5 Ways to Lavish Love on Your Kids

SAY HELLO to 2018!

From now until the end of January, you can save 18% on almost everything in the shop, and get free shipping in the US for orders above $50! Get all the details HERE.

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Today I am happy to introduce you to my friend Emily Wierenga.  I first met Emily last October, and in the months since I have been so blessed and inspired by her writing about faith, parenting, and life after anorexia.  Her brand new memoir, Atlas Girl, launches today, and I can’t say enough good things about it!  It is a very moving look at Emily’s own experience in traveling the world in search of herself but finally finding home in the last place she thought to look.  I was deeply touched by her story and I’m sure you will be too. Get it in bookstores, starting today, or order it online.

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This is a guest post from Emily Wierenga.

I grew up in a mushroom cut and second-hand clothes. I was a pastor’s kid whose father’s salary flirted with the poverty line. Mum would visit “Sally Ann” or the Salvation Army once a month and I remember dreading what she would find because it never fit quite right and it wasn’t what the other kids were wearing. I remember the day our van window shattered on the way to church because it was minus forty in northern Canada, the four of us kids in the back shivering and Dad duct-taping cardboard across the door to keep out the drafts. Dad would gather us in the living room and do a budget meeting with us, telling us how much we could spend on heat, water and food, and he installed a flow limiter in the shower to cut down the amount of water we used. We had dump days when we’d go with Dad and root for things of value. Our first television was found in a heap of trash.

And on the way home from church some Sundays we’d stop and get day-old donuts. And those donuts were delicious.

But they didn’t fill the hole.

The one carved deep in my chest, the one that ached to know I was worth purchasing something new for. Something so new it had that smell, the never-been-opened-before smell. I wanted to know I was worth spending water and heat on—I remember being so cold in the winters and begging Dad to turn up the thermostat, but he told me to put on a sweater, and while he was just trying to be consistent and frugal with a tight preacher’s budget, I heard that I wasn’t worth it.

When you’re only ever given other people’s garbage, you begin to feel like other people’s garbage.

And I remember sitting on my bed one day in the basement, making a list of all the things I would do differently when I was a parent, like having a warm house, using Bounce sheets instead of having stiff towels from hanging them on the line—not appreciating that we even had a house, that we had towels, not realizing that the bed I slept on was a gift and the clothes I wore too, second-hand as they were. It wouldn’t be until years later when I visited Uganda and talked with mothers about their dreams, and they told me they longed to “have a mattress of their own, and a mop, and a bucket,” that I realized I knew nothing of poverty.

But the problem wasn’t so much a lack of things, as an association with my worth to it.

I believe in being frugal. I believe in using money wisely and in being selfless. I believe in thrift stores and in day-old donuts.

But I also believe in generosity. The Bible says God loves a cheerful giver, and this doesn’t just mean giving to the church or to charities. It means giving to yourself and to your family. And it doesn’t just mean spending money. It means lavishing time, affection and laughter—as well as money—and not all the time, but enough to tell them they matter.

I knew my parents loved me, but I didn’t feel it.

In addition to not having much money, time and affection were tight. Dad would spend most days in his office and evenings visiting parishioners, and Mum would be so busy mending and baking and homeschooling that there was no time for just being held. Neither had been complimented much growing up—my mother doesn’t remember being told “I love you”—so they in turn didn’t know how to extend affirmation to their kids.

So how do we do it, friends? How do we lavish on our children, without creating a sense of entitlement? How do we teach our kids their true worth—priceless—without spoiling them? How do we balance frugality and wisdom with generosity, not only with others but with our own family?

Here are five tips which guide me as I raise my two sons—perhaps they’ll help you too?

1. Let your children be children.

That is, don’t worry them with money problems; don’t let them hear you and your husband arguing about the bills or expenses, and don’t hold monthly budget meetings. They will be faced with financial pressures soon enough. Let them be children. As far as they’re concerned, life is free.

Let Your Children Be Children

2. Don’t be afraid to splurge on your family.

The other day I took my son Aiden to the doctor to get him tested for allergies. As a reward for being brave during the appointment, I told him I’d buy him ice cream. But then, he saw a Spiderman balloon. All thoughts of ice cream fled, as he begged for the balloon. It was $10—I thought it was a complete rip-off. But I also knew that my four-year-old was worth so much more than $10, and that I wanted him to know that. So I bought him the balloon, not because material things will satisfy our children’s souls, but because it’s good to give—both to others, and to our children.

3. Lavish affection and time.

Many parents are so busy they don’t have time or energy to lavish what really matters on their children: time and affection. More than any number of Spiderman balloons, spend an extra five minutes just holding your son or daughter, or getting down on the floor and playing Legos with them. Read them another bedtime story, and then just sit and snuggle. If your kids are older, take them on coffee dates or to the movies. You may not think they notice, but the more you spend on your children, the less they’ll hunger after material things.

4. Teach your kids financial responsibility.

When the right time comes, start giving your kids a monthly allowance and helping them to budget it, or implement a commission system for them to earn money through working.  Take them to the bank, and teach them to put a percentage of their allowance in savings. Take them to church, and teach them to tithe. Budgeting is a lost art; help them to appreciate the commodity and to invest it wisely, without inspiring fear in them.

