The Best Gifts for Kids Are Not Ones That Can Be Wrapped Up in a Bow

The Best Gifts You Can Give Your ChildCredit:

Kids have a lot of wants these days, more than what we had as children.  Growing up, the only thing I longed for, and eventually received, was a bicycle with a banana seat.  I had outgrown my old red bicycle and all of my friends were getting banana seat bikes for their birthdays.  I couldn’t wait until I got mine so I could ride on it all day in the sunshine.

With the advent of technology, competitive parenting and mompetition, parents want to give their offspring everything from laptop computers to fancy iPhones.  Modern lives are busy; we are always on the go. These things will supposedly keep everyone closer and in touch, keeping everyone in the loop.

However, all of this technology has, in reality, created an even bigger disconnect among parents and children.  These expensive “gifts” that parents are giving to their children at an alarmingly younger and younger age are not holding families together, but actually driving a wedge between them. Hand held devices cannot replace one-on-one parenting.

There are many gifts you can give your children. The following are the ones that, in my opinion, are most important.

Give Your Children the Gift of a Happy Childhood

I know a lot of messed up in the head forty-something women here in the suburbs. Each one of them has one thread in common…a very unhappy childhood.  The reasons for their unhappiness differ, but they all have something in common.  They are trying really hard to bend over backwards and give their kids the perfect childhood they did not have.

Here’s a little secret… you cannot give you children a perfect childhood.

These women mistakenly believe that giving their children endless lessons, cultured activities, and giving them everything they want is how they are going to fix their present unhappiness and their own lack of “things” in their own past.

The best gift you can give your children a HAPPY childhood.  Life has its ups and downs, even as children. Our job as parents is not to smooth out every bump in the road, but to give them a hand up if they stumble and fall.  Life is not perfect and children need to learn certain coping skills if they are to grow up to be successful adults.  

The Blessing of the Skinned Knee

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children
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Although this book is written from a Jewish perspective, it offers solid parenting advice to people of all faiths without being preachy. Wendy Mogel tells parents that you need to let your kids take responsibility for their actions, let them know that they are not in charge, and that our children are not as fragile as we think they are.

The Gift of Time

Years ago, people complained about parents using the television as a babysitter.  Nowadays, it is the cell phone, the computer, the iPad, the Nintendo, the video games and all kinds that are creating a vast divide in families.

When is the last time you did something with your family that did not involve driving in the mini van?  Although driving to and from places is the perfect time for conversation as you sit side by side and not eye to eye, that should not be all of your family time.  Do you go bike riding, play games after dinner, or take a walk together? 

It doesn’t matter what you family does as a group, just that you are doing it together.


Family Dinner is Sacred TimeCredit:,_motor_brakeman,_and_his_family_eat_dinner_in_their_kitchen_in_home_in_company_housing_project._Koppers..._-_NARA_-_540913.tif

Give Them Sacred Family Time

In my home, dinner is our sacred family time.  No phones are answered, no television is permitted, and no distractions are allowed at our dinner table.  There are many life lessons that are taught during the family meal.  Taking turns while having a conversation, listening skills, good table manners, and getting to know each other without letting the world inside makes this 30-45 minutes of your day the most important. 

Dinner time at my home is far from perfect, trust me on this, but my college age daughter tells me that one of the things she misses while at college is a home cooked meal and sitting down with us to eat.

Spend Time With Your Child Permits You to See Him or Her

The Gift of "No"

Nobody likes to hear the word “no”, especially if you really, really, really want something.

But “no” is a necessary word to hear.

I know children who get everything they ask for.  A trip to the store to get a gallon of milk means a bag of cookies will come home as well; a visit to the mall begets another toy to be played with and discarded within days.  Any parent will tell you how much easier it is to say “yes”, but that is not giving your children anything but a temporary fix until they “need” the next thing they see.The Price of PrivilegeCredit:

The gift of “no” is not just for things, but for situations.  As parents, we have learned a lot along the way, and we have to protect our children from situations that may be dangerous.  My children are not allowed to hang out at our neighborhood school playground because the people who built and designed the school hid it in the back of the building.  Teens hang out there, and there are woods next to the playground. I do not want my children there unsupervised.

Their friends are allowed to go there, but too bad, mine are not.

I would not my older daughter date until she was sixteen, even though she asked me to change that number to fifteen when she started high school.

Nope, that didn’t happen.

There were plenty of other times that I said no to situations, and later on, my daughter thanked me.

The Gift of Honesty

I have known parents who have gone into debt to give their children things that they want but cannot afford. That is not only a bad money move, but you are not being honest with your children. 

For many years, I had to say no a lot to my older daughter’s requests for things.  The money was simply not in our budget. I was honest with her and while she was not always a happy camper about it, now that she is older, she has apologized for her younger, brattier days.  It wasn’t easy for all of us, but my husband and I were not digging a financial hole for ourselves so she could have things she wanted.

A Parenting Book for Those Who Need One

You're Perfect... and Other Lies Parents Tell
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What happens when you refuse to believe that your sweet baby can do no wrong? What kind of child are you raising who gets everything her heart desires and it is handed to her on a silver platter?

If you wish to raise a self-sufficient productive adult, this book will help you get out of any bad parenting habits you have developed and teach your children the truth.

The Gift of Earning Something From Their Own Hard Work

This gift goes hand in hand with the gift of the word “no”.  Some of the wealthiest people I know come from working class or middle class families.  They wanted more and better, so they worked and strived to achieve the level of success they enjoy today. 

They turned their hunger into success, and in turn, give their children everything they desire. Where is this hunger that gave them the success they earned supposed to come from when they know that Mommy and Daddy will buy them whatever they want, as they never say “no”?

Instead of saying “yes” to everything, make them work for some of these things.  I have money limits on certain items.  For example, I will not spend more than fifty dollars on a pair of sneakers that my kids will soon outgrow. My son wanted a certain pair that cost $100.  I bought them on sale for $70 and he gave me the twenty dollar difference from his piggy bank.  I turned that no into a yes.

My kids can earn extra money for the things they want but I will not pay for.  It is an opportunity for them to see that work + effort = results.  Constantly giving them what they want may mean that they never move out!

As a parent, we want what is best for our children.  The best does not mean “things”, but the best of us.  Sometimes that best is not easy to do, but if we wish to raise responsible adults who can survive on their own, then these are the gifts we need to give them to start them on their way.