The Gifts We Give Our Children

Have we ever stopped to consider the birthday presents we buy our kids? I must confess that I am not always very discerning or purposeful about the gifts I buy my children. Most of the time I am excited to get them what I know they will like. I delight to see their reactions everytime they open their presents. It brings me a deep sense of joy to be able to bless them.

However, as our children grow older, Edric and I have been challenged to give gifts that are aligned with the values and principles we are trying to pass on to them.

Elijah, our eldest, turned eleven last month. He has matured so much in the last few years. And he has become much more intelligent and able minded than I ever was at his age.

Sometimes I don’t even understand what he is saying because it is beyond my very simple brain. His recent preoccupation has been memorizing the periodic table of elements with his brother, Edan. Titus is kind of joining in on this new interest they have picked up because of an app called Toca Labs.

Titus told me the other day, “Mom, I am eating sulfur.”

“What?!”

“Eggs have sulfur. It’s an element.”

Of course I laughed out loud. This was most certainly the influence of his older brother, Elijah!

The day of Elijah’s birthday, I asked him what he wanted. Of course, as his mom, I knew that a gadget would have been at the top of his list. But ever since he started helping his dad out by speaking with him around the country, he has begun to understand that it’s not easy to make money. So he doesn’t ask for anything too expensive.

Since he is into science, I bought him a couple of Kidz Labs experiments. He was very content with those and very grateful.

Separately, Edric had it in his mind to bless Elijah with an IPad. We were discussing this in the car without Elijah around and Edric was pretty set on getting him one. Initially we both thought it was a great idea. Elijah has really “proven himself worthy” to receive a present like this. We imagined how thrilled he would be. We were at that tipping point. “Let’s get it!!!” But we decided to suspend our excitement and think through the implications.

For some parents this may be a snap of the finger decision. Many of the kids we know his age have cell phones and an IPad, maybe even a laptop! He doesn’t own any. His only gadget is a very basic Kindle Reader.

At present we share two IPads between 7 of us in the family. Okay, Catalina doesn’t count. There are some good things about this. The kids always have to divide time on the IPad so they can’t ever play too long when they get to do their educational games. The IPads don’t babysit our children or keep them preoccupied constantly. They are taught to interact with others and be engaged in what is going on around them.

With Elijah, the considerations are a little different. He speaks with Edric around the country and he could use a tablet for monitoring his stocks and doing his reports. He is responsible and able to self-regulate his desire to play games. Plus, he is well aware of the dangers to avoid online.

Nevertheless, we thought of how it may negate the perspective we are trying to instill in our kids when it comes to material things. We want to protect them from entitlement issues — just because they want it, just because we can afford it, we will get it. That’s not the way we want them to view money. And once we start getting one child his own IPad, we will have to do the same with the rest at some point. It’s not a trend we want to begin in our family.

Instead, we want to uphold the character trait of restraint and learning to wait for something you value. In a culture were instant is the expectation, children don’t have to deny themselves too many pleasures or put up with a lot of inconveniences.

My concern is this may soften their resolve to work hard if they are going to get what they want handed to them anyway. Furthermore, their appreciation for what they have may vanish quickly because there is no investment of effort on their part. If we give them too much too soon, it may not prepare them for the real world either.

A businesswoman friend of mine was just talking about how challenging it is to hire young people today. They are not willing to put in the hours and energy to do an excellent job at work. Their ethic is one of convenience. To be successful, children need to realize that it’s going to take time, energy and resources to pursue their dreams and receive the fruit of their hands.

After nearly 400 episodes of Edric’s personal finance show, On the Money, he has consistently identified entitlement, the got to have it, I deserve it mentality as the number one problem of people with money issues.

So Edric decided that he wouldn’t go with a gadget. Instead, he taught Elijah how to set up his own savings account for his birthday. Elijah already has some money invested in stocks and Edric has an existing account for him (and each of our kids).

However, it turns out that BDO has a junior savings account option which allows children 5 to 12 to manage their own money. The maintaining balance is only 100 pesos and they can start earning interest off 500 pesos. They get a passbook and debit card, too. Requirements for opening this account are an NSO certified true copy of a child’s birth certificate, school ID and two ID photos. Elijah went through all the motions of setting up his bank account. So proud of him, my big little young man!

