Free gifts your child really needs.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Being a parent is difficult, give your child what they really need.

tin box

Holiday Gift your child needs.
Photo courtesy of

Christmas is almost here, but then it could be any day and this principle still holds. Parents want to be good parents. Even when you are struggling you still would like to think that you are doing the best you can for your children. Many people have been out shopping the whole season trying to find the just right thing. If you could just buy them the perfect present, then that would mean you were a great parent.

Don’t try to be the perfect parent. No one has ever been both perfect and a parent. The perfect gift will not mean you have arrived as a parent. Work on being a good enough parent. The really important gifts you will give your children are ideas and values, not physical things. Concentrate on the gifts that will last a lifetime.

Here is my list of wonderful gifts you can give your children which cost nothing in terms of dollars.

The gift of love.

Make sure you give your child the gift of feeling loved.  Teach them how to love themselves and love others.  Don’t make your love conditional on anything they need to say, be or do.


Make sure your children know that you accept them.  Let them know they are worthwhile just the way they are.  Don’t insist that they be stronger, faster, or smarter, in order to win your approval.

Personal Boundaries.

Teach your children to have and to respect boundaries.  A cardinal rule of parenting is that parents need to be parents and they need to allow their children to be children.  Don’t try to make your children into your best friend.  Don’t encourage them to grow up faster than they need to.

Life skills.

Teach your children life skills that are consistent with their developmental level.  Don’t expect them to do adult things when their small but don’t continue to do things for them when they’re old enough to be able to do them themselves.


Teach your kids the consequences of their actions for good or for bad.  It’s not healthy or good for your child to let them get out of the punishment they have coming.


Allow your children to grow into responsibilities.  Knowing your responsibilities and being able to fulfill them gives children a sense of accomplishment.  To build their self-esteem and self-efficacy children need to do things that can make them proud.


Help your children to learn the distinction between what’s real and what’s fantasy.  Allow them to have their dreams and be creative.  Don’t encourage them to pretend that things are other than as they are.

A listener.

Give your children the gift of being a really good listener.  Having you listen to them teaches them how to listen to others.

Your time.

To a child, particularly a small child, the gift of your time and attention is far more valuable than the presents you will buy.

Happiness and Joy.

Encourage your children to become happiness experts.  Teach them to live a joyful life.  Please encourage a positive, can-do attitude.

A good example.

Be a good example for your children.  Teach them the rule do as I do. They are going to copy your behavior anyway.

The difference between their needs and their wants.

Help your children to see that happiness does not come from getting everything you want.  Not all needs are physical, material ones.

Words, reading, and writing.

Make learning an important part of your family life.  The more words your child knows the better they will do in school.  When they are small read to them.  As they grow, encourage them to read out loud.  Help them to write communications which convey what they mean.


Give your children the gift of curiosity, help them to explore the physical, natural, and the mental worlds.

Knowledge about work.

Don’t leave your children unprepared for the day they become adults.  Teach them about what it is to work and the types of jobs that they might be able to do as they grow.  Encourage them to research some of the careers that they dream about doing.

A clean slate – don’t saddle them with your baggage.

Don’t give your children the job of settling old scores.  Don’t bring them into adult quarrels.  If you have baggage from the past work on unpacking your own suitcase.

The chance to be them. Individuals, not a mini-me.

Make sure your child knows that they will be different from you.  Let them explore what it means to be them.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at

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