When Giving Children What They Want Is Not What They Need


I’m sure you’ve heard of the different types of “love languages” in which people best give and receive love and affection. If you haven’t, you can read more about them here. In a nutshell, people feel love or express love in five different ways: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, gifts, and quality time.

As a wife and mother, I have learned that one of the ways I gravitate towards showing love is by gifts. I really enjoy giving gifts to my family– and if I buy a gift early, I have a very difficult time holding on to it until the special day. Moreover, if I know that someone in my family, especially my children, has a desire for a certain item, I want to go out and get it for them right away.

My sons are very into pretend weapons right now. Swords, pop-guns, bows and arrows, rifles, dart guns…they all have made their way into our home. I remember buying my boys their first guns. I had an internal dilemma in the middle of the toy aisle at Walmart. I couldn’t decide whether or not to purchase toy guns for my boys. I’m sure many of you have been in the same place. Unsure of what to do, I texted a few wise friends to get their opinions. Everyone was agreed. The gist of their answers was to allow guns, but to emphasize their proper use and the danger of real guns. The orange cap guns came home with us that day, as well as two well-loved cowboy hats.

Jack showing off his new cowboy gear when we got home.

The acquisition of my sons’ pop-guns is another example of wanting to give them their little hearts’ desires. After reading The Cat in the Hat Comes Back everyday for what seemed like weeks, my son Jack longed for a pop-gun (the little cats in the book have pop-guns). Everyday before his nap, he would tell me he wanted a pop-gun and ask me when we would get one. Again, I really wanted to make his wish a reality…And we now have 2 pop-guns.

20140406-223818.jpgJedidiah taking a moment to rest in between hunting expeditions.


The next big thing was wanting a bow and arrow. All I will say is that we can now quote Robin Hood and you will often catch me singing the tunes alone in the kitchen. Much anticipation and many requests later, we now have bows and arrows.

A more authentic looking, wooden handled shotgun is the new wish. And I find myself often wondering where I can get him one and if I can justify the cost.

I want to see his face light up with happiness and have the satisfaction of knowing that I am providing for him. 

But I’m holding back this time. Not only because new toys are not in the budget right now, but because I’m trying to find a balance. A balance between expressing my love for my children and teaching them important qualities like contentment, patience, and gratitude. In the process, I am also learning restraint and discretion.

All of this has made me think about the nature of giving, of parenthood, and our heavenly Father. I know that I delight in giving gifts to my children. I am sure that just about every other parent does too. The amazing thing is that my delight in giving gifts is only a drop in the bucket to God’s delight in giving His children gifts.

“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” Matthew 11:9-11

Parenting is a remarkable model to teach us more about how the Lord deals with His children. There are so many parallels and lessons we learn through the joys, challenges, and victories with our kids.

I want to give my son what he wants. But I know that not getting everything he wants is really what he needs. I can see a much bigger picture than he can. Both the giving and the not giving are motivated by love in my heart for him.

So it is with God.

There have been many times when I have earnestly asked the Lord for something but have not received the object of my petitions. Indeed, I am just coming out of the newborn stage with my baby, and during many long and sleepless nights I have begged the Lord for my baby to sleep so that I could get some rest. But just because I really want something doesn’t mean that it is what I need. What I really needed during those weeks was to be reminded that the Lord is my strength. I needed to rejoice in the fact that while I was not sleeping much at night, He was giving me the energy and grace I needed during the day. I needed to marvel at His wisdom in not giving me what I asked for but leading me into a greater understanding of my weakness and His power.

I hope that we can let this be an encouragement to us. Let the mirror of parenthood teach us something about the nature of God’s fatherhood.

We love our children.
He loves us even more.
(Matthew 11:9-11, Ephesians 3:19)

We enjoy giving our children gifts.
He perfectly provides for our needs and does not withhold any good thing from those who seek Him.
(Matthew 6:32-33, Philippians 4:19, Psalm 34:10)

We deny our children things they want at times because we know better.
He knows the end from the beginning and His wisdom is perfect.
(Isaiah 46:10, Isaiah 40:28)

We want our children to develop qualities like contentment, patience and gratitude.
He has promised that He will not stop His good work in us, conforming us to the image of His Son.
(Philippians 1:6, Romans 8:29)

So the next time you give your child a gift, remember all the Lord’s good gifts to you. And the next time you have to tell your child no to something, remember that when the Lord tells you “no”, it’s not because He loves you less, but because He knows better.

Have there been times when you really wanted to give your children gifts, but hold back? Why?

 These promises of God’s love and provision are for those whom He has called His children. Visit my Good News page to learn how you can become God’s child. 

2 thoughts on “When Giving Children What They Want Is Not What They Need

  1. Great reminder! I’ve done that too … withhold gifts from my children because I knew at that moment, it would not be good for them to have. As with us, gifts can become the idols in our hearts, and we treasure them far more than the giver.


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