Building Wisdom When Kids Want Gifts…and More Gifts

Parents love giving their kids good gifts. And kids love receiving them! As you’ll learn in our upcoming Entitlement Online Course, the gift-giving experience can be an exciting dopamine burst (our body’s reward/pleasure chemical) for everyone! It can be fun at first, but over time the joy can quickly give way to a sense of entitlement.

Add to the mix a highly sophisticated advertising industry aimed at shaping the values of kids in order to influence their buying habits. One study reported that children under 14 influenced as much as 47% of American household spending. It is estimated that advertisers spend more than $12 billion per year to reach the youth market and that children view more than 40,000 commercials each year. These figures represent dramatic increases over those from the 1970sThey communicate a subtle and troubling message: “You need this toy (or food) to be happy.” These advertisers gauge not only how to shape your kids’ buying habits, but their identity: “You’re the coolest when you have our product!”  

So consider when you are innocently giving in to your kids’ desires to get this toy or that game, that you may unintentionally also be reinforcing the advertising industry’s agenda. While there are no simple answers to all this, we’ve found that when parents become more intentional about their gift-giving choices, their kids develop deeper wisdom about choosing a God-honoring lifestyle.

To help you be more intentional, we invite you to think through the following questions regarding gifts:

  • How does (or can) this gift build character and kindness, or might it promote violence or selfishness?
  • Are there clear ways the gift could foster out-of-the-box creativity, or might the use be more narrow and pre-determined?
  • How might this gift give my child new opportunities to bless others?   
  • Could the gift be used in fun, social interaction, or might my child use the gift in self-absorbing ways?
  • Does this toy promote physical activity?
  • Is this a toy that would be better if my child worked to earn it?

Once you prioritize these questions for your family’s needs, let your kids know you’re thinking about gifts for the season. Pick a few of the questions above, and invite your kids to think through their list accordingly. Have a discussion with them that explores the questions together.

The gifts we give send a message. They communicate our values. As you look at the bolded words above, are those things you value, and do your kids know it? Do they know how those things fit into God’s purposes for their lives? The more you model and talk in everyday life about your values, the more your child will understand and accept a “No” when it comes if it is based on those values.

Ask God for grace, strength and wisdom to add some constructive gifts for your kids this Christmas. They might just be fun and creative enough that over Christmas break, you will want to play with the gifts you give your kids!!

Then, if you’ve given great gifts that answer the above questions well for your unique kids, what were they? How did they build your kids’ character? Share your ideas below.


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