Christmas is a fun time to be a kid. You get to ask all kinds of people for things you want, and there’s a chance you might get them. It’s all pretty amazing. It also encourages kids to get really demanding about wanting more and more stuff. Is there any way to control this?
No way is perfect, of course, but you can cut things down some. Kids will be kids, and that means that even if you limit exposure to television commercials, there will be friends talking about the latest and greatest whatevers. Still, cutting down on media exposure is one of the best ways to limit how much stuff children ask for. Here are some more ideas.
Talk to Them Honestly
Discuss with your kids why they can’t have everything they want. You can cover financial reasons (who can afford all that?), environmental reasons (the waste, oh, the waste!) and even that sometimes it’s hard to buy something because too many people want it.
Go with whatever works for you. Children, especially as they get older, understand more than many adults think.
Remind Them of What’s Important to Your Family
We all want things, but there are values beyond things. Whether it’s the meaning of the holiday, thinking of those less fortunate or something else, remind your kids what lies beyond wishing for presents.
Discuss the Value of Patience
This one really helps if what your child wants is something you’re willing to get, but can’t do so yet. It doesn’t matter if it’s for financial reasons or because all the stores are sold out. Patience is something children need to learn.
Encourage Them to Give
Whether it’s the gifts they give to family or something your children give to charity, help them to remember that giving is as much a part of Christmas as receiving. Help your children start thinking of others, even if it’s just family members.
This can also include giving toys to a Toys for Tots drive or finding a place that gives you information about what a child or a family would like for Christmas. Another choice would be to look at international charities that provide live animals to poor families or otherwise do things to help communities in need. There are many opportunities to give both locally and around the world.
Sort Out Old Toys
Christmas is one of my favorite times to sort out old toys to give to charity. Kids know that new ones are coming, and there’s always some that just don’t get used anymore or maybe never really caught your child’s attention.
If your child is reluctant, you can do the sort yourself. I still suggest keeping your child involved in the process. One way is to divide the toys into two more or less equal piles. Let your child pick one to keep. Allow trades for truly wanted items, but you can put rules on it such as having to give up two items to get one back. Make sure you keep sets together.
Take the unwanted toys to a favorite charity together. You and your child can talk about what the charity will do with the toys and who will benefit.
If you really want to work the lesson more, you can encourage your child to give up some current favorite toys. Children can be amazingly generous given the chance. They may wince and whine, but they also may do it.
We’ve always stuck to a very traditional reason, based on the story of Christmas. Since Baby Jesus got three gifts, that is what my children receive, though we’ve never given them myrrh or frankincense. We’ve never had a problem with over consumerism when we frame the gift giving that way.