Great gifting expectations and how to manage them

When it comes to gifts and your children, more stuff under the Christmas tree isn’t necessarily more satisfying.

Your children may have wish lists a mile long, but Denise Schipani, author of “Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later,” says that when it comes to gifts, more stuff under the Christmas tree isn’t necessarily more satisfying. 

“The holidays can be sensory overload for adults. It can be that way for your child, too,” she says.

Feeling overwhelmed at your children’s overwhelming holiday demands? It’s up to you to manage their expectations; they can’t temper themselves in the throes of the holidays.

“My kids still believe in Santa Claus, and they make their lists,” she says. But Schipani makes sure her kids understand these are wish lists and not just a rundown of what they’ll get. Choosing one thing from the list allows you to surprise your child, she says. “There’s a way for them to feel excited about getting stuff without getting greedy about it.”

You won’t be a Grinch if your child doesn’t get everything they desire — not everybody gets everything they want. And when your kids ask for something that’s too extravagant, Schipani points to a chapter in her book titled: “Say ‘No.’ Smile. Don’t Apologize. Repeat as Necessary.”

“It’s not damaging to say ‘no,’” she reminds.

On the big day, tune in to your kid’s experience and how he or she is reacting to unwrapping the gifts. If there’s a tantrum or you see your child’s eyes glaze over, take note.

“The reason they’re doing that might well be that you’ve overwhelmed them,” she says.

And it’s equally important to notice when you see your child stop and really engage with a toy. It means you’ve given your child something he or she really enjoys — a gift that’s probably sufficient on its own.

Finally, remember to set a good example for your kids and take opportunities throughout the year to remind them of the great things they already have. Avoid cultivating a “more is better” attitude, she notes. “Model the behavior that you want to see.”

When you can’t control the grandparents

“There are relatives that are not going to listen, no matter what,” Schipani says. But try having a conversation with family members before the holidays. Tell them to consider whether gifts are age-appropriate or whether a combination of quality time and a meaningful gift might be better for your child than an iPod or Xbox.


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