Help! The Holidays Are Spoiling My Kids

giftsThis year, my 8-year-old son asked for a Wii for the holidays. My 6-year-old daughter's request? An iPad! It may or may not surprise you to learn that neither of these holiday-gift wishes will be fulfilled. However, the kids will get an onslaught of wished-for books, toys, games, and art supplies. They will get them not just from me and my husband, but from aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins, friends and neighbors.

Like a lot of parents, I'm torn about holiday gifts for my kids -- and worried about spoiling them. A recent Parenting/TODAY Moms survey found that 76 percent of parents said they believed their kids were at least somewhat spoiled during the holidays.

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The same survey found that parents plan to spend an average of $277 on gifts for each of their kids this season! That's more than my family spends, but probably not by as much as I might like. And it's certainly exponentially more than my own parents spent on me for the holidays when I was a kid, even adjusted for inflation. (My siblings and I used to get socks.)

On the one hand, I know the holidays are magical for kids -- and I don't want to disappoint them. And of course, getting your kids gifts they love and play with all year long is a great feeling! On the other hand, sheesh, how much crap does a kid need? Their bookshelves and toyboxes are already overflowing -- and every time I click the "buy" button online, I must banish visions of whatever item I'm purchasing as little plastic pieces strewn all over the playroom floor. (I also must banish the thought that I'd much rather put that money toward college savings.)

The year my kids opened their Hanukkah gifts one night, looked up, and asked, "Is that all?" (apparently we're not the only ones that's happened to) was the year that my husband and I made some changes. It was the year we declared one night gift-free and instead gave to several charities, which we decided on as a family. Surprisingly, perhaps, our kids have come to look forward to that night each year -- they talk about it excitedly in the weeks leading up to the holidays.

I have also made it clear that our kids are to express gratitude for gifts, to write thoughtful thank-you notes, and to acknowledge the love and caring that is behind the gift. Every year, we tend to give at least one "experiential" gift -- this year, a family trip to the circus. And I think this year, for the first time, we may encourage our kids to give gifts as well as receive them -- that's an important step toward understanding the effort and thought that goes into gift-giving, and one that we may be woefully delayed in taking.

Keeping kids grounded during the holidays, while still preserving the joy and magic, can be a challenge, but it's one I think we parents owe it to our kids and ourselves -- and frankly, the world -- to meet. At least, we have to try.

How do you keep your kids from getting spoiled during the holidays?

 

Image via j.patrick.1@verizon.net/Flickr

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