“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.” –W.E.B. Dubois
I grew up with two parents who taught me a lot about hard work and being humble (I realize I’m one of the lucky ones). These lessons came from their being present; they did not come from giving my sisters and me presents. We weren’t given gifts for every little thing we did. We weren’t rewarded and regaled when we did what we were supposed to do, like working hard, owning our decisions and being our best selves.
Sure, there are certainly situations where gifts as a means to reward or celebrate make sense, like getting an A on a big project or test you know your kid(s) worked hard for, or winning a championship game, or getting into the top choice college. But these types of events are not every day occurrences; they are significant events or milestones.
And that’s the difference that, in my mind, helps separate giving presence from giving presents, of being there every day to support, guide and encourage as opposed to giving gifts.
Today’s world often makes parents feel pressured into constantly delivering surprises, gifts and presents to our kids. Ads for seemingly every product shows us that great parents are the ones who always give their kids exactly what they want. Just look at the market that has developed for 1st birthday parties and what we spend on Christmas!
I decided a long time ago to be a “presence parent” to help my kids sort through great events and challenges, to support and love them, to help them realize that their success is in their ability to find their own way, make their own impact and become their truest self. None of that requires physical gifts.
Be present. Be interested. Not only will giving presence vs. presents create great memories and a encourage a stronger relationship with your kids that evolves as they grow up, it will also teach them that gifts are rewards to be cherished, not something to expect in order to inspire action.
Sometimes, the best gift you can give them is to be with them and be fully present in that moment.
Important Questions from a Coach
- How can you increase your presence and decrease your presents?
- What are the benefits of spending more meaningful time with your kids?
- What would the impact of spending more time with your kids be? Would you reduce the number of “things” you give them?