But a new car, as basic as that may sound to some people, tops my list of things I never plan to buy my kid. Not only is a new car a waste of money because its value depreciates enormously the instant it's driven off the lot, but simply giving a child something that costs that much is a poor lesson in financial responsibility. If they don't pay for it, they don't appreciate it.
Buying your children everything they want may be more of a reflection on the parent, but a sense of entitlement can be taught to children who are spoiled, says Nancy Irwin, a therapist in Los Angeles with a lot of wealthy clients. "Everything is about their outward presentation," Irwin says. "Sometimes they can go into horrible debt because of this."
With input from other parents, I've complied a list of seven other things (besides a new car) you should consider putting on your "do not buy" list, even if your children beg and plead for them.
1. New movies. I was at Costco recently and saw a woman buying her 4-year-old daughter a stack of DVDs. Among them was "Frozen," which my daughter has seen in the theater and at home after I rented it from Redbox for $1.33. Unless that woman's daughter is going to watch each movie 15 times, the purchase isn't worth it. And isn't there something better a child could be doing than watching the same movie 15 times?
2. New books. I cave on this occasionally, but I try to avoid buying new books by taking my daughter to the library every week. That Costco mom was also buying her daughter at least five new books. That's money well-spent if the books will be read again and again, but library books are always a lot cheaper.
3. A TV for their bedroom. There are enough electronic gadgets in most homes to keep a child, and their parents, entertained. I'm not against buying a kid a portable video game or tablet, as long as time limits are set on its use. But a bedroom TV, especially if it has cable access, is just another excuse for your child to sit alone in his room -- where you won't be able to monitor what he's watching.
Parents should help children distinguish between rights and privileges, suggests a blog by Empowering Parents. Yes, keep your children safe and happy, but don't go so far that they feel entitled, or come to view privileges as basic rights.
4. Smartphone. Having one can seem like a necessity, but for a kid who is usually either at school or with a parent, where's the need? Like some things on this list, a phone may not be an unreasonable purchase -- if your kid can earn money at home to help pay for it. And some preteens may need a phone if both parents work and the child has shown they're responsible enough with their own things, Irwin says.
How can you tell that getting your child something like a smartphone is spoiling them? "When they expect it and they whine when they don't get it, and if you give in and give it to them," Irwin says.
Smartphones, iPods and other electronics don't teach creative thinking and are too expensive, says Jessica Ballard, a mom who lives near Charlotte, N.C., and blogs about crafting. "We find we would rather spend our money on experiences than things that take away time together and are cost-prohibitive and break," Ballard says.
5. Every little thing they want. A candy bar at the grocery store checkout line, a drink at the mall and a small toy at the drugstore can add up to a lot of giving in. While treats should be a fun part of life, they can also be used to teach children how to weigh options and make decisions, says Margene Salzano, a mother of three and a mommy blogger.
"In my house, we have a rule," Salzano says. "Each kid gets four splurges a month. Now, we purposefully don't define what a 'splurge' is. We don't say, 'It has to be under $20.' We found that as long as each kid gets the same number of splurges a month, they feel its equitable."
6. Violent video games. While you can't control what your kids do at someone else's house, you can stop them from playing violent video games at home by not buying them. Or, if you're less concerned about the content, they can be rented for less money.
For Angela Saiza Starling, a communications manager, not buying her son "Grand Theft Auto" when he was in middle school in Miami was a no-brainer. The clerks at the video store told her the game was a "training manual for gangsters."
7. Live animals. Jeff Stephens, a father in Washington, D.C., says his daughters have always wanted various pets, including a hamster, gerbil and guinea pig. Other than the family dog, he refuses to buy them because of all of the work pets entail. He also doesn't want to turn his home into a farm. Still, depending on how much money you want to shell out, a pet can be a great way to teach a child responsibility.
But just as important is teaching children at an early age that they're not entitled to every thing they desire. If parents don't say no often enough to kids when they are young, all of that "giving in" gives them an excessive sense of power, Irwin says. "And when [you] do that, as teenagers they're going to be hell," she says. No one wants that. Not even people who aren't parents.
A former newspaper journalist, Aaron Crowe is a freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, real estate and insurance for various websites, including Wisebread, insurance websites, MortgageLoan.com and AOL.