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Taming the Holiday Gimmees

By Jody Pawel

Gift-giving season has begun. If you're like me, you fantasize about the moment your children open their gifts: their faces light up with surprise and excitement, they give you a hug and say, "Thanks, I love it!"

To reach that moment, however, we often have to survive that special time of year many parents dread: The Holiday Gimmees. We see the Gimmees when our children see another toy commercial, whine or throw a tantrum in a crowded store because, heaven forbid, the gift we just bought wasn't for them! By the time we are wrapping gifts we often feel more like Scrooge than Santa, having heard all the creative ways our children can finish the sentence "I want . . ."  To tame the Gimmees and instill the spirit of giving in your children, try some of these ideas:

  • 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 giving can deeply instill a spirit of generosity-which children can practice all year long

If you want more insights, information and practical tools and tips about family holiday issues.

Jody Johnston Pawel is a Licensed Social Worker, Certified Family Life Educator,
second-generation parent educator, founder of [ ]The Family Network, and President of [ ]Parents Toolshop Consulting. She is the author of 100+
parent education resources, including her award-winning book, [ ]The Parent's Toolshop.

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