My daughter unexpectedly gave me the best holiday present a mom could ever want -- an "A" in parenting ï¿½ when an innocuous conversation about gift-giving led to unsolicited praise about what a good job I had done in her childhood regarding the showering of gifts on her, or rather the lack of doing so.
It all began when I told her that she will be getting lots of exciting things for Christmas this year, inasmuch as she and her husband, along with their three year-old, recently moved into a big and mostly empty house. I voiced some concern that this showering of presents might spoil her, and she quickly assured me it would not! After a good laugh, she admitted that growing up with a genuine appreciation for what she received was the result of getting gifts from us almost exclusively on birthdays and holidays. She remembers us going shopping for her school clothes twice a year - spring and fall. Anything I may have picked up for her at other times was so darn appreciated because it was so darn unexpected.
So maybe we should reflect a moment as we approach that time of year, when we gear up in our quest to satisfy all those wants on our children's holiday gift lists. Their demand for presents, absent an altruistic presence, may conjure up fantasies of ripping the month of December right off your calendar. Worse, their sense of entitlement can make you wonder why you want to give them anything.
Relax. It really isn't their fault. And it is a reversible condition, easily remedied by beginning the new year with a new approach to gift giving. It really works, as evidenced by my own daughter's reflections.
From now on, whenever your children eye something they must have, advise them to start their holiday wish list. Your entire year will improve because delayed gratification will be the new game in town, and you no longer will need to play the role of Scrooge or the Wicked Witch. The word "No" will never have to be uttered.
Simply say, "Add it to your list." Inform them that you will need that list at the end of the year, not as a guarantee to satisfy every request, but as a selection guideline. Advise them to update it periodically to delete items no longer deemed urgently needed.
This approach achieves many goals. It teaches children that not every wish is instantly granted. It introduces them to the joy of truly looking forward to something. And it reveals to them just how fickle are their desires. Also, it can be just plain fun to see and to hold in black and white all of their dreams that may (or may not!) come true.
This plan, however, does not address the altruistic side of gift exchange. So you might want them to keep a separate list throughout the year of all the nice things they can do for their family, their friends, and even strangers, to make their holiday season a happy one as well.
Emphasize how good it feels to actually hear a "thank you" rather than always having to say it. You just might be pleasantly surprised to find your child admitting that being appreciated for making someone else feel good was their best present of all.
And yours, too.