I am very fortunate to have had a successful career. My husband and I have worked very hard for the things we have, and we want to enjoy life. However, now that we are parents, it’s important to us that our children appreciate what we have too. I don’t want to raise spoiled or entitled children. As Christmas is approaching, I am worried about how many presents to buy, and how much money to spend, so as not to be overly indulgent. How do I know what is appropriate? I do love to make them happy, and I myself love the gift-giving. Where do I draw the line? Hope you can help.
I am glad that the concept of entitlement and spoiling are on your radar. You are a step ahead of many! Just to reassure you, wealthy does NOT mean spoiled. Rather, a spoiled or entitled child has exempt themselves from an important belief system, which Adler called “the iron clad logic of social living”.
Let me explain this more fully: what Adler is describing, is the concept that social creatures live in social groups, and every person in that group has the responsibility of supporting the group to the best of their ability. We must both give and take from the group to survive.
An entitled person, however, believes they exist to be served by the group and they don’t have to give back! It’s all “me me me – what’s in it for me?”. The antidote to this attitude is to develop our children’s social interest. We are born with social interest. Caring for others is innate in social creatures, like us humans. But, this interest needs to be stimulated and developed by parents starting from the youngest of age. Unfortunately, this is a major failing in modern western parenting today.
It is critical to help a child develop from a completely dependent baby towards an intendent toddler, who can walk, talk, and feed themselves. But, we must go further and raise an interdependent person! This is what humans need to be successful in friendships, pair-bonding, and working in groups. As parents, we have to start this process by raising a family member who carries their weight and gives to others.
From the very beginning a child can contribute to another’s well-being. An 18-month-old can help put clothes from the dryer. A toddler can put toilet paper in the basket in the bathroom and clean up their toys after playing. A preschooler can be taught to wait patiently without interrupting while you make a phone call, instead of demanding your constant time and attention. Just making homemade cards and cookies, as a gift to give to family and neighbours, is a great way to participate in the exchange of gifts at Christmas. Donating a toy to a charity demonstrates the importance of giving back to others.
All of this is to say, if you grow your child’s social interest year-round, then receiving some lavish gifts at Christmas is not going to spoil them.
And just as a reminder, though I’m certain you already know: gifts don’t buy love. What kids really want is presence not presents.