Over Investing in Children

First off let me say I do love my kids. I love them so much I’m willing to have them hate me at times to ensure they become healthy, happy adults who can handle themselves in the world. Why is it then I feel like a minority most days?

I can’t tell you the number of new parents I meet that say “Wow kids are expensive!” I look at them like they have two heads. No, the reality is your kids don’t need the brand name clothes, diapers and you don’t have to buy a new car when your expecting your first. You will be surprised that even an Echo can fit two car seats in the back seat!

What has happen to people? Why are we trying to give our kids ever little thing that might give them a fraction of an IQ point edge over the kids next door? Do you really think everybody’s kids can be the next leader of your country or a president of a major corporation?  Why does your kid need a PDA to keep track of their activities?

You know what I think.  We feel guilty.  We really do want the best for our children, but then we get sucked into some dumb advertising which stirs a slight feeling of guilt.  Then we start with extra activities, lessons, booking play dates (does any one else recall just going over to your friends house to play on your own?) and before you know it we turned into hyper parenting freaks.

This is the new world of keeping up with the Jonses.  Instead of keeping up with them we want our kids to keep up with their kids.  We are all systematically over investing in our children. The really scary thing about this is studies are showing it hasn’t help one bit.  In fact it’s now gone too far and we are producing a generation of over dependent children.

Case in point I was at a career fair last year for my company.  I met a man who was handing out resumes for his university age son.  I toss the resume in the garbage at once.  I told my boss about it and he shook his head in disgust.  He knew what I knew: we don’t want people like that.  They tend to have overly high expectations, be unrealistic and overly self absorbed.  In short they suck at working well in a team.  So yes your child may have an extra point of IQ, but he can’t function well in society at large so it doesn’t help one bit.

So I propose the other way to parent.  I will invest love, understand and experience into my children.  I will not be buying them a toy in the store because they are crying about it and I feel embarrassed.   I will not be buying them name brand clothes because they want them.  I will only put them in one activity at a time because they need time to play.  I will not invest in private tutors because if I can’t help them I’m sure their teacher can manage just fine.  I will give them what they need and not what they want.  I will invest the one thing that is worth more than anything else in the world: I will invest my time with them.

23 thoughts on “Over Investing in Children”

  1. Great post Tim. It is true, even with our newborn, we are thinking about how to develop their ‘IQ’ to it’s maximum potential through DVD’s, piano lessons, sports etc.

    IMO, i think the real reason why parents spoil their children these days because they feel guilty that they spend so much time working and so little time with the kids. Esp in today’s society of 2 working parents.

  2. I intend to do what I can to help my kids manage their career better than I did.

    But, wow, distributing their resumes?

    I think my kids will be more embarrassed than me!

  3. Excellent post.

    I’ve written about the book “Buy, buy, baby” which covers this sort of thing.

    Another phenomenon I’ve noticed is the desire for new parents to start up an RESP even though they have huge amounts of debt.


  4. Hey, great post! One of my New York friends always says that he compares his rearing of his boys not to his neighbours/friends, but to his parents upringing of him. He says he has evidence that 70s-style parenting (playing with the cooking pots for hours on end and all!) turns out good adults, but none that 2008-style parenting does the same. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but this guy is the least stressed individual I’ve ever met.

  5. I absolutely agree. We’ve bought almost all our baby gear, and 95% of clothes used from consignment stores.

    I do disagree, however, with the commenter about setting up RESPs. While the child raising years are the most expensive in life, the fact that there is a government program that gives you FREE money is never ever something to not invest in (especially considering the rising cost of tuition, and the difficulty in securing loans). You don’t have to throw a ton of money in it, especially when they are young, but we have ours available for family members who don’t want to give toys etc. — and know that whatever they put in will be matched.

    This does not by any means mean our child(ren) will have their school paid for — they will have to work part-time jobs just as my husband and I did — but at least they will know there is something to give them a kick start. And those few hundred dollars we can afford once a year will have a big impact in 17 years.

  6. So agreed! My 2 year old daughter’s favorite toy is a cardboard box with windows and a door cut out of it.

    I know far too many parents who fill the days of their children to the brim with structured playing activities and spend a lot of money catering to their child’s every whim. What happened to just… playing and using your imagination? Kids are entirely capable of having fun with anything and everything… they have such vivid imaginations. Just let them play.

  7. With a one year old. I’ve gone through they “I must have the best of everything” stage when he was born. He has boxes of toys (from his grandparents who spoil him) but at the moment he is playing with a chair. I’ve known parents who are trying to build their child’s resume when they hit elementary school. Thinking wouldn’t it be great if Little Johnny could say he has played soccer for 15 years. My parents made my sister’s an I choose. We got 1 sport for each season and 1 major school activity (all three of us choose the theater productions). I had a few after school activities in high school but nothing that required more than an hour of my time every few weeks. I managed to have a nice list of activities for my college applications while not over scheduling myself. My sister is 16 and she is constantly asking for the newest and the best. My parents give in because she is the baby and the only child at home but they also know that my sister is an independent individual who is willing to work to get where she wants in life (I suppose childhood cancer can do that to a person). I known too many people from college who wouldn’t last a minute in the real world with out mommy and daddy at their beck and call. Let kids be kids. Tell them you can’t afford that new toy even if you can, desperation breeds inspiration after all and they just might find they like the toys they have already.

