Michele Borba Blog: 5 Tips for a Gimme Less Xmas (and Why It’s Better for Kids)

by | Dec 20, 2009 | Materialism, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions

If you ever had even the slightest bit of guilt about saying “No” to your kids materialistic whims, you can kiss those feelings away. A University of Minnesota study confirmed what every parent has instinctively known deep down: We’re not doing our kids any favors by giving in to their every whim and spending urge.

Deborah Roedder John and Lan Nguyen Chaplin, the lead authors of the study, found that materialistic kids are less happy, more anxious, feel less secure, have lower self-esteem, are less able to handle adversity, and are less generous and charitable. The study also found that materialistic kids have lower opinions of their parents and argue with them more. Wow! If that doesn’t convince you to put away your ATM card these next few days and rethink all that spending, wrapping, shopping, stressing and giving.  

Think about it: By cutting back, you’ll be saving money, be less stressed, save hours on shopping and wrapping those presents (that are usually forgotten about by the end of the week), and even boost your kid’s self-esteem and (maybe—no guarantee on this one) improve your relationship with your child.! I’m not suggesting you do a complete about-face and cut out the presents altogether. Every kid will be out waving white flags on Christmas morning, but there are a few tips to cut little less emphasis on the $$$$ (translation: “Getting”) and a little more on “Giving” this season.

Here are a few tips to get you started in a gimme-less holiday:

1. Give things that boost “togetherness.” Think of giving gifts you do “with” one another instead of alone: board games, certificates to a movie, passes to a skating rink, tickets to a concert, exercise equipment. Think also of implementing family rituals. Instead of spending the morning unwrapping presents (and then picking up all that clutter), watch It’s A Wonderful Life, or read A Christmas Carol or sing carols and drink hot chocolate while remembering the things you’re grateful for this year.

2. Require prioritizing. Set a cap on the number of gifts and cost per kid. But warn the kids ahead of time. Tell them to think through what they really, really want and need this year. They must prioritize their wish list into their “Top Three”–or whatever number you set–want list. Young kids can draw a picture of their wishes. Then stick to that number!@!!

3. Get grandparents and relatives on board. Pass on your new “giving emphasis” policy to grandparents and relatives. Suggest they give presents that will nurture their relationship with their grandkids, like a trip together or a digital camera to exchange pictures and keep in touch. They could also contribute to your child’s college fund.

4. Nurture a strength or skill. Instead of giving a dozen items that end up in the closet, think of gifts that could actually nurture your child’s strength or talent such as a musical instrument, art materials, or skating lessons. Those are gifts that really do keep on giving!

5. Be a charitable family. Find a needy family your kids can “adopt” for the season. They could then bake an extra batch of cookies for the lonely neighbor next door, adopt an orphan overseas (a portion of their allowance each week goes to that child), go caroling to a nursing home and add a little joy. Find just one way to help your children experience the joy of giving.

There are dozens of ways to rethink the holidays, so our kids can learn that the real spirit of the holidays is about Giving not Getting. Remember, all you need to do is make one little switch—just one. What are you doing this year to bring back that Giving Spirit?

Happy Holidays!

 For more strategies on how to squelch materialism and  boost compassion, refer to the chapters in The Big Book of  Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday  Challenges and Wildest Worries. For more parenting solutions follow Michele on twitter @micheleborba or refer to her website (www.MicheleBorba.com)