Taming Your Child's Monster Wish List
By Kim Seidel
Most children feel compelled to keep up with their friends, and the holidays can bring out their desires for expensive goods even more. It’s up to parents to set limits and create a joyful holiday for the entire family.
“Parents need to step up to the plate and put a limit on how much can be put on the gift list,” says Barbara Kilikevicius, author of A Mindful Christmas…How to Create a Meaningful, Peaceful Holiday. “Santa isn’t spending the money anymore, it’s the parents.”
Diana Ennen’s teen daughter once included a pricey, $90 purse on her wish list. “This was not even one of her ‘big presents’―just one of the extras,” Ennen says. “I can see spending money on an iPod, computer or camera, but that expensive of a purse…I just couldn’t justify it.”
To solve this problem, Ennen suggested to her daughter she go shopping online for purses. She picked out several alternatives so she wouldn’t know the exact purse she would find under the Christmas tree.
“My daughter also spent time looking for coupons and was able to find a coupon for $10 off as well. This taught her the value of money and how, with just a little bit of effort, you can save money,” Ennen says. “I also think teenagers need to know that they can’t get everything they want.”
Along with asking for expensive gifts, children this age often think they want the “very, very best,” says Ennen. Along with the purse, her daughter asked for a $400 camera, which Ennen attributes to the price itself and the marketing of the camera company.
To overcome this challenge, Ennen instructed her daughter to take notes on different cameras she found in the newspaper, writing down each of the benefits and features.
“She was clearly able to see that the expensive camera really didn’t offer that much more, and several of the others had features she liked even more,” Ennen says. “This exercise was beneficial because she was able to compare exactly what she wanted. It worked, and I saved money.”
Once again, Ennen had her daughter write down several alternatives so that she wouldn’t know for sure what she’d receive on the “big day.”
“Children will be taught the family’s values according to their parents,” Kilikevicius says. “By parents staying true to their deepest values, and acting with wisdom, they are giving their children a gift far more valuable than anything bought in a store.”
Clinical psychologist and family/marriage therapist Sharon Fried Buchalter said parents should strive to make their children understand the value of a dollar and appreciate any gift so as to not spoil them or build-up haughty expectations of what a “gift” means.
“We, as parents, may want to give our children what we didn’t have when we were kids,” Buchalter said. “While this is admirable, we need to make sure we don’t spoil our children. This is especially important for parents of tweens and teens to understand, now that gifts are becoming more lavish and expensive.”