Are You Giving Your Kids Too Much?

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toy box stuffed toyMost of us want our kids to have nice things. We want them to enjoy life, have toys to play with, engage in fun and fulfilling activities, and be happy. While this is a noble goal, it is important to consider that there is the possibility that you are giving your kids too much.

When kids receive too much, there is the possibility that they miss out on valuable life lessons. Sometimes, you need to say no to your kids, and encourage them to work for things on their own.

Too Many Indulgences

While I think it’s fun to occasionally surprise children with extra toys, or a trip to the ice cream parlor, or some other fun treat, too much of it can encourage materialism in your kids, or the expectation that they “deserve” certain things because they’ve come to expect them. If your child gets a candy bar every time you go to the store, he or she will begin to think that’s the normal state of things. If you buy your kid something each time he or she mentions a desired toy, the expectation is that your child somehow “deserves” to have everything immediately.

One of the issues that my husband and I used to disagree about is buying toys for our son. My husband used to buy whatever he thought was cool, and then decide to “save” it for Christmas, birthday, Easter, or end of the semester. Sometimes, he just gives stuff to my son randomly. In any case, the result is a closet full of stuff, and a great deal of stress as we try to figure out how much to give him. The tipping point came when my husband exclaimed over how materialistic and greedy our son had become. “Why do you have to be so greedy?” he asked. “Why can’t you be happy with what you have?’

I told my husband to go upstairs and look at the closet, and then see if he could figure out why my son always wanted more stuff.

Teaching Priorities

Since then, we’ve focused more on priorities, and teaching our son to save up for more of what he wants. Instead of buying a bunch of stuff that my son might only be interested in for a little while, we’ve started putting more thought into gifts, focusing on a few things that are likely to give him more long-term satisfaction.

On top of that, we expect him to buy a lot of his own toys now. If he mentions he likes something, my husband might buy it for a good deal, and then have our son buy it from him in turn. Over the past couple of years, my son has become much more thoughtful about money, and less demanding when it comes to toys. He has also talked about a desire to earn more of his own money to take care of the things he wants.

Giving a child everything only teaches him or her that everything is a hand out. Instead, help your child learn the value of saving up, earning money, and taking care of some things on his your her own.

(Photo: RambergMediaImages)

{ 15 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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15 Responses to “Are You Giving Your Kids Too Much?”

  1. Steve says:

    Shiny new toys are nice, but the thrill of getting something new inevitably wears off and today’s new toy becomes next week’s old news.

    I’m not a teetolar about this, as I still remember being a kid (plus we still have a lot of toys in the house anyway.) But generally if I’m not sure about a purchase, I’ll just say no. Save it for the things that your kids are really looking forward to, rather than buying new stuff for the sake of new stuff.

    Garage sales are great, with those you can obviously be a lot looser and still spend very little.

  2. Frugal says:

    “and less demanding when it comes to toys. He has also talked about a desire to earn more of his own money to take care of the things he wants.”

    And what do you do when your pre-teen wants to earn more? What kind of activities / chores would you offer?

  3. I think it’s really great that you posted this! I’m recently engaged and had a similar discussion with my fiance. I grew up with very little and have more memories of time spent doing things with my family than I have of toys and other things. Although as a kid I wished I could keep up with my peers in things like fashion, I’m so happy now to have grown up the way I did. Even if I had tons of money, I wouldn’t want to spend it all buying things for my future kids. I’d rather teach them the value of a dollar and create memories of activities we do together!

    • Shirley says:

      You have a great mind-set and are wise beyond your years. Keep those thoughts in mind when you do become a parent.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I to was raised with not having things when I was younger. In fact my favorite Christmas was when me and my family had no money except for Christmas Dinner and a chance to be with each other and it was the best and most memmorable Christmas Dinner and Christmas I ever had.

  5. Educate4LessCom says:

    Short answer: YES.

    Longer one: Yes but my kids are nice anyway. A lot of parents buy kids toys as a surrogate to spending time with their kids. There is no such thing as limited “quality” time, only total time. “Quality time” parents (i.e. the hour between pick-up from the babysitter until bedtime) don’t spend enough time with their kids because – if they were honest with themselves – they’re too busy working so they can buy their own toys (too large a house, new cars, clothes, etc.). Certainly, there are parents working two jobs just to put food on the table but most Baby Boomers just have a gift for narcissism and entitlement.

    No one on their death bed laments not having time for another ride in their BMW. They do often wish, however, for another minute with their children. Spend the time now, reduce the lifestyle if necessary, have great kids and fewer regrets later.

  6. Anna says:

    This such a much-needed message these days. So many parents are time poor and compensate by buying toy after toy. But childhoods are about learning the value of “stuff” and I know from experience how special the moment was when I got something I longed for on a birthday or Christmas. Regular treats can come in so many forms, not just “stuff” for the closet. We parents need to make our time a reward.

  7. Shirley says:

    Yes, family time together is much more important to productive adjustment than material things. Taking whatever time is needed to listen (not just hear) to what your children say is vital to their becoming responsible and self-satisfied adults.

  8. I don’t know. Many people use the arguments relating to how the veterans generation brought up the baby boomers generation in a minimalistic environment.

    I’m not quite sure how well that argument holds because the America we live in is a different place. Sure, you can keep your kids away from consumerism for a few years, but eventually it is going to catch up to them whether you like it or not.

    Kids should be taught to appreciate both material and non-material things. Either extreme is terrible, in my opinion.



  9. Kris says:

    I know many parents who give their kids too much (in terms of “things”) and too little (in terms of teaching them limits) at the same time. Very sad to see, these kids don’t have any perspective on how to handle themselves. I’m sure they’ll end up with big-time money problems too. Sad. It doesn’t have to be that way at all.

  10. saladdin says:

    It amazes me that parents always say other parents are doing this and not them. If your kid has a cellphone at 11, if your kid is living at home at 25, if your adult kid asks for money and you give it, if your kid is living on their own but you still pay their car insurance,if you still have your adult kid on your cell phone plan, you are one of the “spoiling” parents.

    But I’m sure you can rationalize it. All you parents do.

  11. Kids become much more thoughtful and careful when spending their own money than when they are spending “Mom’s” money! Letting them practice their own money management while they are young will help them develop skills that will last a lifetime.

  12. This is extremely good advice. My wife and I try hard to not spoil our kids in that way becuase it only is a disservice to them in the long-run. they end up beomcing greedy, and worse, feeling like their somehow entitled to stuff. It will be a rude awakening for those kids when they get their first job and get out of the house! We do all these things for our kids cuz we love them, but we actually shouldn’t over indulge our kids for the same reason, our love for them.

  13. ditzyleopard says:

    How do you teach this important lesson in a split home? My Husband and I try to teach our son (his bio, my bonus) to save for things and won’t buy him things on whims…but his biomom thinks it is ok to buy him all sorts of things-we feel it is more of compensating for time not spent with him, she is gone quite a bit-and these fancy toys and cell phone (why on EARTH does a nine year old need a cell phone?) these things entertain him. He comes home and will tell us about all the new toys, and the new video games, and movies he’s watched….babysitters and bribes!
    We want to teach him to be appreciative, and the value of hard work and earning things, but if we tell him he has to work for it, he goes to her and she gives it to him! (of course her Daddy is still paying her bills….that’s another story, or is it?)
    All I know is we aren’t going to budge, but he’s not learning anything we are trying to teach! Can you help?

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