Too much of a good thing?

Too much of a good thing?
Think your kids won’t be happy unless they get a mountain of presents?

Think your kids won’t be happy unless they get a mountain of presents?

Rest assured, experience shows that happiness doesn’t go hand in hand with quantity, and that the most expensive gifts are not necessarily what make us the happiest.

When children are showered with gifts, they quickly become ambivalent. “Often, they unwrap one gift, play with it for a few minutes, then abandon it to go on to the next one, and so on,” says Nadia Gagnier. “I’ve even seen kids who don’t want to open any more presents!” What’s more, an overabundance of gifts sends the wrong message. Children may end up associating how much they are loved with how many presents are under the tree.

“It’s up to parents to be aware of the effect that too much generosity can have on their kids,” says Liane Comeau, an early childhood scientific adviser. “It can be a good idea to talk to the rest of the family and ask them to limit themselves to one or two gifts or a specific budget. And if the grandparents want to give more, why not suggest giving useful gifts like clothes or books? They could also put some money into a registered education savings plan.”

“Since Olivier compares himself to his older sister a lot, we try to give them the same number of presents, even if they don’t cost the same amount, since they have no idea how much things cost.”
Valérie, mother of Olivier, 4

Keep in mind that it’s not necessary to buy the same number of gifts for each child or to spend the same amount. If your youngest loves getting lots of small presents but your oldest prefers one or two big items, for example, you can buy their gifts accordingly. Lastly, for young kids who are close in age, it can be a good idea to buy two of at least one toy so that they each have one of their own, to limit fights, adds Comeau.

They want all the toys!
Do your kids write letters to Santa that go on for pages? Tell them they have to choose. “I tell her, ‘You have to be reasonable. Santa can’t give you everything you want—he has to bring toys to other kids, too. You can help him and put the two or three things you want the most at the top of your list,’” says Isabelle, mother of Miranda. It’s a good approach, according to the experts we spoke with. Of course, you can also share items from your child’s list if family members are short on gift ideas.

Jealousy is not a gift!

“To help my son understand that he can’t have everything, I tell him that Santa Claus makes the toys himself in his workshop, with help from the elves.”
Isabelle, mother of Lucas, 5

Do gifts from Santa always cause jealousy, despite your best efforts? “Take the time to explain that treating your child and her siblings equally does not always mean treating them the same,” recommends Comeau. Christmas can be a good time to teach kids values such as sharing their gifts with their siblings, cousins, or friends. You can also suggest donating toys they don’t play with anymore to community organizations. This will help them learn that everyone can help others in their own way.

Naître et grandir

Source: Naître et grandir magazine, December 2013
Research and copywriting: Marie-Josée Cardinal
Scientific review: Diane Dubeau, professor of psychoeducation and psychology, UQO