I’m going to make the assumption that all of you reading this have said at one time: “I just want the best for my child”. Have you ever stopped to consider what you really mean by “the best”? Do you feel everything you own that’s associated with parenting, should be “the best”? Do you feel they should be attending “the best” preschool or “the best” private school? Do you feel you should be living in “the best” neighborhood? Do you think they should always be having “the best” teachers?
We all know parents who spend thousands and thousands of dollars on clothes, gadgets, lessons, toys, equipment, and electronics. Maybe you’re one of them. If they were to be asked why they’re spending so much money on all these things, the answer is likely to be “We just want the best for him/her”. I truly believe they do want the best and their intentions are nothing but honorable. Often times parents will consciously provide things their parents couldn’t afford so they make an effort to ensure their own children don’t “go without”.
One of the things parents hear all the time is “I WANT”. When we take our kids to the store they want candy, a toy they’ve seen on TV, or something one of their friend’s maybe has. It’s either “I want” or “Can I have….?”. We’re put in a position of either saying no or giving in to their pleas. Kids are very good at making us believe they should have whatever it is their asking for because “Everyone has one” or they tell you they “really, really want it”. Or, often you’ll hear “You never buy me anything!” We don’t want our kids to be left out nor do we want them to think they’re neglected in any way. Let’s face it, we often give in because we love to see the smile on their faces and experience their feeling of joy.
Many parents I’ve worked with admit to buying far more than their kids possibly need but often they do it out of guilt. They’re away from them for long periods of time and buying them something they like, eases the guilt; temporarily. As well, it’s much easier to give in to a whining child when you’re tired and have put in a long day. You simply don’t have the energy to negotiate or listen to persistent begging and whining. It’s just too much work.
Parents who enroll their kids in multiple activities at once will say they want to expose them to a variety of things so they can choose later on what they really like. They want to provide them with enrichment and opportunities that could potentially advance them in life. Some have told me they feel pressured to have their kids in a number of different activities because they feel judged if they don’t.
When it comes right down to it, do kids REALLY want all these things and experiences? Do they feel happier and more loved and cared for? It is our responsibility to create an environment for them that is stimulating, with toys and games that are age appropriate and conducive to social, intellectual and emotional development. Beyond that though, what they REALLY want is our presence. They want us to be engaged, to listen to them, to respond to their questions and comments; notice what they’re doing, and be there to hold them and touch them. They want our support and encouragement. They want us to be present. I’ve often suggested to parents that one of the nicest things you can do for your child is just sit with her/him on the couch and cuddle up in front of the TV together or play a game together. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or extravagant. They love it when we spend time with them at the end of the day before they go to sleep. Think back to when you were a child. What are your fondest memories? Very often your best memories were around just doing very simple things with one or both parents. You remember the connection and how much it meant to you. Seldom do our fondest childhood memories revolve around things or time spent under the guidance or direction of someone else, unless it was a grandparent or favorite relative. We owe it to our kids to put aside a little bit of time everyday when they get the clear message that nothing else matters to us right now, but them.