new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

What do children really want?

How do you satisfy that small person who just doesn’t seem to be happy? “What more can I give them?” the frustrated parent cries when they feel they aren’t doing enough. Phrases like “You never wanted for anything” ring out from parents to ‘unappreciative’ youngsters.

A UNICEF report on the well-being of children delivered a shock for UK parents last week as the UK came in bottom of a league of 21 nations for happiness among its children. The BBC summed it up succinctly: “Our children need time not stuff”.

Although it’s about the UK, I wonder how much of these home truths apply to Ireland too. We may have come a little late to the economic prosperity party, but we jumped in well and truly once it arrived. Suddenly there were jobs, more hours, more work. Let’s work more, buy bigger houses, go on better holidays. Now they are gone, but the mindset lingers.

We are caught up in a world where we get our sense of identity from our work, or what we purchase with the money we earn, and we impose these values on our children—expecting them to be satisfied with possessions too.

We come home from work, tired and frustrated because we didn’t get any deep sense of satisfaction from it, we feel deeply in need of some time to ourselves—after all, “We’ve earned it”. And there is a little person, whom we brought into the world, who is hardwired for time with us, waiting—and all we can see is an interruption, a nuisance, another person needing our attention. So we send them to play with the expensive toys we bought them, or to park themselves in front of the TV to watch another DVD we purchased for them, not really because we love them, but because we love ourselves and want some time for ourselves.

UNICEF paints a picture of a country that has got its priorities wrong—trading quality time with our children for cupboards full of expensive toys that aren't used.

Dr Tessa Livingstone writes on the Daily Telegraph’s website:

‘The average 10-year-old can name-check 400 brands and is increasingly likely to use them to measure self-worth. British children are inundated with presents. There is £7.3 billion worth of goods in children’s bedrooms.

‘I remember talking to an unemployed father whose wish was to be able to give his son a games console and other presents. I asked whether he played with his son: “I only want to give him something. It’s my job to give the kids what they want, not to do anything else.” That’s what being a successful dad was to him.’

UNICEF found that Spanish and Swedish children have more contact time with their families and rarely buy into the consumerist dream. Sadly we give less time and buy more.

“What more can I give you?”—the answer is ‘Yourself’.
“You never wanted for anything”—yes, in fact, they wanted, but didn’t get time with their parents.

“Children are an inheritance from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3) One day we will have to give account of what we did, and how we raised the children God has given to us.