Spend On Yourself

5. Spend money occasionally on yourself.

Growing up, my parents didn’t spend money on themselves. Dad would only allow himself to shower twice a week because he was very conscious (and rightly so) of conserving resources. Mum would rarely buy herself even a second-hand outfit. I truly appreciate my parents’ self-sacrifice and their desire to spend money wisely, but coupled with lack of affection and time, it created low self-esteem within their children. When you occasionally spend money on a new handbag or a haircut, or on taking a vacation with your husband, you’re giving your children permission to enjoy life as well.

We live in a love-starved, consumerist society. But we can take back money, friends, and instead use it as a gift—both for the world, and for our families.

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Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, artist, and the author of five books. 64519_10153705975080099_2037134714_n Her first novel, A Promise in Pieces, is releasing Spring of 2014, and her memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I thought to Look (Baker Books) is releasing July 1, 2014. Emily is also a blogger with World Help, and in January of 2014 traveled to Rwanda and Uganda on a bloggers’ trip.



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How do you lavish love on your kids without spoiling them?


  1. July 1 at 10:19AM

    Thank you so much for hosting me today beautiful Ruth! Bless you! e.

  2. July 1 at 11:11AM

    I absolutely loved this! The way you wrote it took me through a wave of emotions. I felt sorry for you and your childhood all the way up to your mission trip to Uganda. What a reminder to be grateful! Thank you for that!
    Like you, I didn’t have a lot above the necessities growing up, and dreaded trips to the Goodwill. But I always had food and clothes and shelter so I’m grateful for that!

    I will do some things differently for my son. He’s only 2 right now, but one thing I recently did to lavish on him a little bit was a total makeover of his room with a Disney Cars theme — bed, giant decals…the whole nine…
    When he is older…I plan to teach him age appropriate money lessons including the importance of charitable giving.

    • July 1 at 04:35PM

      You sound like a kindred spirit friend! So glad to meet you!!! e.

      • July 1 at 07:20PM

        Same here! I’ll be stopping by from time to time!

  3. Erin Messing
    July 1 at 02:29PM

    Love this! Thank you for the beautifully gentle reminders to love on our children no matter our circumstances.

    • July 1 at 04:34PM

      So great to see you here Erin! Thank you for joining me at The Lulu Tree, and helping me to lavish on Uganda’s mamas and children. I’m SO grateful for you friend. e.

  4. brenda
    July 5 at 05:17PM

    isn’t it interesting how complex peoples lives can have been? this is one of the reasons I am cautious about forming judgments good or bad when first meeting people.
    Another observation I made and has always upset me was the way pastors have been paid. I have heard things are improving but the inconsistency still exists. the person God has placed to care for His children does not need to have his family taking a vow of poverty.

  5. Caitlin
    July 19 at 09:07AM

    Your article definitely has many good points, but you need to know that everyone doesnt feel especially loved in the same way. One may feel loved by an expensive and thoughtful gift while another may feel more loved by receiving a word of affirmation. These are established as the languages of love. Everyone feela loved by all five languages of love, gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and physical touch. However, everyone also has a first or secondary language of love. By reading your article, I can tell you that you feel loved by gifts and quality time. Your parents seem to have been possibly acts of service and perhaps words of affirmation. To tell you the truth, my mother gave me expensive gifts growing up even though we didnt have much money. We always did things together as a family. I hated tone with family and resented gifts. Why you are probably exclaiming to yourself. Simply because I just wanted a kind word and something kind done for me. Ive learned to appreciate what my parents did because I eealize thats how they loved me. Now as a patent myself, i want to find out HOW my kids feel loved amd love them in that way.

  6. August 13 at 01:20AM

    what a great post!! They are simple things but we can forget them easily.

    Thank you for sharing

  7. October 6 at 07:08PM

    Emily, this is a great post. I love how you shared your background and was honest about your childhood perceptions of things. I love your ideas and do feel that being more present with our children can fill their love bucket more than anything:) I had to share on my Etsy shop fanpage. I welcome you to shop by or my shop
    Thank you for the great reminders:) Blessings! Rachel

  8. November 20 at 08:01PM

    Really great post. My father actually was a trader on Wall Street when I was growing up. My parents split when I was four, and he had visitation every weekend. We didn’t have beds at his place. I had a couch to sleep on and my brother slept on the floor. Every night, I fell off the couch. Dad was playing a money game with my mom – he was hiding a third of his income from the courts in secret accounts, so he wouldn’t have to pay child support. I never forgot about the bed because it was a repetitive theme – I really needed it and my parents had something else to prove. Now I have a son, and I don’t talk to my parents. I’ll absolutely be thrifty but i’ll never talk to my child about money in a scary way, ever.

  9. Sally Webster
    December 12 at 10:17AM

    Wow. I am so sorry that you were so wounded by your impoverished state as a child. It sounds like your parents recognized their financial state and were very resourceful and did everything they could to make sure your needs were met with the small amount they had. How sad that you hold it against them because they didn’t choose to live above their means to give you more 🙁 Some of those options on your list are things that some parents literally cannot do. We literally could not afford a $10 balloon. It does NOT mean that we love our children less than you love yours. It just means that you have more money than us. I think providing them with necessities is more important than splurging. I promise you that if you parents had wasted precious dollars on splurges while you were going hungry, you would have been wounded in a very different way. It sounds to me like your parents did their best and I pray that the Lord will soften your heart toward them.

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