You buy things.
Lots of things. Groceries, clothes, school supplies, toys, and more.
Things you want, things you need, things you didn’t need but bought anyway.
It’s how most of us live. It’s what we do.
Cue holiday shopping.
’Tis the season for retailers to prey on your want-to-buy-things consumer soul. Maxed out credit cards. 10 mile long lines at 2am on Black Friday. Panic as you race to get the LAST something-or-other at Target.
All commonly reported problems.
Welcome to the Consumer’s Superbowl.
It gets nutty as a fruitcake out there. We get it. The world has things they want to sell you and they work hard to convince you to buy.
You know who else they are convincing to buy?
It’s all too easy for your little cherubs to get confused during the holidays. Why? Because we say holiday time is not about the gifts…and then we run around buying gifts. The contrast between what you say, and what you do, doesn’t make sense to tiny watching faces.
You say that the holidays are about love, family, spending time together, your faith, etc.
Then you run out and buy a whole lot of crap for everyone. It’s gift-giving, sort of.
Your kids are on to you.
They’re smart. They see the Amazon packages piled at the door and the stacks of holiday catalogs rolling in. Their gazes fall on the eye level display for kids at every check-out.
If you aren’t careful all this holiday hunting sends an unintended message. The message that things are more important than people.
You can unintentionally send the message that gift-giving is about getting.
What can you do?
Here are seven ways to prevent your kids from learning all the wrong things this holiday season.
- Don’t worry about the Wow! factor. Impressing your kids with piles of presents is not the goal. (No, it’s not.) Pretty please make it anything but that. The more you fall into that trap the more they will too. Children come into this world with zero expectations. It’s up to you to show them the ropes. If you don’t want the holidays to be just about getting piles of stuff, then don’t make huge piles of stuff appear. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read is more than many “need.”
- Do something NICE. You don’t have to hand out soup in a shelter or build a house on your winter break though if you do more power to you! Instead, try something simple. Wrap a gift for someone in need. Buy a coffee for the person in line. Take a box of toys to Goodwill. Show your kids the holiday is for giving and not just getting.
- Gift Experiences, not “things.” You’re the boss, dammit! If you say it’s a gift then it’s a gift! Set the bar for what your kids expect. Don’t let someone else (marketing and media, I’m talking to you) do it for you. If you want your kids to view time together as a gift, then make it a gift. Give them movie passes, karate lessons, or a trial ski-package. Whatever spins your wheels.
- Don’t get every single thing on their list. Don’t search the world over for that turquoise glitter winged unicorn named Storm that sings karaoke and walks backward in the rain for the low, low price of $99.99. Even if your little lady wants her SO SO bad and all the kids have one. Don’t. She will totally live. Draw the line.
- Stick to a spending limit. No fun, I know. It’s difficult, but paying off credit card debt into July isn’t doing Johnny and Jane any favors. They dig modern comforts like having food in the fridge and a roof over their heads. Bonus points for less stressed parents. Be the responsible grown-up and don’t let last minute gift marketing ploys do you (and your bank account) in.
- Kindly ask relatives to respect your limits. You don’t have to be cool with Grandma showing up with a U-Haul full of enough plastic to fill a new landfill. Set up an Amazon wishlist to show them the kinds of things you’d like your kids to receive and politely ask them to PAY ATTENTION.
- Give gifts that result in time well spent. Family games, books, art supplies….these will lead your child to activities you’re happy with. If you don’t want them to play 75 hours of Xbox a week, then don’t get them 14 Xbox games. You are also gifting yourself all this time that you won’t have to spend fighting with them to turn the damn thing off. Everybody wins!
Fun outside of an Xbox 🙂
It’s human nature to want more.
It’s completely normal for kids to go down that gift-giving-is-getting road. Society works overtime during the holidays (Christmas music on Halloween, anyone?) to show your kids all the great things they could have.
You don’t want them to feel disappointment. You won’t disappoint if your expectations are clear.
They aren’t going to feel like they got hosed. Seriously.
Odds are you’re the only one counting gifts.
Is that what you want your kids to see? They are going to follow your lead.
It’s your job to help them manage their desires. You are the person to teach them that happiness doesn’t come from having the biggest pile of gifts on the block.
The opposite is true. Research shows that the more “things” we wind up with, the unhappier we become. Decision fatigue sets in and we become overwhelmed with options.
Let’s make a pact for gift-giving this holiday season. Buy children less so they can enjoy more. I’m in.
You’re right about saying that one should stick to his budget for gift shopping to avoid paying debts for a long time. I have 3 god kids now, and I want to save money for their gifts as early as now because I might spend my money on unimportant splurges. After I get my next payout, I’ll start listing down all the people that I will give gifts to so that I can plan what type of gift my god kids will be getting.
Blair, I LOVE #7. “Give gifts that result in time well spent.” Even just keeping that in mind while holiday shopping will make things easier! Thanks, as always, for your amazing contributions to Lies About Parenting. We’re lucky to have you! 🙂