As parents, grandparents, family friends…it’s hard. We want to give kids the world and we live to see the excitement on their faces as they receive a gift. It’s so much fun to pick out and wrap presents, to see their anticipation this time of year! The flip side of course is the bad attitude that can sometimes develop in kids around the holidays, when desire gets the best of them.
Some of it is branding. So. Much. Branding. From Rogue One to Trolls, there’s hardly a product that isn’t associated with a film, TV show or some kind of character. Marketers are increasingly savvy when it comes to getting kids excited about these things, and children are prone to becoming little scrooges during the holidays, wanting to get as much as they can and not share it with anyone else. They also may fall into the trap of hoarding any money they are given, whether an allowance or in a holiday card, not wanting to spend it on themselves or anyone else.
If expecting a large pile of presents and opening the gifts has become more important than appreciating what they are given or being generous with others, it may be time to give your kids the “scrooge vaccine.” Here’s how to do it:
Use commercials or ads as teaching tools.
As we said, marketers know kids are a captive audience. Companies spend $17 billion a year marketing to kids. To put that in perspective, it was just $100 million in the early 80s. That’s still a lot of money, but it shows that advertisers have figured out that kids have great power when it comes to your purchasing decisions.
One way to help kids who might expect things to always be bought for them rather than spending their own money on themselves or on others (which we will get to in a moment) is to talk about things like language, packaging and what they actually get vs. what it looks like online or on TV—PBSParents has some great tips for talking to elementary age children.
Discuss what they think a desired item is worth vs. its actual cost. Example: your child has a specific video game system on their list. Ask them to tell you how much they think it is and then look it up to see if they were close to the actual price. Are they surprised by how much it is? If they had to save up themselves, how long would it take and would they still want it?
If you have time, go to the store and look at the item they are begging for (you could also do this online). Ask which item they really want the most and why, and if there is any item they could save for on their own. You could also ask them what a family member would like to get. Let them help choose a gift for a sibling or grandparent. Having talks like these will help them prioritize what they ask for as well as help them remember that they can use their resources to give gifts to others, too!
Inventory last year’s gift haul.
We are willing to bet that a lot of items that they just HAD to have are now living on the island of misfit toys. Have your child write down everything they can remember receiving last year (they’ll definitely need some reminders from you.)
Then, ask them to check off which items are still in use. Are any of them broken? Lost? Talk about each item on the list and which ones were (or still are) super fun, and which were maybe less exciting. This will give your child a chance to reflect on what they wanted and why, and make choices based on that reflection this year.
You could also choose to limit the number of gifts you buy, or set expectations about what kind of gifts kids will receive. For instance, we love this blogger’s “want, need, wear, read” challenge in which she gave her kids only four gifts, with great results. Even if you celebrate a holiday with more days of gift giving, you can still rein it in with parameters like this.
This is also a good opportunity to make a “giveaway” pile of toys and items that aren’t being used but still in good condition and donate them to a hospital or other charitable organization in your city. Be sure that you talk to your kids about why you’re doing it. Once they understand that another child may not have a Christmas without their giving, they are more likely to develop empathy that balances out their scrooge-like hunger to get more for themselves.
Choose gifts for others together.
Spend time making a list together of what you will get. What does your child imagine someone else might want or need? Some organizations will give suggestions so use those if they are provided. You may be surprised by how generous they want to be! Help them stay within your budget by telling them what you can spend, and then deciding if you’ll purchase one big item or a few smaller ones.
Your child can also make a list of people in your family or close friends they may want to give to. Even a simple, handmade gift is a gesture of generosity that goes a long way! Whether it’s an organization or an individual, make sure you’re letting your child help choose the recipient and the gift, as well as helping to wrap it and drop it off. Even better, volunteer as a family during the holiday season at an event where children and families are served.
Tell us if you’ve used any of these tips, or share some of your own!