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Elijah was so happy that he got this as a present. And he is so motivated to put what he is earning from speaking into that account. He is also hoping to save up for a tablet on his own and looking forward to being able to buy one with his money.

As parents Edric and I are learning that we need to evaluate the gifts we give our children. A good question to ask is will it profit them in the long term? We may be giving good things but perhaps we can give something better, something that will help them to grow in character or acquire a valuable skill.

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. (1 Corinthians 10:23 NASB)

Comments

  1. Hi Joy, I recently read about kids in these modern times with an illness called “affluenzia”. I think you are right in letting them work/save for what they want. I have a couple of kids and they asks for so many things – unnecessary things. I sometimes give in and sometimes I don’t. I will try to be more firm and stand my ground. I also like your idea of opening a bank account for them to manage. We have piggy banks for the kids but maybe it’s time for an upgrade, thanks for the idea. :)

  2. sheryl j.u. says:

    This is a good read. Thanks a lot! Now I am planning to gift my daughter her very own BDO account for her birthday this coming April. My kids also don’t have iPads, or an iPhones just because I want them to explore more healthy activities and preoccupations. These gadgets doing the babysitting for parents can indeed be harmful and unhealthy. I am more into buying stuff for crafts, or books or bringing them into places where they can play and just be kids. I try to keep things simple, and basic for them without them being deprived, so for example, the occasional treat of chocolate or lollipop still excites them. This is also true for the one hour game time that they get to have on our laptops. Since we live in Bali, I let them experience the way the local children enjoy a simple life: sun, sea, and just simple fun :)

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Thanks great, Sheryl! :) It’s so wonderful when our children are easy to please because we don’t spoil them! I totally agree and applaud what you are doing as a mom :)

  3. Hi ate Joy ! thanks for this it was nice knowing your point to save money rather than spending it buying Ipads. Hope you can also write about decisions of career path. I’m now a graduating student from high school and soon i’ll be in college . But upto now I still dont know what course am I gonna take. I’m having problems and conflict because my parents choice for me is education while in my part i want to take up masscom. I’m already under a Dgroup (ate shallah Intal ) and enjoying my time with them . Thank you for your love and experiences you always share in your blog. I’m getting lots of learning from you ate joy :D I hope one day i’ll have a chance to meet you around CCF

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Thanks Audrina! When it comes to career choices, present to God the desire of your heart. But in the meantime, let your parents know you are willing to obey what they proposed. Then ask God to change their heart if they are in the wrong or change yours if he really wants you to pursue education. I always believe that obedience leads to blessing. If you choose to obey them, you lose nothing because you are trusting that God is speaking through them. And it is very possible that when you communicate to them that you are wholeheartedly willing to obey, he will change their hearts completely and you won’t have to be in conflict with them for that to happen. God is on your side Audrina. He wants what is best for you. So discover what that is by doing what you know to be certain and true — obey — and let him deal with what is outside of your control — changing the hearts of your parents if that is indeed his will. :)

  4. First off, belated happy birthday to Elijah! :) In this day and age wherein it is easier to gift kids with what’s the latest gadget available to bail out on babysitting duties because the gadget does it for kids, I like the idea of opening up a savings account.

    It is ‘cooler’ (I think) if kids can purchase their own things! I mean, I remember the time I was able to buy my own Nokia 5110 phone then (from my summer job)! :)

    Nice present! :)

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Thanks Rachiel! I’m always having to resist the urge to hand a gadget to my children when I need them to “behave.” But I’m learning that this doesn’t have to be my default mode. Children survived without gadgets in the past, they don’t have to be enslaved to them now. We let our kids play on iPads but you are right, we shouldn’t use them to babysit all the time!

  5. Hi ma’am Joy! Lately I have been really fascinated by financial literacy and my lack of knowledge in something so crucial I have no idea about. I’ve figured that the best way to learn about money is from ‘Men of the Faith’. Can you please give me links on where I can watch the On The Money online so I can start from episode 1? Much thanks!

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The Gifts We Give Our Children