What are the best gifts to give your children?
The latest smartphone? A new laptop? A fun vacation?
There’s nothing wrong with giving children material things. But through my interactions with thousands of students, I realize that the gifts they value most usually don’t cost a cent.
Nevertheless, these gifts will bring them long-lasting joy, fulfillment, and success.
Inspired by this article, I came up with this list of 50 gifts your children will treasure for life, and which don’t cost a cent.
Through responsibilities, children learn to be responsible. And being responsible is a key factor that leads to enduring success.
More shoes, more clothes, more money, more electronic devices … It’s easy to feel as if you never have enough. But if children don’t learn to be contented, they’ll never be happy.
Be vulnerable with your children by sharing your challenges and weaknesses – as well as what you’re doing to overcome them. This way, your children will learn that they don’t have to pretend to be perfect.
4. Managing their emotions
Children must learn to deal with emotions like anger, frustration, and disappointment in order to lead a productive life.
My mom has been writing me letters for years, and I’ve kept all of them. In these letters, she shared her hopes, dreams, and concerns with me. Each letter has inspired me to live with a stronger sense of purpose and determination. (I love you, Mom!)
6. Family rituals
Family rituals are great for bonding. Research also shows that they help children to develop socially. These rituals could be as simple as having breakfast as a family every Saturday morning, or having a weekly family meeting.
7. Strong relationship with your spouse
As you model a healthy marriage for your children, they’ll learn how to build a strong marriage for themselves and their spouse in the future.
8. Being a team player
As the saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Great things are accomplished through teamwork.
9. Money management
Share with your children the basics of smart spending, saving, and investing. These skills will benefit them for the rest of their life.
Children must learn to be kind toward others – and also toward themselves. Teach your children to become their own best friend, so that they won’t ever be overwhelmed by guilt or shame.
There are endless things to learn and explore. Become an inquisitive person yourself, and share with your children the joy of embracing the beauty of the world around us.
Tell your children what you appreciate about them. Set an example by frequently giving others sincere compliments too.
Remind your children that you love them unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what grades they get or what achievements they rack up. The more loved your children feel, the more they’ll be able to love others well.
Worthwhile accomplishments don’t happen overnight. As such, patience is a virtue that’s at the foundation of fulfillment and success.
Children must be given enough appropriate challenges, so they’ll learn to enjoy challenges, rather than avoid them.
Studies show that grateful people are happier, healthier, and more successful. Show your children that there are always things to be thankful for, no matter what the situation.
You can learn something from everyone you meet. By maintaining a humble, teachable attitude, your children will maximize their personal growth.
As you show your children basic respect, they’ll learn to respect others. They’ll also learn to have a healthy respect for authority.
Life is full of struggles, but there are also plenty of things to laugh about. Make your home a place of joy and laughter, and your children will have many wonderful family memories.
Without self-control, your children won’t be able to keep their commitments or make progress toward their goals.
Children need physical affection from you, whether it’s a hug or a pat on the back.
When you spend time with your children, they’ll see that they’re so important that you’re willing to make sacrifices just to be with them. The gift of time doesn’t cost anything, but it’s priceless.
23. Spirit of giving and sharing
Research shows that giving is better than receiving. Model for your children what it means to be generous with your resources and time.
Strong relationships are vital for long-term happiness and success. The most important ingredient in any relationship is trust, and you can’t build trust if you don’t have integrity.
To maximize their potential, children need to feel safe and secure. They’ll only feel this way if they have a stable home environment. So if your home is full of tension and conflict, take steps to address the underlying issues right away.
26. Healthy living
Health is something we take for granted when we’re young, but age will eventually catch up with us. Teach your children the importance of healthy living by sleeping, eating, and exercising right as a family.
27. Positive thinking
I’m not talking about living in a fantasy world. I’m talking about teaching your children to see the opportunity and potential in every situation, no matter how bleak things might seem.
