BY DANIEL B. KLINE
Before scouring the toy stores and elbowing aside the other shoppers to grab the latest toy for your child, take a quick glance in your attic. Up there, you will likely find an army of abandoned Furbys, clusters of parentless Cabbage Patch Kids and at least one Elmo begging for someone to tickle him. Open some closets and you may discover a mountain of Pogs, dusty Pokemon paraphernalia and hundreds of Beanie Babies still wearing their tags.
While looking through these forgotten treasures, you should also take a glance inside your checkbook. Will the temporary joy of your child be worth adding to your debt? Does making sure your kids keep up with the neighbors' kids justify doing long-term damage to your family's fiscal health?
Of course, the fact that the toys that drive adults to behave like irrational maniacs today will sit in the Goodwill pile tomorrow, does not lessen a child's desire to obtain them. Children, especially younger ones, have no perspective. They want what they want, when they want it, and if their parents fail to deliver the goods then they have failed.
Adults, however, should know better. It's our responsibility to set limits and recognize that you can go too far. Your child may want the hottest toy or the most expensive one, but you must decide when being a good parent means disappointing your offspring.
Kids always want the latest fads. They want these toys whether they are actually fun to play with or simply because all the other kids want them too. As parents, we must manage our children's expectations and keep their material desires grounded in reality.
Everyone else might be getting a $400 iPod for Christmas, but if buying that iPod impacts your ability to pay your mortgage then you can't purchase it. Similarly, you may want to have the hottest toy wrapped and under the tree, but grabbing it out of someone else's hands does not send the right message.
Being a good parent does not mean always making your child happy. The real role models teach their children that life contains disappointments - both small ones and big ones. Kids need to learn how to handle not getting what they want or they will not be successful adults.
If you sacrifice your personal morals and your family finances to give your kids a temporary high, then you are doing them a disservice in the long run. As grown-ups your children may not get every job they want, they may have mates they desire reject them and they may not be able to make all their dreams come true as fast as they might like. If their parents fail to prepare them for these realities, then they are headed for a life of sadness.
Have a wonderful holiday season and do everything within reason to bring joy to your children. Just remember that their long-term happiness comes from you setting the right example and giving them the wonderful gift of the tools needed to navigate the world as an adult.
Daniel B. Kline is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. His book "50 Things Every Guy Should Know How to Do" will be released in April. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.