At one time or another, we’ve all heard these sentiments: “When I was growing up, I had so little that I never want my kids to experience the poverty that I went through.”
As I’ve worked with families all over this country organizing their homes, almost everywhere I have gone I have seen moms and dads struggling and muddling through mountains of toys that they have worked to supply to their kids. And from my perspective those parents rarely receive their kids’ appreciation for all the stuff they’ve been given.
Parents feel that if they don’t get their kids all these toys, educational games, and computer programs, they are depriving their kids of the opportunities that they, the parents, missed.
I suggest a paradigm shift: focus on giving your kids what you have, instead of focusing on providing them with what you did not have. Why give your kids something that is perishable that will just add to the junk heap in some landfill, when you can give them the lasting treasures of your time, energy, and focus.
Take them to the zoo. Walk or hike with them in a park or on a trail. Get them off the computer and into the car for a trip to a bookstore or for ice cream. Teach them how to serve by guiding them into helping others a couple of hours each month. Commit to having just plain good family time once a week at home without turning on the TV. Establish family traditions that they will remember for years to come.
There are so many things you can do that does not involve stuff. When I was growing up, more than anything that my dad ever bought for me, I wanted him to play ball with me and the neighborhood kids. I wanted time with him.
Cultivate an ever-deepening friendship with your children. It’s not time spent; it’s time invested. And all the while you will model for your children how the really important things in life have little to do with stuff that will be enjoyed momentarily before it’s soon set aside or discarded.
If you invest your time wisely, they will, too. They will grow up and tell their children stories, not about the stuff they didn’t have, but all the wonderful joys and memories of what you gave them. These are treasures that you can never buy in a store. Your children will love you all the more for it, I guarantee!