Enough Already! When Does Generosity Becomes Overindulgence?

Written by New York Family on . Posted in Family.


Photo courtesy of New York Family Magazine.

By Laura Deutsch and Heather Ouida

Editor’s note: One of the questions most often asked by parents during the holidays is, when it comes to shopping for our kids, when is enough, enough? Here, Laura Deutsch and Heather Ouida of babybites—an educational and social group for new moms and moms-to-be—tackle the question of materialism and modern parenting.

For many families, December is associated with shopping, presents, parties, presents, food, presents, glitter, presents, religion, and of course, presents. The question of “How much is too much?” comes up a lot in our community of moms at babybites. As moms of young children ourselves, we turned to our own mothers—financial advisor Dahlia Peyserand parenting coach Dr. Karen Rancourt—for some sage advice on celebrating the season without spoiling our kids.

How can I be generous with my kids without being overindulgent?

Dahlia Peyser: I see no harm in enjoying the commercial aspects of the season. Problems arise when the consumer is purchasing for personal needs inconsistent with a healthy relationship to money: “I want my kids to feel cared for,” “I don’t want my child to be jealous of others,” “I want to give my child everything I didn’t get when I was growing up.” Most problems arise when the children absorb the parents’ conflicted attitude and begin to use spending and accumulating as a weapon.

How can I effectively deal with my child saying, “I want…?”

Karen Rancourt: Keep a running list of all these I-want items for your child and each time she says, “I want…” say, “Let’s add it to your gift wish list and then we can consider it as a birthday or holiday gift.” Then, when gift-giving time is on the horizon, you can prioritize the wish list with your child. When grandparents and others ask what they can get for your child, reference his or her gift wish list. Keeping a gift wish list for your child has several benefits: it helps him learn deferred gratification, it cuts down on disappointments, it eliminates the exchange frenzy and it helps gift givers feel that they’re giving something that is truly of value or interest to the child.

How can I encourage relatives not to overindulge my children?

K.R.: Your child’s gift givers typically think of purchasing something material, but including on the wish list events and experiences as gifts can be incredibly enriching and valuable. Think how excited your child will be to learn that as a gift, Grandma and Grandpa are taking her to the circus, or for art lessons at the museum, or to rent a boat in Central Park, or to see a Broadway musical.

How can I emphasize graciousness and gratitude when receiving gifts? 

K.R.: Prior to your son’s opening his presents, review with him the cardinal rule of accepting gifts: “Even if you are disappointed, always look at the gift giver and say, ‘Thank you!’” You can also help your child be a gracious gift receiver by handing him each gift to be opened, making sure he opens each card and either reads it himself or has it read to him.

To read the full article at New York Family Magazine click here.

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