• Thu, Dec 26 - 5:30 pm ET

So Much For Trying Not To Spoil My Kid On Christmas

200468376-001I was a little Bah Humbug about the gifts this season because we are on a tight budget. Then I looked at my child’s room and realized that it made sense to scale back on the gifts anyway because he already has more stuff than he could ever use. So much for the scaling back idea; I’ve realized it’s impossible to have a child who’s not showered with gifts when you are surrounded by relatives.

First of all – this is not a complaint. I realize how fortunate we are to have all of this stuff and all of these amazing people around us, I really do. I’m just a little concerned about raising a child who will inevitably receive a lot of gifts for every holiday because of our family. His room looks like a toy store. He’s three years old. This is excessive.

Yesterday he received a string of amazing gifts – probably about a dozen of them. His sister – who is 7 months old – received exactly one toy. Although my son was surrounded by amazing gifts, he still wanted hers, too. What the heck? I’m creating a monster with all of this stuff. I can’t help but feel that if he had less, he’d be more appreciative of the things he got. There’s got to be a way to deal with this. I just haven’t figured out what it is yet.

I’ve been so overwhelmed by a recent move that I have failed to really embrace all the ways that we can turn this inevitable avalanche of gifts into a positive thing – as opposed to just spoiling the crap out of this child. I don’t want to put “restrictions” on the gifts my family can give my children – I’ve just recently moved back around them and I know they have been dying for the opportunity to spoil these kids. I don’t want to take that from them, I just want to be sure my kids aren’t learning to expect too much around the holidays.

Knowing how easy it is to fall into a dire financial situation after just a few months of not having the income we were used to last year – I feel blessed that I have a family who can help us out when we need it and at the same time conflicted about all those who don’t. Because of this, it’s important for me to figure out ways to give back and make sure my children grow up knowing that people who don’t have enough during the holidays are just like us – they’re just missing the amazing support we have.

I have some friends who are in some financial distress this year and weren’t able to get their kids as many gifts as they would have liked. This morning – I went “shopping’ in my kid’s room and put together a few care packages. I’m explaining to him that we are sending toys to kids who don’t have as much as he does. He’s not thrilled. I’m not surprised. Next year, he’ll be four and since he’ll be a little older I’m hoping he’ll get it more – and be a little happier about it. Ultimately, I really just want to raise children who appreciate what they have and care about others who aren’t as lucky as they are.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
What We're Reading:
Share This Post:
  • Mila

    That is so great of you to help other families out and at the same time teach your son about helping others. :)

  • Dooby dooby doo

    Stay the course, mama. He will understand as he gets older. It’s a valuable lesson for him (all of us) to learn.

  • Lee

    My family goes insane with gifts. This year, as well as last year (and birthdays), several of them were put away still boxed to be pulled for another day. We did do a sack for Santa of toys he has outgrown.

  • Sarah

    Same boat. Lots of generous relatives. WAAAAY too many presents for the 4 year old boy. Worried about gratefulness, etc. It is such a difficult balance! But you are right – so fortunate to have relatives who are so giving – hard to strike a balance! Good idea you have! Might just borrow it!! :) Good luck!

  • LiteBrite

    I’m right there with you. There are eight kids in my family not to mention grandparents, great-grandparents, my husband’s family etc, so the kid has amassed enough to fill a small toy store over the years. Plus, his birthday is right before Thanksgiving, which has meant even more stuff. And yes, I am fortunate to have generous relatives, #firstworld problems, and so on, and yes, we are instilling gratefulness in him, but I still worry about the mindset of a six-year-old who is inundated with gifts

    Thankfully we’ve cut back over the years on the gift-giving, and I’ve made an effort to cull the toys, but he still has A LOT of stuff. I can tell you though that it gets easier as they get older. Yesterday, the boy and I went through most of his toys and put quite a few gently used ones off to the side for donation. Two or three years ago he would’ve been pretty salty at the idea of donating his things, but this time around he got the concept much better and was like, “Yeah, I don’t really play with that. We should give it to someone who would like it more.”

