What parent doesn’t love to give their children great gifts? When we can give our children more than what they need, and give them things they want, it makes us feel like we are doing a good job. It can also give us a false security, believing we are parenting well.
But are we really?
We all know that one family who has more money than time. Who showers their children with every imaginable gadget. While you might envy their ability to provide these things, it’s not hard to see there is a saturation point that’s not good.
We commonly think of only presents as gifts. When we do, we are missing out on giving our children so much more. We can gift them with attributes that will enrich their lives well into adulthood. We want to give our children the ability to grasp and understand values not common in the world they’re growing up in.
Give them the gift of delayed gratification.
In a world where instant gratification encompasses their lives, delayed gratification has to be taught. We have instant popcorn, movies on demand, and electronics that give out quick rewards for game levels achieved. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these, they do not give the same depth of satisfaction or contentment as delayed gratification.
- When your child asks for a toy, or you know he would like something special, offer him a way to earn it. Mark the calendar when you are going to the store. Each day, give him a way to earn money toward the purchase. The idea is simply that you can plan to have something you want, but often times we have to wait. The practice of waiting for something and looking forward to it, is a very real part of faith.
Give them opportunities to earn self-esteem.
- One of the saddest lies of this age is that you can give children their self-esteem. Praising and encouraging a child is good. But that does not build their self-esteem. Self-esteem, comes from within. It comes by proving to yourself that you are living up to your own expectations. Look for opportunities to encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone. When they do, they will be proud of themselves– use that time to help them build their trust in themselves. Encouragement and praise will have a greater impact.
Give them more unstructured playtime.
- All children come with a vast amount of imagination and creativity. Unfortunately, unless these attributes are nurtured, for many children, they wither. When we leave children to create their own games, explore an ant hill, or climb to the highest branch, we ignite in them the very characteristics of their Creator.
Give them togetherness rituals.
- Just like too many gifts, too many activities can also stop being a good thing. However, you can balance it by not sacrificing quality time for convenience like eating on the run instead of family dinners. It is so easy to do when we don’t realize the value of what we are skipping over. The entire act of preparation, setting a table, eating and talking together, gives children a connection point with their parents that no one else has with them. Clean up can also be a time where every person has a part to play. Family dinners can become a cherished childhood memory.
Give them self-control:
- Self-control is taught. Regulating strong emotions takes practice. No one likes being ruled by impulses or emotions. As parents we have a lot of empathy for our children. We love them in spite of their actions. So it’s easy to make excuses for bad behavior rather than discipline. At times hard to discipline them because it often does, really hurt us more than it does them. Nonetheless, the best gifts a parent can give doesn’t make us feel good, it saves our children from heartaches later in life.
Arlene Pellicane writes, “The truth is that life will punish the foolish child who lacks self-control, which is far more exacting than loving discipline in your home. Proverbs 25:28 says a person who lacks self-control is like a city breached, unprotected, without walls. There’s no protection from danger and enslavement to sin for your child when self-control is missing.”
We are in this parenting gig for the long-haul. Just as saving for college throughout their childhood is investing in their education and adulthood, so too is investing in their character a worthwhile gift that will pay dividends for them in adulthood.
Rhonda Robinson is a regular contributor to Inspiration.org.
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