How Much is Too Much? Establishing Gift Guidelines with Children

Children Gift GuidelinesLast week at work, a lady ended up bringing her daughter with her to her dental appointment. Her daughter sat quietly over in the corner reading a book while I treated her mom. At some point the young girl, less than 8, started asking me questions. Everything from why I have a mask on to what I was doing to her mom. So I could stop answering so many questions (which all led to more ”why’s”) I started asking her questions.

Given the time of year, I asked her if she was getting excited for Christmas. She immediately brightened right up and exclaimed, yes. We started chatting about the crafts she was making in school and what she was going to ask Santa for. My daughter being only 18 month old, I was curious to know what she was asking for and what she expected to get. She explained that her mom told her that Santa only has room for three presents in his sleigh so she had to think carefully about what she wanted.


Setting a Present Limit With Children

I though the three present limit was a good idea. We all know how out of control children’s lists can get, which can, in turn lead to disappointment. The little girl explained that since she’s only allowed to ask for three gifts, unless they were really big, ”like a horse” she would get them, no questions asked. I thought it to be interesting to know the same parent who set the three gift rule had her daughter to believe whatever she asks for within her three gifts, except horses would be given to her.

The little girl asked for, and expects to receive an iPad, $100 cash to shop with and a new Xbox one.  What?!

Obviously I couldn’t really comment beyond, ”that’s a big list” since I wasn’t about to ask mom how she planned on doing that but to me, this list seems crazy to me. Again, I only have one child who is very young but she will not be raised to believe that Santa or mom and dad, will be providing close to $1,000 worth of gifts.

Even if you’re not a religious person, my opinion is that Christmastime is meant to be a time of year when we slow down, reflect on what we have, share gifts with ones we love, and reminisce. Simplify our lives for a few days, enjoy good food, bake cookies from scratch and focus on building memories, not things. I think it’s important that if you’ve decided to make gifts apart of your Christmas tradition, guidelines, or rules be set in place. The earlier you start the easier it will be.


Setting Realistic Gift Guidelines

Guidelines for not going overboard with gifts may include:

  • Setting a gift limit. Either in volume or price. If you set a three gift limit from Santa make sure they understand they are realistic with it. If you think it’s appropriate that they ask for a $400 gaming console, make sure they know the couldn’t possibly ask for both an iPad and cash as well. For older children, let them know early on that mom and dad have a Christmas budget to work with and they may not get everything they want.
  • Get them involved. Have your children help you shop. Have them shop with you for another family member and let them know the budget. Have them learn what that money can buy. This will help them have a better understanding of what they can ask for and what they may receive.
  • Open discussion. Especially with younger children, who’s understanding is still very much forming, help them with things like writing their letters to Santa. Explain that they may not be able to get everything they ask for.
  • Gift swap. This works especially well in larger families. Everyone draw someone’s name and you’re only responsible for gifts for that one person.
  • Reminders. It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas. Remind your kids, and self, on a daily basis what the true meaning is (which may vary between individuals an families). Memories,not things.

I have had very sparse Christmases (in terms of gifts) and had years with more gifts that imaginable. I never feel any different about the season. I was taught early about the real meaning and to hold onto memories as much as I can. Learning to enjoy the simpler things in life will go a long way, even when Christmas is over for the year.

What are your thoughts on setting realistic gift guidelines?

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  1. says

    Oh my god, 1000 bucks. Good deal 😀

    Our daughter is still ‘on the way’, so we don’t have to worry about this yet. But we’ll have a clear limit to gifts and not turn Christmas into a shopping spree.

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