You’re at the toy store, picking out a gift for your nephew. Your son is with you. You think this would be a great time to teach him about the spirit of giving, by having him help you pick out the toy.
All through the store you hear:
“Look! I really want this. Can we get this for me?”
“Hey, will you get this for me today? I want this really bad!”
“I just have to have this!”
“Hey, I want that! Why do we have to give it to my cousin?”
You understand your child’s excitement about the impending holidays. You understand child development and the ages and stages that can cause children and teens to be self-centered. You are just concerned he is missing the real joy of the December holidays —the spirit of giving.
You are also now stressed and frazzled. Instead of this being a fun time together, thinking about others, you feel like calling your child a spoiled brat and reminding him of Santas God Bad list!
Ahh, the Holiday Gimmees have struck again. You see the Gimmees when your children see another toy commercial, whine or throw a tantrum in a crowded store because, heaven forbid, the gift you just bought wasn’t for them! By the time you are wrapping gifts you often feel more like Scrooge than Santa, having heard all the creative ways your children can finish the sentence “I want . . .”
- When children point out something they want, suggest they add it to their wish list or remind them whom you are shopping for and ask, “What would he/she like?”
- Have children set priorities with their wish list? What are the top two or three gifts they definitely want? Help them decide with questions like, “How is this different from what you already have?” or “What could you do with this that would make you want to use it after the first day?”
- Resist the trappings of “affluenza,” regardless of what you can afford or what you think your children want. It’s important for parents to set limits, not for monetary reasons but for ethical and developmental reasons.
- Select gifts based on children’s individual needs and interests. Don’t add junk to one child’s loot just to “even the score” or spend exactly the same amount of money on each.
- Resist getting caught up in the latest toy craze. “Everybody has one” or “Johnny’s mom lets him . . .” is an excuse you’ve countered before. Consider who really wants the child to have this gift, you or the child? Your child may actually like a different toy even more!
- Children can feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of presents they gain. Too many gifts can devalue the more special gifts they received. As a rule of thumb, if the pile of gifts is taller than your child, you’re probably giving too much.
- Limit the number of gifts your children receive at once. Spread out the holiday cheer with several gift-opening gatherings.
- Have an “out with the old, in with the new” policy. Encourage your children to donate gently used toys and clothes to those less fortunate. If it’s possible for them to directly give the gift or see the child’s reaction, it will have a profound effect.
Another lecture about “It’s better to give than to receive” can sound like an empty cliché to a child. Living this philosophy and involving children in the process can help instill a spirit of giving—which children can practice all year long, not just during the December Holidays.
You can get rid of the gimmes and instill a life-long spirit of giving in your children, which is a family value that will remain with them for the rest of their life. You can also prevent or resolve other parenting challenges that crop up around the December Holidays, such as: how to shop with your children without whining, begging or tantrums; avoiding embarrassing gift-giving faux pas (like insulting Aunt Susie’s gift); whether to use the “Santa Threat;” and what to tell children about Santa without lying. Just get a recording of the Holiday Parenting Issues Teleseminar. Go listen to a free sample right now!
Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is President of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. For 30+ years, Jody has trained tens thousands of parents and family professionals worldwide through her dynamic workshops and hundreds of interviews with the media worldwide, including Parents and Working Mother magazines. She is the author of the award-winning book The Parent’s Toolshop®, and countless multimedia resources that support and educate parents from diverse backgrounds, plus other adults who live or work with children. You can find them at her award-winning website, www.ParentsToolshop.com.
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