Help! My child has a bad case of the “Gimmes”

Most of us have probably seen or experienced the Christmas Tantrum. The whole family is gathered around opening presents, enjoying the holiday time together when one child throws an all-out, volcanic tantrum because he did not get the toy he was so hoping for. If you’re this child’s parent, the Christmas tantrum is all the more embarrassing, especially if it’s in front of the extended family.

So how do you avoid the Christmas Tantrum and avoid a bad case of the “gimmes”?

With the holiday season fast approaching once again, you have undoubtedly already been bombarded with elaborate television commercials and print advertisements for the latest big name toy for this holiday season. And your children are most likely counting down the days until Christmas morning when they can tear into the latest electronic gadget or video game system that they “can’t live without.”

But the holiday season can, and should, be about so much more than just the material items that our society seems to now focus so heavily on. Here are some tips to help lessen the materialistic feel of the holiday season, reduce the likelihood of your child throwing a Christmas tantrum, and make sure your children are also experiencing some of the lasting, more fulfilling aspects of the holiday season as well.

To begin with, you could try making some of your gifts this holiday season. Help and encourage your children to make gifts for others. Homemade gifts often have so much more meaning for the recipient. For example, your children can make food gifts or coupons for services such as babysitting or shoveling snow. Check out crafting websites for creative ideas for different types of homemade gifts.

Additionally, make sure to include your children in the gift-giving process as much as possible this year. This will help teach them the importance of giving as opposed to receiving.

If you’re afraid to take your child holiday shopping for fear of a tantrum, then try preparing your child before the shopping trip. Explain to your child that you are shopping for others today. For example try saying, “I’m glad you are going shopping for me today. Today we’re going to get gifts for Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Emily.”

If your child begins to throw a tantrum over toys while shopping, try distraction by saying something like, “I don’t think Aunt Emily would like Legos. Maybe we can put it on your holiday wish list.” Sometimes just knowing that a desired gift may come in the future is enough to avoid a tantrum.

After shopping is complete, there are other ways to include your child in the gift-giving process. Even young children can help wrap presents and put bows on packages. Who cares if it looks perfect? And besides, grandma will probably love the gift even more if she knows the little ones helped do the wrapping!

While making gifts will undoubtedly be a fun addition this holiday season, you will most likely still buy many gifts. When you do, here are some tips specific to spending money during the holidays.

To start, have your children prioritize their wish lists. Make sure they know that they won’t be getting everything on their lists, but if you know the items they want the most, you will be able to spend your money more wisely.

Secondly, set a budget for gift-giving. Especially with older children, discuss your family’s gift-giving budget. With teenagers, you can even involve them in the decision making process when deciding how much to spend on each person on your shopping list. Then, be a good role-model and stay within your budget.

For older children, have them share in the financial responsibility of gift-giving by setting aside some of their allowance or babysitting money to buy gifts for their friends or teachers. Dollar stores are particularly beneficial this time of year!

And don’t be afraid to ask relatives to cut back on what they buy your children. Explain to others your desire to cut the “gimmes” this holiday season. If they insist on spending more than you want, politely remind them that you are the parent and will set limits for your children.

Better yet, divvy up your child’s holiday wish list. This way your child gets more what he wants, you spend less, and the relatives know exactly what your child will like—everyone ends up happy.

When Christmas arrives and it’s time to open gifts, teach your children to open slowly. While it may be tempting to tear into the holiday gifts all at once, teach your children to take time in opening their gifts and watch others open their gifts as well. If your child is encouraged to this, he’ll be less focused on the gifts he is getting and more focused on the holiday experience. By distracting his focus, he will be less likely to erupt in a Christmas tantrum.

Having your child slow down and watch others open gifts, will also reinforce the message that it is “better to give than to receive.” Teach your children to say “thank you” right away if the gift-giver is present and to send thank-you notes within a few days if not.

Last but not least, another great idea to make for a more memorable holiday is to plan to do things together as a family. Look for ways to celebrate the holidays together and consider making these activities family traditions. Go caroling together, watch a holiday movie, decorate cookies, get in your pajamas and go for a drive looking at the holiday lights. Don’t forget to check out local holiday attractions.

Long after thoughts of the new game system on Christmas fade away, these family traditions will make memories that will stick with your children long into their adulthood. Think about it for a moment yourself, what do you remember most about the holidays from your childhood? The cool new toy you got when you were 9 or the family togetherness and family traditions you shared with your loved ones?

So, take some steps to make the holidays more meaningful and less materialistic this year. Your efforts will be rewarded in the form of lasting memories for many holiday seasons to come!

For more help with managing Tantrums throughout the year, check out our Temper Tantrums Workshop!