, the only reason to say no to our kids is basically for their character development. It is so hard (for me, at least) to find the balance in doing this, and to be consistent in doing so. I can so empathize with how difficult it was to take that coat back, and I commend your ability to do so. I find that I almost never have trouble denying myself, but to deny my kids is very hard to do. It’s very important to take the long term view, though. When my kids are out on their own, it will be some time before they have the financial abilities that my husband and I now have. To teach them to buy whatever they want whenever they want would be so detrimental to them in the long-run. It also fails to teach them how blessed we are to live in this country and how greatly God has gifted us. I try to talk to my kids about this often. One of the silver linings in the recession has been so many opportunities to talk to our kids about different circumstances that people around us are experiencing, and how to do what things we can do to avoid financial problems (have money saved, work very hard at your job, etc.). Ah – parenting is so hard!

  2. Jason @ One Money Design Says:

    Stew, good post! We say no more times than yes. That being said, we naturally want nice things for our children and enjoy giving things to them out of love. I think the best way is to think of it as a balancing act. Too much on one side or the other won’t be good. It may be okay to splurge a little bit on your children from time to time, but you have to balance that out with teaching good principles of giving, saving and spending. Saying yes to everything will only create problems that are harder to deal with when the children get older, but even more so when they have to one day make decisions for themself. Parenting is tough! I just pray God can help fill in all the gaps I’m not able to fill myself.

  3. Kristia Says:

    I have to agree with the previous comments. There has to be a balance. Our kids hear yes, no, we’ll see and not now very often. We like to reward when appropriate, build character, teach patience and help them develop an appreciation for the priceless things they already have. For example, health and wellness.

    Although sometimes, as a mother, I have felt guilty having to say “no” for whatever reason.

  4. Funny about Money Says:

    If your daughter wasn’t in tears, it shows that you have trained her well to disdain material things.

    You’d already bought the coat and she knew it, and then because some “generous” relative forked over second-hand clothing that included a coat that would do well enough for government work you TOOK BACK a gift you’d already given her? If you could afford the coat and weren’t trading off a mortgage payment or food on the table to buy it, IMHO that’s kinda mean.

    Why not donate the used coat to someone who truly couldn’t afford to buy their daughter one?

  5. c Says:

    yes, the parents and author of the post are right about just saying NO to your kids! it will build character. you mentioned a bible quote; there is also another that a parent must discipline his kids. while growing up, my dad would give in to every time me and my siblings asked for something – we grew up with too much stuff; he totally didn’t discipline us and while i believe i have good spending habits now, most of my siblings do NOT and love to spend, spend, spend, go shopping, buy the latest stuff. so if any parents are reading this, just say no, i wish my dad had, plus he would have more savings now in his retirement.