I hear people complain that they have to buy expensive things for their kids because it’s what they (the kids) expect.
Some don’t know what they are going to do this holiday season as times might be tight for them. How are we going to get little Johnny the latest (insert expensive popular toy here)?!?
Here’s what I say – Don’t!!
Where do your kids get their expectations from? Do they get them from friends? From television? Those are influences but not the real source.
Children get their expectations from their parents!!
You, the parent, the adult in the relationship, set the tone for how your kids perceive gifts.
If you make it a habit to buy your kids expensive gifts for every occasion then you are setting yourself up for financial trouble!
The younger you start the worse it will be.
If you are already buying expensive items when the child is a toddler what are you going to do when they get older? How about when they are in their teens? Think about it. At some point the gifts have to ease off. How will your child react when that happens?
You can make the change though.
It’s tough to tell kids they won’t be getting all the goodies they are used to.
But if your spending is putting you in debt or you don’t have an adequate amount for savings and retirement then you better re-think your holiday spending plans! Make your kids understand that they won’t be getting as much this year.
If you can, ease them into it.
Start early in the year and explain that they won’t be getting the cornucopia of gifts they are used to. Don’t be afraid to be honest with them. You can tell them it’s because their past gift habits were too expensive. Talk to them about your financial goals and how cutting back will help you achieve those goals. Instead of more stuff work on giving them more time. Get together with family and friends and enjoy some experiences together.
Another thing to do is to get them some small gifts to donate and let them learn the felling of giving to others in need. Peter Anderson has a great article on how you can give back to those in need. Give it a look and see how you can get the kids involved.
But all their friends are getting it!!
Kids and keeping up with the Jones’ are a tough combination. But you have to draw the line and not let your neighbors dictate your spending habits.
Are your child’s friends paying your bills? Are they putting money away for retirement. Are they making sure the mortgage is on time? I didn’t think so. Teach your child to take pride in who they are not what they have. This lesson will be valuable for their entire life!
Make sure friends and family understand what you are doing.
People mean well and may want to make up for your lack of gifts by getting your kids a ton of gifts. Or maybe, they want to make sure little Johnny remembers their favorite Aunt/Uncle [insert person here]. Explain to friends and family that you want to cut back on the number of gifts your children are getting. Let them know you want to curb your kids’ gift expectations. Suggest a gift to your child’s 529 plan if friends and family insist on an extravagant gift.
Practice giving instead of getting.
Get your child into the practice of giving. Find a gift that your child can donate to an organization that helps give gifts to children in need. Make them a part of the process and have a discussion with them about how there are children who aren’t getting much, if anything, for the holidays. We all forget, at times, that there are those who have less than us.
And you better practice what you preach!!
Your child’s expectations come from watching you as well. Don’t think you’re getting that new flat-screen TV or expensive cell phone while they don’t get the goods. Parents must set the example for their kids. We are not our stuff!!
Say that to yourself – We are not our stuff! It’s important. Get this into your mind set and teach it to your children, not just by explaining but by setting the example.
I’m not saying don’t buy any gifts.
But watch what you buy for your kids. Yes, they love getting stuff. I know I did as a kid. But what is the child really getting out of it? Are they using and loving the gift? Not just for a day but for months, maybe years? Or did they say it was their favorite for a few days then it joined all their other stuff in the corner? Do your kids really appreciate the gift? If you’re always buying them expensive stuff then your kids will start to see you a the person who will get them stuff. Not for the person you are! Think about that.
It’s so east to spoil kids. I know. I have four of them. I’ve been guilty of getting them too much. Trust me it’s far better to practice constraint with their gifts.
Stop the cycle of consumerism that hurts us in the end.
You don’t have to buy your kids everything they want (or everything you want to get them). Let them love you as the great parent you are rather than the person who gets them stuff. They won’t hate you if you don’t get them all the hottest toys. If they say they do then think about the values you are teaching them.
We all want to make our kids happy but we need them to grow up responsible too.