Not long ago Ikea put together a great Christmas ad in Spain. In the ad kids were asked to write down what they wanted for Christmas from the Three Kings (their Santa Clause). Then they asked them to write down what they wanted most from their parents. Everything the kids wanted from their parents went along these lines:
- “I want you to spend more time with me.”
- “I wish you paid a little more attention to me.”
- “I would like it if you had dinner with us more often.”
- “I want you to tickle us and read us a story.”
- “I want us to be together for one full day.”
After the kids were done making both lists the film makers gave the children two options: They could send the letter of what they wanted for Christmas to the Three Kings OR they could send the letter of what they wanted to their parents. Most of the kids chose to send the letter they wrote to their parents.
What your kids need most from you is you.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying our kids more stuff. Every parent who has ever taken their young children through Toys R Us knows that kids love toys. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with buying your kids toys.
But the danger we have to be careful of is buying our kids too many things. Things have the power to distract us from the most important things. There’s no “thing” that can make up for an absentee parent.
Minimalism is about minimizing your possessions and commitments so you can maximize the time you spend on your priorities.
What they need most from us is our time, our attention, and our direction. They needs us to be there to cheer them on at their game or recital. They need us to come home and play with them, ask them about their day, and listen to what’s going on in their heart and life.
Minimalism strips away the stuff that gets in the way of building better relationships with our kids.
Think about it. If you buy less stuff you won’t have to spend so much time taking care of it and you can use that time to spend with your kids. If you don’t always go after the latest gadget or car, a bigger house, or the next promotion you won’t have to spend so much time at the office to earn it or pay for it.
And when you don’t say yes to everything your kids want they’ll have less to clean up and take care of too. You won’t spend your afternoons, nights, and weekends as their chauffeur because you’ll only have them involved in the things that mean the most to them and that align the best with your families values. You’ll have more time to sit together at dinner and more time to have fun as a family. And your kids will learn that the most important things in life aren’t things.
I’ve never heard someone who has a bad relationship with their parents say they wished their parents had bought them more stuff when they were a kids. What I always hear them say is they wish their parents had gotten their act together and spent more time with them.
If you have a great relationship with your parents chances are it’s not because of what they bought you, but because of the great times you spent together.
When I was about 10 years old my dad took the day off of work to take me up to the mountains right before Christmas. We spent the day playing in the snow, riding sleds, and building a snowman. I don’t remember one thing my dad got me for Christmas that year but I’ll never forget the time we spent together that day.
Minimalism isn’t about having less for the sake of having less. It’s about clearing the clutter from your life, making space for what matters most, and removing everything that distracts us from our priorities.
Today give your kids what they need most: your time. You’ll both be glad you did.