Christmas is less than two weeks away and with the economy “rough” for many families, it’s time to rethink what kinds of gifts we should give our children. In good times – and even in bad times – some parents go all out to give their kids expensive presents.

Some go deep into debt to give their children every gift imaginable. And with electronics being the most popular and expensive items to buy, from purchasing video games and computer equipment to flat screen televisions and iPods; all those things can make the Christmas gift-giving season’s cost go well into the thousands of dollars.

Next are the clothing costs. With designer jackets and jeans, gym shoes and tops costing hundreds of dollars, those things too can be detrimental to the family’s budget.

I work out in DuPage County. If you listen to politicians, they love to label it a bastion of rich, white suburbia. Over 20 years ago that label was true and accurate. But DuPage is no longer as white as it once was and has substantial numbers of people who are low income. Add in the immigrant population and it is struggling with the same issues that have plagued the city for decades. DuPage, too, must deal with educating children whose first language isn’t English as well as those children who come to school ill prepared to learn.

Several weeks back, I had the opportunity to speak with a young black woman who lives out in DuPage County about her daughter. The child is always well groomed and nicely dressed. But in spite of her lovely appearance, the child also has a smart mouth and constantly needs to be monitored for her behavior. Truthfully, she is a minor-league bully who, as she ages, will grow up to be a full-fledged bully unless intervention is provided. When I mentioned to the mom about how “mouthy” her daughter can be, the mom acknowledged that I spoke the truth. But rather than address her as parent to child, the mother began to negotiate with the girl as if they had equal stature in the relationship.

So I wasn’t shocked to learn that when the school the girl attends recently implemented an after-school program to give additional instruction to academically struggling students, the young girl with the smart mouth was one of the first to be required to participate.

Why am I juxtaposing Christmas presents with a child’s behavior? It’s simple. The greatest gift a parent can give their child is time – the time to bake cookies and cupcakes together, the time to play a board game like Checkers or Monopoly, the time to sit and talk with your child, the time to read them a story or listen as they read one to you, the time to take a walk with them without that cellphone affixed to your ear.

We have become so obsessed with possessions and “things,” we fail to see that relationships are more valuable than anyone else.

The young girl I wrote about earlier is looking for attention. She acts out to draw attention to herself even if it involves negative behavior.

So no matter what you give your children for Christmas this year, make sure the top gift is you.