  • Momma425

    Every year, after christmas mom made my siblings and I “clean” our rooms. Meaning that we had to make room for our new clothes/toys by going through our closets by getting rid of things that didn’t fit us anymore, and going through our toy boxes to get rid of things we didn’t play with anymore. Mom essentially had a rule (with toys) that if we got something new- we had to get rid of something old before we could have it. Then, we went with her to donate to a thrift store connected with our church. I haven’t done that with my daughter in the past- but I think I will start this year.
    It’s hard- my daughter has my family (my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and my siblings who buy her things in addition to my husband and I), her dad’s family (him, his sister, his parents, and his grandparents), and my husband’s family (my husband’s parents are divorced- so we have his dad’s side of the family buying her stuff and his mom’s side of the family buying her stuff as well). It’s awkward and kind of impossible to put restrictions on all of those people. I think donating is the best option.

    • Mel

      That’s a great policy – get one/give one! Everybody wins :)

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      I think get one/give one is a GREAT idea!

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      We usually do this. (I got too lazy to beat Christmas this year but will get it done before break’s over). It’s great.

    • thefluter

      I think this is a great policy, too! It could be done on birthdays, as well, to promote the idea of giving all year.

  • Mel

    Same with my nieces. They already have everything they could possibly need/want so this year I made a donation in their names to Heifer International. I put the cards in with some hair ties and cute socks. Admittedly, they were more excited about the IPods they got from their parents, but they seemed pleased to read the 1page printout I included and to know they helped some kids in need. They’re very young (8,10,12) and middle-class, so the concept of abject poverty doesn’t really sink in, but they have big hearts so they seemed happy to give. I told them we could start our own tradition and in the coming years they could choose a charity they liked and I would donate to a different one each year.

    • Bethany Ramos

      That’s such a good idea – they’ll appreciate it later!!

    • thefluter

      I love this idea! I’m planning on doing something similar for my nieces/nephews for their birthdays this year. Maybe a smaller toy, plus a donation to a local organization that helps throw birthday parties for homeless children.

    • Mel

      That sounds like a really good cause and something the kids can relate to!

  • DaJon

    Merry Christmas!! I used to follow you on your personal blog but since youve been writing for Mommyish (congrats on the move and promotion!!) This is now my FAVORITE mommy blog! I hope you post a pic of your princess ive been waiting! Your son is sl handsome! I hope your 2014 is awesome!

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      Aw – thanks DaJon – i’ve been horrible about updating my blog recently so i’m glad you followed me here! There’s a few pics of her on my Twitter page :)

  • Lackadaisical

    We used to have that problem with my eldest but it calmed down as he has gained siblings and cousins to stretch family members’ budgets over and many of my own social circle have had kids for my generous friends to buy for. Presents get understandably cheaper and more disposable (from a big toy to sweets and an annual for example) and we are now more in control of the presents as our gift and Santa’s stocking become the main gifts with smaller sundries from elsewhere. Even the bigger gift buyers have scaled it down. While my kids are my own parents’ only grandchildren I now have three so it would be unreasonable to expect them to spend the same per child as they might for an only grandchild and my in-laws now have 8 grandchildren so we are grateful for a much smaller gift than they used to buy as their costs are obviously multiplied by 8. My aunt used to give gifts but with grandchildren of her own and reduced income now she and her husband are retired that has ceased, and there are a lot of other older relatives where the same has happened. To be honest the reduction in gifts hasn’t bothered my kids in the slightest.

    As they get older convincing kids to donate toys gets easier (or it has for me). I found it really easy to get even the little ones to donate if they know, have met or even have been told about the specific child the toys go to. My 4 year old loves passing toys to her cousins, and was happy to give up toys she liked (but had outgrown) to the grandchild of my mum’s friend when she was told that it would make a little two year old girl happy. Being able to imagine another child’s happiness helps.

  • Alicia Kiner

    I’ve been fighting this battle since my son was born. He’s 9. He and my daughter are the only grandchildren on my husband’s side of the family, so they SHOWER the kids in gifts. Clothes, toys, musical instruments, art supplies, sports equipment… all of it. So what my husband and I started doing is we set a budget. We buy one big gift that takes up about 2/3 of the budget and then buy one or two other gifts and stocking stuffers with the rest. So they get maybe 5 or 6 presents from us. Plus, usually about an hour or two after we open presents with just us, my in laws come over, and they get to open all those. So far, each year has been “The best Christmas EVER.” Oh, and instead of restricting, point your family towards things the kids need. Like, I know you really want to buy baby X that big toy, but he could really use some pjs, so maybe a smaller toy instead? Or something along those lines.

    • JLH1986

      We had the rule of four, and then we picked out with our parents 4 gifts to donate to a family in need, even when we still believed in Santa we loved picking out gifts to donate, and when money was tight mom donated from our toys that we didn’t use or play with. Our grandparents filled in where my parents couldn’t. My husband is an only child an admits he was a spoiled ungrateful little chit. So he agrees that the rule of 4 should stand with our future kiddos.

  • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

    We’ve made a tradition of donating gently used toys from the kid’s rooms every year before Christmas. The kids are actually really great about it, which never ceases to surprise me, and it gives us extra room for the inevitable deluge of gifts we receive from family members. Anything broken or unusable gets tossed, because I like to donate thing kids will actually want.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      We do this, too. And recently I took a few games/crafty things my daughter didn’t want to my classroom. One of my students (who is in need) was playing with a fancy stamp set that had been my daughter’s, and she was completely fascinated with it. When I told my daughter how much the girl loved it, she said to give it to her for Christmas. I did. She was soooo freaking excited.

  • ktbay

    I am horrified of the barrage of gifts that my not yet born daughter will receive next year. My husband talked to his sister, and apparently they spent 2 1/2 hours on Christmas morning opening gifts for her two 3 year old girls. We know the mass of gifts was given with love, but a line has to be drawn.

    • arrow2010

      Just happily take the gifts and give most away to a toy bank.

  • Kay_Sue

    It’s hard to make my parents/grandmother understand that, in addition to us not having room and not wanting a bunch of crap and not wanting to have entitled little assholes, there’s also a point where it’s just Too Much for the kids to even understand.

    My three year old was a perfect example. By the time we finished Christmas with everyone, he was flipped upside down on the couch, waving his legs back and forth, humming to himself. I’m pretty sure it was the toddler equivalent of the blue screen of death.

    • Paul White

      If your toddler BSODs how do you reboot it?

    • Kay_Sue

      That was my question. Your guess is as good as mine. My husband suggested trying for a replacement. That sounded expensive though.

    • Lee

      Don’t worry. As soon as you decide you want a shower or to use the bathroom rhe problem will fix itself.

  • Ife

    We have a small house and a huge, generous family, so we do a bigger toy purge before Christmas and a smaller one afterwards, to help integrate all the new stuff. Now, at 4, my oldest is starting to understand and enjoy the idea of helping others by donating her toys. Prior to this year I would do the toy purge in secret, when the kids weren’t around. I swear, last year I got rid of about half of their toys and neither one noticed that anything was missing,

    It’s still a tough line to walk though – I worry that even though we keep the amount of toys in the house se relatively reasonable, the fact that we’re basically having to get rid of toys we just received in some cases mere months ago to make room for new toys is teaching my girls that their stuff is disposable and not worthy of care. I really want them to value what they have, and that’s hard when there always seems to be MORE STUFF coming into there house. I did end up talking to my parents about the excess and things have gotten a little better on that front, but not much, and beyond that I guess it’s just a suck it up and deal situation. I just keep reminding myself that it’s a good thing that the kids have so many people who care about them, and that the gift-alanche will probably slow down as they get older and less fun to buy for. And then I read Simplicity Parenting again and try to throw more stuff away…

    • thefluter

      Ooh, that’s a good point about teaching your girls that things are worthy of care. I’m sure you’ll do a good job, as it sounds like you’re doing a great job otherwise — probably as they get older and receive more valuable things, this lesson will come naturally. Good luck! :)

  • Lee

    I live neat my mother and she always has to out do everyone on Christmas. my daughter has grown like a weed so half of her gifts from me were clothes. That’s not to say i didn’t also get her a heap of toys.. but she has so many and money was tight. my mother went and bought her more presents than i did. i wasn’t mad. it made her last christmas as an only child very special and my mom was at least considerate enough to say theywere all from santa. it can be frustrating not being able to go crazy and spoil your kids like everyone else but I’m so blessed to have a family that loves my daughter so much.

  • thefluter

    I know it’s easier said than done, but I think practicing donating and
    helping others as a general rule of thumb is a better remedy to spoiled
    kids than a once-a-year mandatory donation. Maybe look into some local charities that help kids in need and see if you can volunteer there with your kids (in the Boston area, for example, Cradles to Crayons is a great one).

  • Rachel Sea

    Donating toys to other kids is a great habit. If you make it a scheduled event, he’ll be prepared, and it will keep the concept of sharing and giving in his mind. If you make it a very regular thing, you can pare his toys down to a manageable level.

    And do talk to your family about your concerns that he will become spoiled by materialism. You can have the discussion without it being about any one of them giving him too much. When gift-giving times do come around, they will remember the conversation, and may temper their buying accordingly.