Crushing the "Want Want Want" Mood this Holiday

If your kid gets the gimmies around Christmas, read this.

Fighting the Gimme Gimmes

Whether your family tradition involves jolly St. Nicholas or not, it’s not uncommon for extended family members to ask for a kids’ Christmas list, implying and directly pointing kids towards some expectation of receiving stuff from others.

In North America, the action of parents taking kids to the mall to sit on Santa’s knee to request specific gifts is quite normative. Of course, not every family does the Santa tradition, but even without the Santa photo or generating wish lists - the idea of ‘asking for stuff’ is fairly typical and even culturally expected today.

We’re not against any such tradition that your family may have, but in our theme of crushing the #want-want-want this year, we thought we’d offer a number of possible add-ons or twists to any traditions you may already have.

TWIST #1: Consider a 5:1 Wish List Ratio

This could be a year in which a child identifies five things or gifts they’d like to give or five efforts they’d like to make, to every one item they’d like to receive. This idea helps to keep the #want-want-want more balanced with some give-give-giving energy.

For example:

GIVE #1: Give 5 coins from my piggy bank to the Salvation Army

GIVE #2: Bake cookies for my teacher

GIVE #3: Give my hamster an extra scoop of crunchy corn snacks

GIVE #4: Make a paper cut-out snowflake for sister

GIVE #5: Make a Christmas card for my bus driver

1 WANT: I’d like any kind of new game for my gaming system

TWIST #2: Consider a ‘One Special Item Gift’ Item Year

This is where all aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents & parents contribute to an ultra-fun desirable item or experience. An example might be new bike or fish tank that your child has had their eye on for a long while, rather than 15 smaller gifts from various sources. This can help kids to step back from buying into the more-is-better trap, and can help them appreciate what it took to coordinate the purchase of that one special item.

TWIST #3: Consider a “No-Stuff”Year

Make it a year where gift certificates for services, hand-made consumables, such as a tin of your double chocolate cookies, mason jars of hot chocolate or, for the serious hand-crafters, handmade soap, or a knitted scarf, are the only gifts given or received. Examples of gift certificates for services could be professional services, such as a piercing for a 17-year old, or neck massages for mom for a week from your 7-year old or a string of Sunday breakfast in bed from your 12-year-old budding chef.

TWIST #4: Gifting an Experience

If your child tends toward the science-y or arts-y, go with the ‘tourist in your own town’ option by giving them a museum or art gallery admission, or opt for a stay-cation experience with a night or weekend for the family in a hotel in your home city, along with an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet.

If your kids like to travel, and if it’s in the budget, do a no-gifts/travel adventure year. If Disneyland is affordable and is something your kids would like, throw in the trip, mouse ears and one other item from the gift store as their present. You get the idea…  

What We Do Not Recommend: Blind-siding your child(ren): This an extremely crucial P.S. – If you are going to shake-up your usual, don’t spring this on your kids on the first day of Hanukkah or Christmas morning. Discuss the changes and proposals as a challenge, game or novel idea months in advance and try to get as much ‘buy-in’ and new idea generation from all family members whenever and wherever you can. The project will me much more successful if you do!

What We Do Recommend: Digging-in to the Why We Would Gift Each Other in the First Place: If you and your family do create a ‘wish list’: make sure that the kids know that the purpose of the wish list is not just to hook them up with everything that they want, that in fact it has at least three other meaningful purposes:

Three Purposes:

  1. For family members to know a bit more about what is important or interesting to the child(ren).
  2. To allow for parents, grandparents and others to show their care by obtaining or attempting to obtain and gift the child(ren) with something that lights them up and excites them.
  3. To take the guessing out of holiday shopping in those families who gift to the child(ren) during this season - it streamlines the process and takes the pain out of ‘what should I buy?’-instead of second and third guessing on the part of the gift-giver.

No matter how you celebrate, Happy Holidays from #TheDrFs. We wish you well with your quest to crush the #wantwantwant in your home!

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Dr. Lisa Ferrari and Dr. Carla Fry are Clinical Psychologists, are co-authors of Gratitude and Kindness: A Modern Parents Guide to Raising Children in and Era or Entitlement (2015), and they are co-directors of busy child and family-centered psychology clinics in Vancouver. They speak locally and nationally to print, radio and television media to connect families with scientifically proven facts in a user-friendly fashion to help children and families to maximize their happiness and resilience.