28. Unconditional support
We all have our low moments. That’s when we need encouragement and support to pick ourselves up and get back on the right path.
29. Serving others
A meaningful life is one which is focused on serving others and on making a difference in the lives of others.
The “small” things you do every day matter more than the “big” things you do once in a while. Your habits will make you or break you. Teach your children this truth, and help them to cultivate healthy habits.
As Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Reflection enables us to turn events into experiences, and to gain wisdom.
Friends will betray you. Colleagues will gossip about you. And you’ll most definitely make mistakes. These are facts of life, so children must learn to forgive others freely – and themselves too.
When you see things from the other person’s perspective, you won’t cast judgment prematurely. Set an example for your children by being understanding. As a result, they’ll become more caring and empathetic.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes: “The only difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is how high you raise your foot.” The path to success is full of setbacks, so children need to develop the mental strength to deal with these setbacks.
35. Good manners
Being a polite, well-mannered person will never go out of style. Good manners also help to create a solid first impression.
36. Organizational skills
The older your children get, the busier they’re likely to become. Without organizational skills, they won’t be able to effectively manage their schedule and priorities.
Play is a crucial part of life, no matter what your age. Have fun as a family, and show your children that there are times when you shouldn’t take life too seriously.
This is a skill that few people master. By listening actively, you’ll build stronger relationships and develop empathy.
Having dreams is an important part of leading a fulfilling life. So give your children the freedom to dream, and tell them about your dreams too. Not every dream will become a reality, but having dreams makes life more exciting.
40. Passion for learning
You don’t go to school to get an education; school is just one part of your education. Share with your children the things you’re learning, the books you’re reading, and the skills you’re developing. Your children will begin to see that learning isn’t mainly about passing exams. It’s about continually improving, so that you can make a bigger contribution to those around you.
Many people make decisions based on pragmatism. But the ones who lead the most significant lives make decisions based on principles and values. Empower your children to lead a life of conviction, not convenience.
As children get older, they need to be given more choices and responsibilities. At the same time, they must learn that choices lead to consequences. Allow them to experience these consequences, so that they’ll make even better decisions down the road.
43. Hard work
Getting good grades requires hard work. Becoming a valuable employee requires hard work. Building strong relationships requires hard work. In other words, achieving anything worthwhile requires hard work. Teach your children the value of hard work, and show them that hard work is fun!
Vision is the starting point of all groundbreaking inventions, technologies, and businesses. To become visionary, children first need the freedom to explore their imagination.
When you’re with your children, put aside your newspapers and electronic devices, and be fully present. Children appreciate this more than you might think.
46. Freedom to fail
As Seth Godin once said, “If failure isn’t an option, then neither is real success.” As long as their well-being isn’t in danger, give your children the freedom to make mistakes and fail. This will help them to build courage and resilience.
47. People skills
Getting along with others is an invaluable life skill. Coach your children to ask good questions, empathize with others, and communicate effectively.
48. Ability to win and lose gracefully
Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Regardless of the outcome, you should display grace, respect, and humility.
49. Knowing the difference between wants and needs
Understanding this difference will prevent your children from chasing after things they don’t need – and which won’t make them happy. As such, they’ll lead a simpler and more meaningful life.
50. Sense of destiny
My parents instilled in me and my siblings a sense of destiny, an understanding that we had a purpose to fulfill in life. As a result, I’d say that we’ve stayed relatively focused on doing things to serve others and make an impact. (Of course, my siblings and I are far from perfect!) I can only imagine how much emptier our lives would be if our parents hadn’t instilled in us this sense of destiny.
Unfortunately, you can’t buy these 50 gifts anywhere. You need to give these gifts to your children a little bit at a time, over the course of years.
This is a painstaking process, but your efforts will pay off. Your children will grow to be focused, disciplined, responsible, generous, and kind.
You have a huge part to play – I know you’re up to the challenge. 🙂
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