If you have a child that is old enough to talk, you have probably been there. The toys were all bought and maybe even gift wrapped. You sighed with relief that your Christmas shopping was all done. Then it happened…your child mentioned something else they wanted for Christmas! They even boldly proclaimed that that was what they REALLY wanted. Perhaps, if Santa visits your house, it’s the one thing that they told HIM to bring, not you, so they are sure it will arrive. You were stuck…and back to square one. Happy shopping!
So what do you do to avoid this mess and stress? How do you help your kids rein in their wish list? How can you stop the last minute shopping panic and frustration? Perhaps the last minute demands aren’t even your problem. Maybe your children just go crazy when they see that Toys R Us Christmas flyer. Either way,
Christmas isn’t all about presents. It’s about Jesus. Plain and simple. So how can we teach that to our children? It all begins with letting the children know what to expect.
- Ask your kids to make their lists EARLY. If your kids make their lists a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, it gives the early shoppers in your lives a chance to go ahead and get shopping. I also like to have my kids make their Christmas lists before they ever look at a toy catalogue. It helps me ensure they are writing down what they truly want, not just the latest thing they have seen. My kids always want to make adjustments and add things they forgot, so we have a cut off date when they can’t add anything else. If they think of something after a certain point, it becomes an item for a possible birthday list. Then I have the option of purchasing it, but I don’t feel the pressure and obligation of rushing out at the last minute. (I learned this one the hard way!)
- Want, Need, Wear, Read: Let your children know that they will be getting one gift that they want, one gift that they need, one gift that they can wear, and one gift that they can read. Then they aren’t getting a lot of extra things that they don’t need, but things that can be put to good use. If you feel bad about this, think about the extra gifts they might be getting from other friends or relatives. The will still most likely have much more than they need.
- 3 Gifts: Another way to limit overindulgence is to let your children know they will be getting 3 gifts. The wise men brought Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh. That’s a total of 3 gifts. Chances are, especially if they are getting what they really want, they won’t miss the other stuff anyway.
- Meaning Behind the Holidays: Whatever you focus on most will be what Christmas becomes about. I’m all about yummy goodies and Christmas fun, but make sure that you spend a little extra time focussing on the meaning of the season. If you spend a huge amount of time shopping and wrapping and gift-list making, of course your kids are going to zero in on that–and take advantage of it. Just as we can look at our checkbooks to see where priorities lie, we can also look at the time we spend on the clock doing various activities.
- Set the Tone All Year: If we don’t exercise excess throughout the year, it won’t be that strange to have a moderate and realistic Christmas. We love giving gifts to our children, but we usually stick to birthdays, holidays, and when we find smokin’ deals on them. If they really want something, they save up their money for it. Occasionally we will surprise them and spring for it anyway. They know not to expect it though, so it’s a rare treat. In return, they understand the value of hard work and appreciation.
- Minimize the Temptation: To keep our kids in check, we only stroll through the toy section of stores once in a rare while. When we watch TV at home, we usually stick to Hulu, Netflix, or DVDs, which cuts out most of the commercials. We do have moments of backsliding, however. When my kids visit their grandparents and watch too much TV, they spend the next few weeks quoting commercials! It’s fine for our kids to know what’s out there, but they don’t have to be bombarded with it constantly. I know that’s tempting for me too, and kids are no different. Have you ever considered that most of what we want wasn’t even invented 50 years ago?!
A moment of true confessions…I was the kid who grew up with way too much. I am tempted to do the same for my children. Frugal circumstances have limited my ability to do that, but I believe this has saved my children in more ways than one. They really do understand what is most important and they appreciate it. Only once have any of them ever thrown a temper tantrum for not getting something they wanted at the store. (Praise God!) Setting the tone for them the whole year has been the key for us. Letting them know that they will get special gifts at Christmas is fun too. We just make sure they know there won’t be hundreds of “special” gifts! Jesus is the reason for the season. That is cause enough to celebrate–with or without a ton of gifts.
“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 HCSB
Do you set any Christmas gift limits? If so, what are your tips?