Baby &Kids · Seasonal & Holiday

The Holiday Parent Trap

Is there even such a thing? My mother’s rule was four gifts per kid. And she tries desperately to impart that rule on me, as I now have my own children. But without fail, I go overboard every year. I wouldn’t consider my kids spoiled, but knowing how their little faces will light up at a roomful of toys gets me every year.

So, what do the experts say? Chiefly that Christmas is a good time to redefine your relationship with your kids, depending on age, of course. If your kids are aware that mom and dad are leaving gifts under the tree, it’s ok to take the opportunity to discuss cost, and how much is too much. Conversations that include, “We may not be able to afford that, so what is your second choice?” is a good place to understand to importance of money and how it is to be spend in your household. There maybe some compromises, like, “If you choose this, you will only get one other gift. Is that what you want?” Or, a lesson in compassion, like, “I’d love to get you that, but we can’t afford to buy you that, plus presents for your brother and sister. We want you all to have something you want.” These are important, real conversations to be had that will impact the way your kids see indulgences and understanding spending habits. You might also suggest that we save up cash gifts to buy it after Christmas–another important lesson.

This is sort of a moot point if your child still thinks Santa is bringing her gifts. You have nothing to do with that equation. However, you should manage those expectations early, saying things like, “Santa can’t make you everything you ask for, so what are the most important things?” Understanding early on that we don’t always get what we want will go a long way. And remember, if your child is a toddler, they will be overwhelmed and overstimulated by too many gifts. You’ll have to cajole them into even opening them.

The reality is, your kid doesn’t need that much stuff, nor will he care about that much stuff. If you feel that you’ve overindulged, put some gifts aside for a rainy day, special reward, or upcoming birthday. They will never know the difference.