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The Value of Experience Versus the Value of Materials Things


As we journey through life, we realize it’s filled with experiences. They start from the moment we’re born when we experience our mother’s tender touch and our father’s wonder for the first time. They can be pleasant, like attending a family gathering in a distant location that is filled with fun, food, and laughter. They can be unpleasant like falling down and skinning our knee even though we were told not to run. Experiences provide us with lasting memories, teach us lessons, and are the puzzle pieces that make up our lives. 

We don’t all experience the same things as we grow up, nor do we experience them in the same way. Experiences are personal and important and a large part of shaping who we are. As we look back on our experiences when we are older and have children of our own, we realize their significance in a profound way. This realization makes us want to give our children experiences similar to the ones we had, mostly the good ones. It also makes us understand we must hold their hand and help them through the not-so-good ones because they are just as important.

Our children are used to material things. Gifts start coming in even before they are born and continue through birthdays and holidays year after year after year. Gifts have their place and are necessary for children to learn the value of receiving as well as of giving. It is important, though, to strike a balance between accumulating material things and accumulating experiences. 

Happiness from material things is temporary. It’s important that children learn happiness can come from other sources as well. Depending on happiness from material things alone will end up causing disappointment in the end. 

We set the example for our children. They model their behaviour on us. The best way for us to help our children understand that experiences are more valuable than material things is to set the best example we can for them. The following may help.

Show Your Children What an Experience Means to You
When we are deeply and positively affected by something we are experiencing, it shows in our faces and in our bodies. We express joy, surprise, and awe in our facial expressions. We hug and spread our arms to encompass the feelings we are having. Our reactions are honest and heartfelt and our children will pick up on that and mirror it. Our joy will become their joy and vice versa. They will not only see how important the experience is, they will also feel it. In turn, it will become an experience they will want to share with someone later in life.


Talk about Experiences You Share with Your Children
An experience doesn’t have to be an elaborate one, like a trip to Disney World (although that is an awesome experience for the right occasion), in order for it to become a lasting memory. An unplanned unexpected moment, like suddenly having time to feed the squirrels in the park with one of your children when the rest of the family is busy with other things, creates the opportunity for meaningful time alone to talk and enjoy nature. Telling the child how happy it makes you to have that moment with them adds value to an already pleasurable experience.

Propose an Experience over Gifts
As a replacement for gifts to celebrate an occasion, you might suggest a trip to somewhere special, perhaps a camping trip in a national park, or that trip to Disney World. It may take some convincing or it may not. By working the long-lasting value of the experience over the instant gratification of gifts into the conversation, your child may begin to understand the value of one over the other. 

You might even suggest the experience of giving a donation, as part of a birthday party, to a cause the child feels deeply about. Guests would be asked for donations in lieu of gifts. Having all the guests involved in taking the donation directly to the organization would create a meaningful experience and a happy memory for everyone. 

Material things have a place in our lives. So do experiences. Helping our children understand that both have value and that the value of one may outlast the value of the other is up to us. Our parents did it for us, now it’s our turn.

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