When my oldest daughter was three years old, we lived in a downstairs apartment. The family above us had a very smart daughter the same age as mine. Every morning when the weather was good, I took my little girl on a walk. Usually I took the girl from upstairs with us. One morning the little girl told me: "I would like to live downstairs!"
"Why?" I asked her. I didn't understand, because the upstairs apartment was better. She answered: "Because in the apartment downstairs, the mothers stay home!" She associated the presence of the mother with the apartment, because the mother of the family who lived in the apartment before us also didn't work outside of the home. And then the little girl continued, "but it's all right if my mother works because she can buy lots of beautiful things for me."
It is not necessarily wrong to work outside of the home, but as parents we should analyze our motives. Are they selfish? Saying "I want to give to my child everything I didn't have" may sound like a beautiful demonstration of love and dedication but in reality may be related to something not very well resolved in the parent's past!
These parents don't ask if the child needs or even wants the items. The parents are actually fulfilling a necessity of themselves, not always a necessity of the child.
Because of the guilt feelings arising from being away from the child all day, the parents feel the necessity to compensate the child. The child ge(s whatever he asks for. The child perceives the situation and starts to develop the capacity to control adults. The parents shower the child with material things assuming they will make the child happy. Unfortunately, the child has so many toys he does not appreciate them; they soon pile up in the closets.
Years later these same parents complain about how much money they have to spend on their children's clothes, amusement, etc. The daughter needs a new outfit every weekend. The son demands a car, credit cards, more money for parties or trips. When the parents refuse such demands, the children usually rebel.
When parents give in to all the demands of children, they are shaping a generation of material-minded young people. These children learn to treasure "things" instead "values." Their self-esteem is determined by the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, and the money they have. All too often, these children are selfish, proud, willful, and ungrateful. They do not appreciate and develop the God-given gifts they may have such as honesty, love for neighbors or generosity.
My childhood was spent in a well-structured family (in the pattern of the time, of course). My father worked very hard, and Mom took care of all of us. She did not work outside the home. Home and family were her mission and her destiny. My siblings and I always felt her love and concern We didn't feel a lack of anything. We had delicious homemade food, attention, love, assurance, education, health, friends, time to play. Everything! We didn't have an excess of material things. We received toys only at Christmas. I didn't feel inferior to anybody. I wasn't educated in this "despair of possessions."
Today, wealthy families give their children every thing: each child has her own radio, TV, room, bike, etc. They are not learning to share, to wait, to think of others. Some parents give presents to all their children on each child's birthday so the children won't feel jealous or sad. To learn to share, to wait for your turn, to suffer small frustrations are ESSENTIAL PARTS OF LIFE'S APPRENTICESHIP.
Children need to be able to wish, dream, and plan for something. When children receive everything they ask for, they do not learn to value what they have.
It can be argued that rearing children in the past was easier because of a lack of TV. While that is certainly true, it still is not an excuse to lavish children with everything they want. Parenting can be very hard, but parents need to remember children are gifts from God and parental responsibility is both a privilege and necessity.
Giving permission to children to participate in every program, every birthday party, and every club is detrimental. Parents are always running from one place to another. Soon the children expect to be entertained and a weekend at home becomes torture. Helping children decide which event to attend prepares them for the future. They learn to make choices and realize choices often involve some type of loss and conflict.
Balance, peace, and assurance are the best gifts parents can give their children. They supersede material things in every way. Ellen White gives good counsel in her book Child Guidance, pages 135 and 136 when she says, "Do not edu cate your children to think that your love for them must be expressed by indulging their pride, their extravagance, their love of display ... The spendthrift boy will be the spendthrift man. The vain, selfish, self-caring girl will be the same kind of woman."
After all, what do children have to discover, to expect, to feel emotion towards if parents give them the world on a silver tray?