Parenting, Kids, and Stuff!

parenting kids stuff

It’s Christmas morning! Mom and Dad were up until 3am putting together Max’s new bike they bought him along with several other presents. They stumble into the kitchen weary eyed to get coffee, and all the while, little Max is bouncing around with excitement as he knows most of the presents under the tree are for him...and he is ready to get started!

As mom and dad shuffle into the living room, Max’s getting ready to tear into his first present, but mom wants to read a Christmas story first and remind Max about the meaning of Christmas and why they are celebrating. She wants to savor the moment and memory of this Christmas as he is growing up so fast. Max is impatient and isn't very happy about this, however, he puts down the present and listens to mom.

Once the story is done, Max passionately grabs the first present and rips it open. He squeals with delight and has a moment of happiness. Then he grabs another present and repeats this process until all his presents under the tree are opened.  

And then it happens… Max scrunches his face, starts crying and yells… I never got  new batman pajamas! Max is genuinely upset and not easily pacified.

Mom and dad’s hearts just sink. After all their hard work, money spent, wrapping presents and losing sleep...Max wants more! The joy and excitement of his GRAND PRIZED NEW BICYCLE has been deflated.

When did Max become so entitled?

Does this sound familiar?

We are a nation of consumers.

The holiday shopping season is upon us and the advertising is all around us. We are bombarded daily by consumer messages persuading us the goal of life is to have more money and buy more things. And it’s not just during the holidays!

Society and the media give the message that buying more stuff will make us happier and our lives better and so we’ve become a culture that values acquiring stuff.

Many have quietly come to believe that if you don’t own or buy a lot of stuff, you don’t have value. In general, having things has become more important than developing our unique gifts to contribute more meaningfully to the world.

This makes parenting a challenge as we are raising kids in a culture of entitlement and materialistic beliefs.

We need to counteract the damaging message to our children that happiness can be bought.

The reality is we have too much stuff and we are using too much stuff.

We have more stuff than any generation before us. Yet studies show our happiness is actually declining.

This is because we are doing way less of the things in life that bring real happiness.

Today, more than ever before, families have less time for leisure and the limited free time we do have is increasingly spent watching TV, engaged with technology, and shopping.

Enjoying quality time with family and friends, doing things we are good at and enjoy doing is where we ultimately will find true happiness - and it’s not happening often enough.

So how do we make the parenting shift, change perspective and start new traditions?

First step is reflecting on our lives and what we value. We need to get clear what messages we want to ‘gift’ to our children. Ultimately, what we model and what we tell our children needs to matter more to them than what they see in the media or hear from their friends.

Then we need to help our kids discover the emotional rewards that will be gained from things other than shopping and acquisitions. We must help our children rewire their brains for a different kind of internal reward and happiness.

To do this we need to change the way we look at things in our lives and have the courage to change the way your family lives. Bringing more connection, contribution, and skill mastery into our lives and teaching our children these great values that are proven to bring true and lasting happiness.


A connection is a fundamental means for human nurturing. Webster defines it as: a relation of personal intimacy. Children want to be seen, heard, accepted and appreciated. Sadly, when children want connection and validation, we tend to give them stuff instead.

Don’t feed your child’s emotional hunger with possessions. Give children what they truly want which is your undivided time and attention. Look for ways you can set up rituals in your daily and weekly routines that allow you to spend more time connecting. Focus on the quality of the time spent together rather than the quantity of time.

Consider buying gifts that encourage connection and family bonding – tickets to Disney on Ice, a family show, the local zoo, a children’s museum, a game for the family to play, a book to read together.

“Children thrive when you give them half as many presents and twice as much of your presence.”


Give your children the opportunity to discover how good it feels to give back. Giving back is personally empowering and is known to boost self-esteem, improve health, and fight depression.

Let your kids experience the difference they can make in someone else’s life. Give back as a family, not just this time of year but all year long.

There are many ways to give back locally in your community. Seek opportunities which reflect your family or children’s personal passions – the animal shelter, animal rescues, contributing through sports, helping the elderly, the homeless, or someone who is sick.  Even helping at an edible garden, harvesting fruits and vegetables, bring meaningful contributions.

Become a team. As a family, raise money for a cause important to you, and do a Bubble Run or Mud Run together. Make contributing fun and meaningful. Let it become a family tradition, and you will be giving your children a gift that will be enjoyed and remembered longer than anything you buy.

Skill Mastery:

Working on skill mastery for something your child has a talent or passion for. Working hard, persevering, and eventually succeeding helps wire the brain for a different kind of happiness.

Researchers have shown that family environments where parents focus on providing gratifying and fulfilling activities for kids, without relying on commercial stuff, better allow children to develop their personal strengths.

Also, children who are regularly engaged in fulfilling activities are more likely to become adults who are happier, less stressed, with more joyful and meaningful lives. Help your kids master cooking, basketball, sewing, or creative arts. Practice and enjoy their hobby with them. This is the kind of happiness reward that is permanent and lasts a lifetime.

Entitlement doesn’t just happen, it’s created. The time is now to let go of old ways that have become all too familiar over the years. Embrace your role as a parent. You have the power to reclaim and restructure your family values and traditions. Give yourself permission to change your perspective for the holidays and create a season that is more reflective of your values and the adults you ultimately want to raise your kids to become. Values that create more connection and memories … and less clutter.

Changing patterns of behavior is hard, and it can be confusing and challenging to try new things. It’s also easy to give up when something new doesn’t work out and then to come up with plenty of excuses about why it doesn’t work.

I need you to know support is always available.

If you relate to any of this information and want to learn more about how I can help you, or if you want to schedule a free phone conversation to see if my coaching is right for your family, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Heart of Connecting

My work is dedicated to supporting parents and early childhood educators in understanding and reducing challenging behavior in young children at home and in the preschool classroom.

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