Picture Christmas morning–shiny-eyed children happily enjoying their presents. Unfortunately, reality is often more like green-eyed, greedy ingrates crying over gifts. And who created these monsters? Experts blame the “I want it now” generation on parents, said the Daily Mail in 2011. Here are parenting tips to curb Christmas gimmes, teach an attitude of gratitude and save money!
* Teach kids that gifts are treats, not entitlements. Gifts aren’t rewards for good behavior, either. Sorry to be Scroogy, but the Santa Claus naughty-or-nice logic is flawed. Why then would good kids in poor countries go without while selfish brats in wealthy countries get everything?
* Budget . Don’t spend more than $100-$150 per child. Less is okay, too. If you shop early, stop buying when you hit budget.
* Never allow kids to bully, blackmail, guilt or harass you into buying. Christmas presents should not be weapons of emotional destruction.
* Don’t give single expensive gifts. You’ll end up buying too much to avoid only one gift under the tree.
* Don’t give expensive gifts. Even (especially) pricey digital toys. You want to start an ongoing parent-child war? Buy a kid a cellphone. For maximum misery, buy one with a monthly fee the child swears she’ll pay. I wouldn’t even give a computer for Christmas. It sends the wrong message about what to expect.
* Avoid gift mountains. Kids should not receive double-digit gifts. It’s a one-to-one ratio–more gifts means more tantrums. And it’s an inverse proportion, the higher the stack, the less each is appreciated.
* Go cheap on stocking stuffers. Like under a dollar. Stores love you to “buy” their $15 stocking stuffer mentality. If you put more expensive items in stockings, put less under the tree. Or stuff with gift accessories.Or skip stockings altogether. Whoever thought it would be good to give a kid a hole which his parents were expected to fill? There’s an attitude waiting to happen.
* Under no circumstances, buy more than you can afford. Be honest. Tell kids times are hard, you’re unemployed, whatever the situation. Don’t lie or pretend. Get kids on a toy drive list. Find cheap or free ways to celebrate. Your kid won’t suffer without gifts, but he will if you spend money you need for necessities. You teach sound fiscal sense not spending what you don’t have.
* Homemade is good. Make stuff with the kids and for them. Encourage them to make gifts for others. Regift. Repair used toys. I did a complete secondhand Christmas in a lean year.
* Give to charity. Kids who have too much or enough need to learn to share with kids who don’t. Let kids pick out toys, wrap and donate. Discuss the people, countries and lifestyles where the gifts will be sent. Children are remarkably compassionate and generous if given the opportunity.
* Don’t try to balance number of gifts and amount spent between kids. Don’t teach kids to count and compare. It will never come out even because kids don’t get the logistics of present giving. Don’t teach them to expect constant fairness. Show them you love them so much you don’t measure it in gifts.
* Brook no fussing. At the first complaint or pout, put toys away. If it’s really bad, make him return toys and give you the money. Zero tolerance shows him you love him enough to make him behave.
Not to brag but we have very unselfish, generous kids. With all four, there was never one single problem with greed or competitiveness at Christmas. I think it’s because we followed these tips scrupulously