In our family we’ve chosen to go a slightly different route when it comes to birthdays… for now.
Let me start by saying, I have nothing against birthday presents. I’m thankful for all the birthday presents I received growing up. But at this point in our family life the toy situation is on the brink of “out-of-control” as it stands. Keeping our things down to a reasonable quantity is hard enough without us adding to the madness.
“More stuff” in and of itself is not bad, but the love of it can seep into our hearts oh-so easily.
There are few things more unpleasant in a child than an “entitled or ungrateful attitude.” This is something I work to prevent as much as possible as a parent.
“More stuff” can take our eyes off the things that really matter. This has certainly been true for me at times. Instead of making us more content, it can actually make us less content. It’s not always the answer.
And then there’s the mess of it.
But there’s something else. Something that does satisfy, refresh, delight and nourish the soul. Relationship– presence.
So, instead of adding to the clutter when birthdays roll around, we’ve decided to do something that we believe will be even more meaningful. We spend time with our children. We make memories. We give them an experience, time together as a family. We have an adventure.
Here’s how it works:
- Our kids know ahead of time that, for their birthday, they will get to pick something fun to do as a family. We clarify and set the expectation so they won’t be expecting a physical present. We want them to be excited, not disappointed!
- They get to plan and dream and research and decide what they want to do.
- When their birthdays come, we make the day all about them, as much as possible. We say yes. We give them extra attention. We listen to them and talk to them. We delight in them, and they know it. We tell them how special they are. We do what they want to do within reason. I pushed my little daughter in the swing for an hour this year on her 3rd birthday. For her that’s about as good as it gets.
- We have a fun day out together as a family.
- We make a special birthday dinner (honoree’s choice) served up on a special birthday plate. We sing and have cake. We celebrate, and we spend more time together as a family.
Now, just to clarify, our kids do still get some birthday presents from friends and family members who love them and want to show it. We’re okay with that. It’s fun for them and those giving to them.
However, as far as our part goes, we resolved to give them ourselves and skip the stuff. (At least for now… I may feel differently in a year or two, who knows?)
At this point, I would rather buy them something unexpectedly “just because” than to train them to expect or feel entitled to presents.
I actually do love gift giving. I want to do it in freedom rather than obligation.
**Update** We tried it again for birthday #4! Read about that here.
What’s your reaction to this approach? How do nurture a non-materialistic and non-entitled attitude in your children?