Here are seven helpful tips on how to keep your child’s gift expectations in check this holiday season, without undermining the festive spirit. Happy holidays!
By: Kel Tan
It’s almost that time of year again, when the decorations go up, holiday songs blare from the speakers, shopping malls get doubly crowded…and children start coming up with lengthy and unrealistic wish lists.
For parents, the holiday season can be a challenging period fraught with tension and stress, especially when purse strings are tight. Just how do you provide a magical holiday season for your child without splurging on frivolous gifts?
Jim Lim, the founding director of training and personal development firm REAL Academy, offers several tips on how parents can keep their children’s gift expectations in check this festive season.
“If you’re on a tight budget this season, be honest with your child about your economic constraints. Decide on a reasonable budget together, and encourage him or her to draw up a holiday wish list according to these financial guidelines,” advises Jim.
“This will also motivate your child to think through his or her wish list properly, and prioritise what he or she really wants or needs,” he adds. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to teach your child about money, and how to appreciate the value of material things.
“Before going on a gift shopping trip, I would tell my son the number of gifts we are expected to get with a given amount of money. This teaches him how to manage the money himself and think about others.” ~ Jasper, father of 4-year old Nigel
Don’t be afraid of disappointing your child. For instance, if you have the budget for only one present, be sure to communicate this clearly so that your child doesn’t harbour unrealistic expectations when receiving the present.
Additionally, reinforce the fact that toys you’ve always disapproved of, such as violent video games, remain out of bounds. Moreover, don’t make promises that you won’t be able to keep; for example, if you know that you’re not going to splurge on that expensive Lego set your child has been begging for incessantly, don’t say otherwise just to placate him or her momentarily.
Saying no might be tough, but it’s crucial to prevent your child from developing a sense of self-entitlement.
“My daughter was more interested in the wrapper than the actual gift!” ~ Linette, mother of 2-year old Anne
If your child requests for branded or expensive goods, try researching for similar alternatives with lower price points. For example, if your child asks for an expensive guitar, ask if he or she minds receiving a second-hand one. Alternatively, you can also encourage your child to replace his or her desired items with non-material wishes, such as a day out at the zoo. These experiential wishes are usually more affordable, and often have the added benefit of promoting family bonding.
“If there is more than one child in the family, parents can consider giving the children a combined gift of a greater value, instead of individual presents,” suggests Jim.
“This gift should be something that each child can enjoy, such as an Xbox 360, a trampoline, or a mini playground.” As a result, you won’t have to fork out money for separate gifts, but you’ll still be able to surprise your children with a big-ticket item that they can all appreciate together.
“I overheard my older son encouraging my younger son to share their present so that they can get something bigger!” ~ Natalie, mother of 6-year old Daniel and 4-year old Damien
“Instead of lavishing your child with gifts and attention, encourage him or her to give back to others instead – whether it’s baking cookies for their friends, making a handmade card for Grandma, or even putting together a simple gift hamper and delivering it to the less fortunate,” says Jim. This way, they’ll dwell less on their own desires, and focus more on the needs of others instead.
“Jazebelle wanted to give presents to family and friends with the $4 she saved for the occasion, we went to the stationery shop, bought some coloured papers and made animal origami for everyone” ~ Lionel, father of 3-year old Jazebelle
Children, especially younger ones, will naturally be disappointed if they receive a gift that falls short of their expectations. The occasional tantrum is inevitable. “However, parents should not reprimand their children for being upset. Instead, they should seize the opportunity to teach their children how to deal with the situation,” says Jim.
Dissatisfaction is an emotion that all children need to learn how to overcome. Demonstrate to them how to be gracious in the face of disappointment, and how to be genuinely grateful for what they have received – after all, it’s the thought that counts. “Think of it as a great chance to teach life lessons and strengthen the parent-child relationship,” adds Jim.
Material goods shouldn’t define your relationship with your child. Ultimately, there is so much more to the holiday season than the number of presents received. “Focus on activities that everyone can enjoy together – be it putting up decorations, baking festive treats, preparing a sumptuous family dinner, or even singing festive songs. This will help build memorable family traditions that will endure throughout the years,” suggests Jim. “At the end of the day, the real magic of the festive season lies in quality time spent together with your loved ones.”
Special thanks to Mr Jim Lim for his valuable input.