Reminder: You Can’t Buy Your Children’s Love

It’s a common scenario. Parents get separated or divorced and have joint custody of their kids. One of the parents then starts showering the kids with extravagant gifts from concert tickets and designer clothes to electronics and trips to fun or exotic places. They might let the kids get away with everything, allowing them to stay up late, eat anything they want and enjoy as much screen time as they like.

If you’re guilty of any of these, it’s time to reconsider your behavior.

Divorce is often hard on everyone involved and where you used to enjoy unlimited access to your kids, you now find yourself co-parenting and splitting the time you spend with them with your ex. This can trigger feelings of insecurity tempting you to try to buy your kids’ affection.

Maybe you are still reeling from the divorce and your unresolved feelings are driving you to upstage your ex-spouse in the gift-giving arena. Or perhaps you feel guilty about putting your kids through the trauma of divorce and so you try to buy their love. On the other hand, you might genuinely care for your children and want to spoil them once in a while, especially if you don’t get to see them that often.

Regardless of the reason, you need to stop and reevaluate your actions. Your quest to be known as the favorite parent or secure your children’s favor might be doing more harm than good. An all too common parenting mistake is giving into your kid’s every whim. While it might seem like a sure way of getting into their good books, in reality, you’re just creating entitled kids. Similarly, giving your children extravagant gifts isn’t bad, but you should never do it to compensate for your poor parenting. Otherwise, your kids might come to equate love with “things”.

Making things right

Recognizing that you’ve fallen into a common parenting pitfall is the first step towards changing things for the better.

You can’t buy your kid’s love but you can foster it. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Speak your kid’s love language.

Love can be expressed and received in different ways. Discovering and speaking your kid’s primary love language ensures that they feel loved and allows both of you to build and reap the rewards of a fulfilling relationship.

  • Put their needs first.

In the wake of a divorce, it’s easy to lose sight of your children’s needs. But no matter how confused, angry or hurt you feel, you shouldn’t turn the situation into a competition for your kid’s affections. It’s important to learn how to meet not only their physical but also their emotional needs.

  • Don’t be afraid to discipline them.

You might want your kids to consider you the fun parent so you hold back on disciplining them. However, letting them get away with all kinds of behavior isn’t love. Kids need consistency and structure to thrive so don’t be afraid to lay some ground rules and set consequences.

To get true love from your kids, you need to treat them well and spend time building a healthy lasting relationship with them. Get to really know them and be the best parent you can be. Remember that while presents are nice, what your children really want is your time and attention. These stand the test of time and are way more valuable than any possessions you can get them.

Author of this article, Tyler Jacobson, enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative work. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on: Twitter