Beautiful on the Inside,Parenting

Strategic Gift Withholding

How to help our children be happy with a lower-key Christmas. It is possible. And guess what? It creates true peace on earth for everyone involved! (Image above via Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)

Do we as parents set our kids expectations too high? Should we consider doing the opposite by setting them lower? I think a large part of the problem that children have is that their expectations are way too high. We naturally want to give our children the world and do what we can to make them happy but giving more and more every year won’t fix the problem. It makes it worse! We most certainly don’t want to raise a Veruca Salt, do we?! Yikes!

This past year was the year from hell for me. No really! So, because it was such a rough year, I had a ton of sweets around me all the time. It was my drug of choice as I was getting through the rough days. Hence, why I gained 15 pounds. 🙁 Anyway, because I had those sweets around, my kids had those sweets, too. They just thought it was a normal thing to have the goodies around, to the point that they expected it on a regular basis. After a while they were so used to eating the sweets they wanted more sweets and different sweets. They weren’t satisfied with a small amount. I soon realized the solution to this problem was not to give them whatever they wanted just to get them off my back.  Nope!  The secret was to give them fewer sweets (and fewer sweets for me, too).

Oh, and don’t get me wrong. It’s not easy to say “No” all the time and stick to it. When kids hear the words “No” these days, it’s not like the kids from “Little House on the Prairie” that politely say, “Yes, mother.” OH NO! These days when you say no you just awaken the demon child inside them and they becomes a little spit fire.

If you get a treat every day, then you’ll start hankering for bigger, better treats. But when the treats are few and far between, a simple, small treat once in a while looks quite delectable.

Clearly, as I’ve stated above this is a problem for adults as well as children.

Buying your children everything they want (or most of what they want) all year long will create a little-Veruca-spit-fire come Christmastime.

Please know I’m not supporting a cruel sort of withdrawal here, though I do love the Jimmy Kimmel videos when parents record their kids crying over bad Christmas gifts.

I’m just saying that it’s good for children to learn what it feels like to not get everything they want.

If you have young kids, this is your time to shine. Children are not born with an instinctive set of Christmas expectations, so you can set the bar exactly where you want it. You can decide how many presents you want to give, how practical the presents will be, and how much money you want to spend.

If your children are older, they’ve already learned what to expect at Christmas, so downsizing will be a little bit more difficult.

DO NOT go cold turkey. That just makes the pooh hit the fan! Don’t do a 180 this year and give charitable donations in lieu of all presents. First, they’ll hate all charities, definitely hate you, and probably even Jesus by that point (if your a Christian)! I know that’s how my kids would respond…

My boys are responsible for getting a gift for each other with their own money. I really encourage them to think about each other, their likes, hobbies, etc. I also push them to think of actions or service they can do for one another as gifts, as well.

Now that they are a little older I asked them this year (again with their own money) to purchase a gift for someone in need. I didn’t push it on them. They worked together, picked out the gift and split the bill between the both of them. It’s great because they’re working together in an effort to uplift someone in need.

I have also explained to them, that they aren’t going to get something just because they put it on their Christmas list. I encourage them to be realistic in what they ask for, and think about how often they will really use what they put on their list. I also encourage them to think of gifts that will help them learn or grow more, that can help enrich and develop their talents.

There is nothing wrong with homemade gifts and gifts from the heart! Those are the best ones! You put the most time into those.

It’s good when you can explain to them your expectations and be real with them about a budget and living debt-free. These are lessons every child (and adult) needs.

So, set expectations ahead of time. As much as we want to give and give, we should try to make the “sweets” in our lives a special occasion so they are savored and appreciated. There’s nothing wrong with being patient and waiting for something.

It can go a long way toward making Christmas morning a much happier experience.



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  • Lillian
    December 12, 2017 at 8:13 am

    Ah, Veruca. Every parent’s nightmare!!😂

    • Melessa
      December 12, 2017 at 8:29 am

      So true! But also a little entertaining to watch when it’s not your kid. 😉

  • Laura
    December 12, 2017 at 9:01 am

    This is SO what I needed to read today!

    • Melessa
      December 12, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      I needed to write for myself too! It helped me.

  • Amy
    December 12, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Oof, thanks for the reminder!

    • Melessa
      December 12, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      I needed the reminder too!

  • Barbara
    December 12, 2017 at 10:02 am


  • Barb
    December 12, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Limiting my sweets intake this time of year is especially difficult.

    • Melessa
      December 12, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      I hear that! It takes a ton of self control!

  • Allison T
    December 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Darling little stinkers!😏

    • Melessa
      December 12, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      So true!

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