Are Gift-Giving Parents Out of Control?
All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth and a Ferrari
James L. Casale, Ph.D.
If giving is better than receiving when is giving inappropriate? This is the giving season. Shall we rain all manner of gifts upon our children, or is this time of year a teaching moment that will last throughout this season and beyond. Gifts, gifts, and more gifts result in more, more, and more clutter and, worse, lessons lost on the recipients. No, you cannot have a Ferrari. You have to wait until you are 16.
Unfortunately for the recipients, gifts may flow throughout the year as prizes or rewards that are not deserved. You givers know who you are. Taking out the garbage, making your bed, brushing your teeth, getting good grades, being nice to your sister, or setting the table are NOT occasions that deserve gifts. Enough already! There are special events each year that warrant gift giving, but moderation is the watchword even if you can afford the Ferrari.
Just because your ninth-grader wants a $400 Gucci belt doesn’t mean he gets it. The latest iPhone? Forget it, pal. And I can’t believe what my grandson wanted for Christmas. Actually, I never heard of it, but it’s the rage at his high school in Connecticut, and kids are paying big bucks for it. It’s a shirt called, Supreme. Kids will pay several hundred dollars for the privilege to wear a shirt that doesn’t even have Mickey Mantle‘s name on the back. And according to my grandson, prices can go as high as a thousand dollars. OMG
Even if you can afford elaborate gifts, don’t do it. If begging persists, my standard answers would be the following:
Use the money you have saved.
Wait until you have saved enough.
Maybe when you graduate from college.
Yeah, right. Not this year.
Ask your grandmother.
Do you need more Legos? You have enough to open your own Legoland. How about some Lincoln Logs?
Here’s a lesson on giving. Depending on their age, buy your children a few gifts each that are earmarked for a child or a family in need. Then, with your children accompanying you, deliver the gifts to the family or the organization that will distribute them. No, you cannot sit on my lap while I drive. For example, Toys for Tots, sponsored by the United States Marine Corps, will welcome your contributions, as will the local homeless center. If your children are old enough to have their own money, allow them the freedom to purchase gifts and decide on the needy recipients. Remember, they are not the needy. If they are, ignore this paragraph.
Many houses of worship have ministries that reach out to the local community to serve the less fortunate. Giving is not limited to tangible gifts but also includes giving the gift of your time to local organizations that serve the community. Time is the same as money.
Get rid of clutter and feel good about it
Do you have a garage or attic full of “stuff” that you or your kids are not using? Don’t wait until that gift-giving time of year to get rid of it. As a family, gather it up, pack the car, and drive to the appropriate donation centers. Now, doesn’t that feel good? And the neighbors will stop talking about you.
A recent article in the New York Post caught my eye. “Present Tense” by Naomi Schaefer Riley references the bestselling author Marie Kondo, who wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Ms. Kondo emphasizes a “minimalist” lifestyle. That sounds like a good idea, but my emphasis is less about clutter and more about establishing a culture in each home that practices the three K’s: Karing, Kompassion, and Kindness. Mark it down but spell it correctly.
During my childhood in ancient times, I didn’t expect much, my parents couldn’t afford much, and I didn’t receive much when it came to gift-giving season or, for that matter, throughout the year. All I ever wanted to survive in my neighborhood were four things that would make me the happiest kid on the block: a bike, a baseball glove, a baseball, and a pink Spalding. We used that pink rubber ball to play stoop ball and stickball.
As a parent and grandparent, I followed suit and never lavished expensive gifts on my children and grandchildren. I usually gave books, money, and good advice about the importance of reading and making your own choices.
Yeah, but it’s 2017
This “me first” generation salivates for the latest electronic goodies, motorized toys, designer clothes, and, God help us, video games. Don’t give in: give out instead to those in your community who need food, clothes, books, a bike, and maybe a baseball glove.
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