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I Want One of Those – Preparing for the Festive Season

Posted on 23 December 2013

At this time of year emotions can run high as we fight the marketing battle that bombards us at every corner.  What should we buy our children?  Do they really need it?  We open up the floodgates and ask children what they would like?  We encourage them to write to Santa requesting presents.  The first question that children will ask each other after the 25th December is ‘what did you get for Christmas?’  Will their presents stand up to what everyone else received?

Whilst this time of year is especially challenging we can learn valuable lessons and apply them throughout the year when it comes to ‘giving’ to our children.

Here are a few tips that will help you on your way.

  • Your primary job as a parent is to prepare your child for how the world really works. In the real world, you don't always get what you want. You will be better able to deal with that as an adult if you've experienced it as a child.
  • The reverse of this is that it is desirable and an example of effective parenting to teach children there is potential for them to have anything they want. They may have to work for it though. And they may not get it at this moment. When you are shopping and your child asks, "Can I have one of those?" respond with, "how are you going to pay for it?" or "What are you willing to do to get it?" Ask, "How much money do you have?' or ""Do you have a plan for getting it?"

Our job as parents is to help our children learn they can have whatever they want if they are willing to work for it. During the process of figuring out how to get whatever it is they desire, they may learn about problem-solving, planning, setting priorities, and goal achievement. They may even come to see themselves as being able to create what they want in their own lives. That is about as far from being spoiled as you can get. We call this phenomena self-responsibility.  So the Christmas list may be very long but it is up to you to choose what they receive from you and the rest is up to them.

  • If your parent/child relationship is based on material goods, your child won't have the chance to experience unconditional love.  Children want time and activity from us.  When you think of rewards, don’t always think of a material prize. You need not buy them material goods in order to create a bond. Instead of tangible gifts, how about spending some time together? Be careful that you aren't teaching them that emotions can be healed by a trip to the toy shop.
  • Don't let your guilt get in the way of your parenting. Your job as a parent is not to make yourself feel good by giving the child everything that makes you feel good when you give it. Your job as a parent is to prepare your child to succeed in school and when they get out into the world. Kids have to be socialised in a way that they understand you work hard for what you get." You don't want to teach your child that they will get everything through manipulation, pouting, crying, door slamming and guilt induction.
  • Make sure your children aren't defining their happiness and their status in the world as a function of what they wear or drive. Sit down with them and have a one-on-one conversation about what really defines their worth — their intelligence, their creativity, their caring, their giving, their work ethic, etc. If you spent equal time sitting down and talking to them about what really mattered as you do shopping, you might be able counterbalance the countless images they see telling them otherwise.
  • Understand "intrinsic" versus "extrinsic" motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when people do things because they feel proud of themselves when they do it. They feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Extrinsic motivation is when someone does something because of external motivation. For example, they will receive money, a toy or privilege if they do the task. If you are always rewarding your child with material things, he/she will never learn how to motivate themselves with internal rewards like pride. They also will never learn to value things because there are so many things and nothing is special.
  • Your child does not have to love you every minute of every day. He'll get over the disappointment of having been told "no." But he won't get over the effects of being spoiled.
  • Help your child set goals. Teach him/her that striving to own nice things is fine if he/she understands how much hard work it takes to afford that, and then doesn't base his/her self-worth around what she buys.
  • If you  know Christmas/birthdays are going to be a particularly challenging time be sure to plan and pre-empt and if you have a partner, ensure you are on the same page.
  • If there are choices to be made – give a child the choices you want.  You can have ‘2 new DS games’ or ‘extra top up on your mobile phone. Your choice entirely’
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to other parents about what they are buying.  Don’t take any notice of the familiar line of  ‘But David has a TV in his room and he has an ipad and a Wii.’
  • Whilst the above may be true in some families, you make rules in your family and stick to them.  Especially in the techno world we live in, it is easy to succumb to every device in the world.  Rest assured that children can be happy without every one of these!
  • Set rules in your house especially if there are siblings to prevent the too-much-too-soon syndrome.

Above all, enjoy the festivities!!