Presents of Love or Guilt

It is better to give than it is to receive, but a child might think differently if they are used to being showered with gifts. Parents, what are your reasons for gift-giving, and are they the right ones?

Do you have piles of gifts still stacked somewhere in your home, some still wrapped? I am talking about those that your child received from birthday parties, Christmases or you bought on holidays.

December is festive in the Western world celebrating Christmas, and one of the traditions is gift-giving. From a retail perspective, it is the most profitable month of the year. In fact, preparations begin on the day after Thanksgiving (November 29), and in the U.S. it is known as Black Friday, pushing impulse buys on the unknowing masses (some preparations are even made sooner). It is similar to what we have in China with 11/11 on November 11, where all of China–if not the whole world–goes crazy shopping online.

Gift giving is an expression of love to some, but can also be an expression of guilt to others–it all depends on the gift giver’s intentions. Case in point: a parent who’s traveling on business usually comes home with presents for the children.

I once heard a child ask his mother, “Why didn’t you buy me anything this time?” The exhausted parent could not think of a satisfactory answer quick enough to please her child. “Is it because you don’t love me?” the child soon added. In this situation, an expectation was set by the child for the mother to always bring him a material gift to prove her love after she had been away.

Gift giving is an expression of love to some, but can also be an expression of guilt to others.

Gift-giving comes in different forms–in the form of material goods, physical expressions (such as hugs, kisses), verbal expressions (such as words of gratitude and appreciation) and actions (such as doing charity work and helping others). The nature of gift-giving is for us to show each other how much we care and how much we appreciate having each other in our lives. That said, material goods such as toys, clothing and electronic devices do not adequately do the job–far from it.

Being a positive parent is being able to nurture our children to understand and to appreciate the nature of gift-giving and show material goods are not the only kind of gifts we can give one another. Moreover, it is not the best way to express love.

The reason why I say that is children crave gifts because of the urge for instant gratification more than simply for the actual gift. Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay. It is when you want it, and you want it now. The setback of this psychological urge can affect the psychological and emotional developmental growth of a child in the long run. Remember the time when your child told you that he or she really liked that toy and couldn’t live without it? You bought it for him or her, but after a week, maybe even less, the toy was either replaced by another new toy or it ended up buried among others in the toy box.

So, what are some of the alternatives as gifts for expressing our love to our children?

  • Send quality time with your child (hiking, visiting museums, theatre).
  • Send postcards to grandparents and friends during holiday trips.
  • Volunteer to help local charity regularly.
  • Teach them to help out at home.
  • Write love letters to one another (parent to child, child to parent) on Mother’s and Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Chinese New Year.

My favorite is to ask friends, who come to my children’s birthday parties, to make a kind donation to a charitable organization in place of material goods. It is the best kind of gift we can give one another. Don’t you think?

Interested in Positive Parenting? Contact Sandy Sinn by WeChat at Sandyparentcoach.