  8. I have two kids and I’d disagree–they’re expensive as heck! Nearly every onesie, shirt, or pair of pants they wear is a hand-me-down. Any toy we purchase is from a second hand store. And yet, we were pretty much required to spend $50/week on formula for each of them. Tried breastfeeding, that resulted in 6 months of colic. Imagine our little girl screaming hysterically every day for six hours without stop until we changed to Nutramigen. So that adds up to $200/month on food.

    What’s more is that, when we use the generic diapers or wipes the kids get rashes. They just don’t do the job like the name brands do.

    Don’t get me wrong. We don’t pamper our children. Now that they’re old enough we give them whatever we’re eating (and that sure helps). If they fall we don’t coddle them. We support them, sure, but we don’t cater to their every whim. That’s just to say that sometimes, a lot of times, kids _are_ in fact very expensive even when the parents aren’t “over investing.”

  9. I don’t buy my son clothes, toys or books as the rest of the family buys him more than enough. Just on his diapers and wipes alone I’m spending a ton of money and barely making any. Also have to pay for daycare so I can work to buy diapers and food which he never seems to get enough of though he eats just slightly smaller portions than I do.. I’m still mostly broke all the time. So I have to disagree too.. kids are expensive even with out all the brandname stuff!

  10. Most of the commenters above have very young children. Ours are 9 and 6. I wholeheartedly agree that having a baby can be really inexpensive if you thrift/use handmedowns. In addition to the money saved, I think it also teaches children some valuable lessons about the problems surrounding rampant consumerism and encouraging environmental stewardship.

    I am realistic enough to expect it will become a whole lot more expensive after they reach puberty (on the other hand, I may be pleasantly surprised). I often wonder why there isn’t more advice on this subject for new parents: by parenting young ones cheaply, it’s much easier to get an early headstart on their RESPs while their kids are young.

  11. As an elementary school principal I can very well relate to the comments in this article. On the one hand, I deal every day with parents who have unrealistic expectations for their children and the school. Comments like “I know my son/daughter isn’t an angel but….” usually let me know that the parent is refusing to see reality. I’ve even had parents, on many occasions, inform me that “my child doesn’t lie”. Well I have bad news, if a child has done something wrong, he/she will lie to try and get out of it. We have all done it as children and children continue to do it.
    I also have the flipside, dealing with young teachers who are a product of this type of upbringing. What I see from them is a minimal effort in preparing their classes, 15-20 sick days a year (give me a break), and a complete refusal to take any responsability for any problems.
    Let me tell you, it scares me to think where this is all heading. Hopefully, there will be a backlash at some point. We will see.

  12. Carly,

    I believe Mike was getting at credit card debt. RESP’s are great, but really you are not doing yourself any get help if you are carrying lots of consumer debt. In that case I would still open an RESP but only put in the first contribution and then do some make up after you pay off the rest of the consumer debt.


    I would agree formula is expensive as heck. We only had to use it with our first for a month and I hated it. We never really had any major issues with breast feeding, but we did discover that my wife needed to cut back her chocolate consumption as it did a number on our son every time she had too much of it.

    I generally agree that in some cases basic care items can be expensive. It really depends on the kid. In the post I was getting at those people that go over board on their spending of non basic items.


    Oh I agree daycare can be expensive. Why do you think my wife started one in the house? So we didn’t have to pay for it. It’s sort of strange but true, but obviously that won’t work for everyone.


  13. What a retarded set of opinions. So, a parent trying to help their son find a job is responsible for the decline of civilization? I worry far more about the societal consequences of anyone blinded by their own petty biases (e.g., rejecting a resume outright because you believe something “tends” to be the case) than I do about parents who choose to invest both time _and_ money into their children.

  14. Sigh,

    I take it by your comment you’ve never had the pleasure of looking at resumes for someone to hire. The average person looks at a resume for a whole 10 seconds before placing it in one of three piles: reject, maybe, interview. I’ve rejected people for a hell of lot less than their dad dropping off a resume (ie: cover letter addressed to the wrong person despite the ads instructions to where to send it).

    Also of course I’m biased. Everyone is! At least I’m honest about it.


  15. Resumes handed out by parents get thrown out the fastest.

    Sometimes, we keep the ones with typos and mistakes around for a good laugh.

  16. Excellent Post, and I totally agree, I get frsutrated at my 8 year old step daughter who always comes and says: “I’m bored what can I do”, when she has a million toys and gadgets. So no more spending, I now invest in their RESP’s during birthdays, holidays etc… which in the long run will be much more benefically then some toy or gadget. Also my baby girl’s (8mth) favorite thing now is playing with the remotes and trying to get the batteries back into it, instead of the two baskets full of toys. Enough said.

  17. It is so easy to try to “keep up” with those around you and what they are doing with their kids. One of the benefits of having 4 is that it is simply not possible for us to do. The kids have to share, negotiate and miss out on “stuff” some times, but there is always plenty of love and fun.

  18. Excellent post.

    It really logiocal for parents of nowadays. I agree with you that its,another phenomenon I’ve noticed is the desire for new parents to start up an RESP even though they have huge amounts of debt.

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