Thursday, December 3, 2009

What do you do to show your kids love without spending exorbitant amounts of money?

- a guest post from Craig Ford a missionary in Papua New Guinea

Does Not
Equal Love

First, a rant. I have never bought into the thinking that love and money are automatically connected. This, however, is a common lie we have been told to believe. If you love your children, so we are told, you will buy expensive and extravagant gifts for them – even if you cannot afford it. This is rarely any more evident than the parent child relationship.

There is an assumption that if you love your child then you need to buy the “best” for them. If you don’t, you are selfish or a derelict parent.
You can love your children and raise well balanced kids without spending excessive amounts on them. On the other hand, if you can afford to (and choose to because you think it is wise) to buy lots of things for your kids – good for you. Please do not put your family’s financial future in jeopardy because you “want the best for their kids” (interpretation: you want to buy whatever their son or daughter wants!). It is not a blessing to you and it is not a blessing to them. This mindset leads to entitlement thinking in children.
5 Ways to Show Love to Your Kids Without Spending a Single Dollar

1. Be Together as a Family
I think the pressure to lavish our kids (depending on their age) comes from within, not necessarily from the kids themselves. April 2009, Our family spent a week just south of Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Canada. We saw some amazing sites and did some cool stuff. October 2009 my four year old daughter looks at all the pictures and doesn’t remember anything – except … getting to sleep on the floor with her brother. Kids will take boring and mundane family activities and turn them into their favorite memories.
2. Be Creative
Sometimes people spend just because they are too lazy to think of a better idea. Things like going out to eat or going to the movies are just default decisions. You can save money by avoiding the restaurant, but if you do go, at least go to restaurants where kids eat free. As an example, a few weeks ago my wife made binoculars from used toilet paper rolls. Just put those empty rolls together and put a piece of tape around the contraption and you have hours of fun for young kids. We have also used old rolls for bowling. Get yourself out of automatic and think about a new creative activity.
3. Have a Family Night
Our family night is Friday. We make homemade pizza, watch a movie, and drink Coke. Alright, this might not be the healthiest family tradition, but it sure is cheap – and we love it. The pizza and family night tradition started even before we had kids. For almost 10 years now the tradition has been going strong and it only seems to become more special. Your family tradition might be something different, but just pick something you love that doesn’t cost a lot of money and see where it leads you. Intentional and consistent family traditions get better over time, not worse.
4. Challenge Yourself
If you find the ‘be creative’ suggestion above hard to implement, then challenging yourself should help. Restrict yourself by your budget. Alright, we have $10 for tonight. What is the coolest thing we can do for $10? I bet your kids will enjoy that more than going to another movie. Put on your thinking cap – what can you do with a limited budget?
5. Focus on Essentials by Setting Goals
The goal of parenting is to love your kids and raise good, decent people. The goal is not to spend money unchecked on your kids. Write down your goals for your children and see how many of those require money. Chances are some will require money, but most will actually require time. Unfortunately, too many folks are out getting so much money to give to their kids that they don’t have any time left over.

Decide what you want your kids to be like and adjust your life to provide the time necessary to mentor them.

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