Does your family have official limits on gift-giving? A set number per person? Drawing names rather than expecting everyone to have something for everyone else?


While many families find gift-giving limits the perfect solution to stress (not to mention overspending), many others consider such ideas restrictive if not stingy, and find personal joy in showering others with gifts. This doesn’t happen too frequently between adults (except with courting couples and at landmark events/anniversaries), but many children have grandparents, aunts, and even parents who just can’t give enough to them. You may be overdoing things and cultivating a sense of entitlement if:

Every time you return from a trip or arrive for a visit, you hear “What did you bring me?” before your name.

You find yourself buying things weekly—or more often—for children you come home to every day.

The kids are openly disappointed if one item on their two-page Christmas list didn’t get into the stocking. Or their first words on opening a package are, “This is a Toyco teddy bear. I asked for a Playco!”

If you see such attitudes developing in your own family, call a family meeting to discuss the situation. Don’t just scold the kids for expecting too much: listen to them and consider their points of view. Are they actually hungry for more of your attention, and grasping at material gifts as the nearest available substitute? Could they have developed the complaining habit without realizing it—or caught the “never enough” attitude from you?

Whether or not you decide to make major changes in your gift-giving habits, make a habit of encouraging the kids to be generous with others: giving some of their allowance to charity, sharing toys with friends, making special presents for Grandma.


Some additional hints for keeping present-giving from reaching the “too many” stage:

Don’t ever buy a gift just because you feel guilty about not “having more time” for your child. Your gut is telling you that you need to make more time instead. (It’s amazing how many parents sacrifice time with their children in the name of earning money to keep those children in things, and then wonder why the children are so dissatisfied.)

If you have multiple children, don’t stress yourself out to keep number and costs of gifts exactly balanced. Just make sure everyone gets adequate attention specific to his or her individual “love language.”

If you have a doting extended-family member who “spoils the child rotten” and gets defensive when you bring up the subject, forget about trying to reform your relative. Instead, sit the child down and explain, “Grandma gives you so much because she loves you so much, and it hurts her when you take her presents for granted. What would you like to do to show her you love her, too?”

Teach your child the meaning of “Thank you”—and the importance of saying “Great to see you!” before “What did you bring me?”

When your child gives you something (even surprise “help” in the kitchen that makes a bigger mess), set an example with a smile and sincere “Thank you.” (You can always follow up by suggesting you two clean the kitchen together.)