The best gift this holiday season is the gift of education

The ghost of holidays past

From the numerous ads for the latest trend-setting toys for your tots through to the funky, not to mention pricey, cell phones and designer cases for your teens, it’s hard to believe that just a few generations ago, typical gifts for Canadian kids included a few sweets, a book, a handmade sweater and even an orange.

In our ever-increasingly materialistic society, the modern-day child has more “stuff” then the average adult had just a few generations ago. A new term that has surfaced in child development recently is “overindulgence” which means “excessive” or “too much.” 1 An overabundance of “stuff” can weaken the link between effort and reward for children, creating long-term feelings of entitlement and unrealistic expectations about achieving an affluent lifestyle.

Understanding the fine line between being generous and setting unrealistic expectations

While we tend to want to be generous with children, it’s important to understand that there is a difference between a sensible amount of materialism, and an overabundance of possessions. Taking a balanced approach when it comes to giving children “stuff” can help teach them positive and impactful lifelong lessons. For example, linking gifts and purchases to a child’s achievement, performance and good behaviour is a way to reward and incent positive behaviour. In this way, children have to earn their “stuff” through good grades, being role models in their communities, listening to their parents and contributing to the household. By doing so, children develop a connection between performance, positive behaviour and earning their “stuff”, as opposed to developing a sense of entitlement and expectation.

Of course, this recognition and reward approach is difficult during the holiday season when gift giving is simply the norm. Our friends and relatives will buy gifts for our children and we reciprocate in return. This season, when asked by your friends and relatives what to buy for your children, consider taking a more long-term approach that balances material possessions with a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Giving the gift of education

In all of the presents and gift-exchanges that will take place this holiday, one way to give a gift to a child that will really make an impact is the gift of education. By increasing your contribution to an existing CST RESP, or opening a new CST RESP for nieces, nephews, grandchildren or the child of one of your dearest friends, you can help to make a difference in a child’s life that will last forever. This holiday season, give a child the gift of choice, the gift of opportunity and the gift of achievement. Give a child the gift of education.


1 “Overindulgence in Children: Too Much Stuff”, Betty and Diniese