The perfect gift for children? Brain researcher Gerald Huther has the answer.
Christmas has just passed. The joy over the gifts at the gift-giving was great. But lie with many already now in the corner. Brain researcher Gerald Huther therefore finds: Give your children best nothing.
What did you give your child for Christmas? Was it the play kitchen that is on the wish list? Or a bicycle, because your child would really be ready to ride a bike now? Perhaps the gift question has also given you a headache. Either because there wasn’t enough money for big gifts this year – or because you didn’t know how to outdo the last Christmas present.
It’s not a lie to say: the gift issue puts families to the test, year after year. Brain and happiness researcher Gerald Huther believes that parents could literally give all this to each other as a gift. He realized for himself and his family years ago that the best gift for children is none at all. In FOCUS Online, the author of the book "What do we give our children? his experiences and thoughts about it.
Gifts are seductions
"Most gifts are nothing more than questionable enticements. [. ] To learn how life works, children need us, not our gifts", says the blurb of the book that Huther wrote together with Andre Stern. Questionable temptations refer to gifts that parents expect to receive. Best example: the bicycle at Christmas. If the bike is wrapped under the Christmas tree, the condition attached to it, namely to ride it, comes free of charge.
"Many gifts serve a specific purpose. For example, the child should acquire certain skills", Huther explains in an interview with FOCUS Online. "The gift is an attempt to motivate the child. This is a form of reward learning." The child realizes that it will be rewarded if it does what the parents want it to do. It’s no longer self-motivated to do something (ride a bike), but externally motivated to do it.
What do children really need?
Here it gets tricky. The child may have specifically asked for a bicycle for Christmas, because he or she would like to learn to ride it! How can the sweetly meant gift now cause the child to lose motivation? Counter-questions: Does the child really need THE bicycle to learn to ride a bike?? Does it really have to wait until Christmas for that?? Shouldn’t the focus be on the shared experience of learning to ride a bike rather than the bike itself??
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"A gift I will never forget again"
Parents should be clear about why they want to give their child a gift. To want to distinguish oneself as the best gift giver of the family, must not be the motivation behind it. What’s more, a gift doesn’t have to be material.
"You could try to remember what you wished for until you were ten years old", Huther suggests. "That’s when you quickly realize that it wasn’t the Barbie doll, but the stellar moments when you got to experience something great with your parents." The author also remembers his childhood: "When I was four years old, my uncle showed me how to make a fire. That was a gift that I will never forget for the rest of my life. It didn’t cost anything, but it helped me a lot."
Curiosity and discovery are in children’s blood. As soon as they come into the world, everything around them is new and wants to be explored – preferably on their own initiative. Parents should always encourage this basic need for independence in their child. The appeal: help your child to be a creator! A pedagogically sophisticated toy is not as exciting for the child as a few chestnuts from which he or she can make animals.
Let’s assume that parents would like to give their child a train set. Then they should definitely ask themselves: Are we giving our child a train because we always wanted one too?? Is there a danger that we look forward to it ourselves and only allow our child to play with it?? Can both questions with a clear "No If the answer is "no," that doesn’t give you the go-ahead to run to the game store and whip out a credit card.
"Better to get a wooden board, maybe a train and a drive system and then say to the child: let’s build this together!" This opens up completely new possibilities for the child. Because the child can decide for itself whether a little tree should be added here and there, whether a train station is important – and if so, what it should look like.
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Strengthening children – without toys
"Anything that makes children strong is good", is Huther’s thesis. "It is strong when children can say: I did it myself, but I couldn’t have done it on my own, so mom and dad helped me do it. This is what makes children great."
What makes children weak, in turn, are gifts into which not enough imagination can be put, where children become mere consumers of the gift. And it’s usually these gifts that gather dust in the corner afterwards. Simply because they can not arouse the child’s joy of discovery. Is it surprising that children want the next, even bigger gift as a substitute satisfaction??
Parents should free themselves from the general assumption that gifts are only given on special occasions. Because designing is on the agenda around the clock, every day of the year. Opportunities to use one’s own imagination are always available everywhere – and they are always special. As parents, it is the task to recognize and take advantage of these opportunities. A "gift may be therefore gladly also during the week "handed over" become.
For example, by asking the child: "Would you like to go to the bike store this afternoon and pick out a bike??" And already the child can decide not only which bike he wants, but when it is time to learn to ride a bike. Because it may not be convenient for him this afternoon or he has thought about choosing the bike next month and then learning how to ride it.
Consumption under the Christmas tree: really necessary?
For Huther, himself a father, this form of gift-giving is already a family tradition. With his book he would like to share his experiences with other parents and give them some help. On the other hand it is its contribution to the Fridays For Future.
He wants to make you think. Because in order to save our earth, less consumption is more. And that already starts with the gift. The fact that children don’t need expensive toys at Christmas at all to be happy is consequently a realization that benefits your own family and Mother Earth.