Give Them Less and More of You

Every year around this time, parents find themselves shopping for that special Christmas gift. They can anticipate the gleeful look on the faces of their children Christmas morning when they unwrap the gifts they really wanted.

Most of the time a parent’s gift giving is fueled by the experiences and things they didn’t have as a child. They want their children to have what they didn’t have, so they give them mountains of presents, most of which they didn’t even ask for.

In her book Real Moments, Dr. Barbara DeAngelis, Ph.D., writes about an amazing story she heard right after the Los Angeles earthquake. A television reporter was out with a camera investigating the damage when he saw an enormous line of people. He assumed these people were lining up to receive emergency supplies since most of the city was without power. When he got to the front of the line, he realized they were lined up in front of a local toy store. Thousands of people were lined up for hours after a major disaster because they were anticipating a delivery of Power Rangers.

These parents left their children with neighbors and family members after such a frightening experience and during repeated aftershocks to buy plastic warrior toys. The sad thing about this whole episode is that the parents did it because they loved their children.

They thought that buying them a toy would make their children feel better about what had just happened. I guess it never occurred to them that what their children needed was to be held. They needed to be told that everything would be all right, and they needed to talk about what had just happened.

We are blessed to live in a country that offers so much, yet we have forgotten what is really important. Children today lack the most important thing of all. They don’t have parents who are truly present.

Parents drag their children to the movies, take them on great vacations, buy them computers and expensive cars, and give them money to spend with their friends on weekends. They give them all these things and more just to feel better about not spending time with them.

We talk about quality time and about making dates with our children as though this were normal. Who are we kidding? How many of us really believe that spending a few hours with our children once a week is enough?

We’re living through difficult times, and families are having serious problems because they are not connecting. They are not spending enough time together for any kind of real relationship to form.

Giving your children everything they want is not giving them love. Spending time with them on a daily basis is what children need more than anything.

This Christmas, instead of spending hundreds of dollars on gifts for your children, give them more of yourself. When you give your children material things instead of your love, you’re teaching them that objects, not love, can make them happy.

The greatest gift you can give your family cannot be wrapped and put under the tree. Give your children the gifts they need most—give them your love and understanding so that they know without a doubt that the greatest gift you received from God was the day they came into your life.

Maria Luisa Salcines is a freelance writer, certified parent educator and parent coach with The International Network for Children and Families in Redirecting Children’s Behavior, Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom, and Redirecting Corporate America. Contact her at her Web site at www.redirectingchildrenrgv.org.