As a parent, of course you want to make Christmas magical for your children. Problems arise only when you give into your children’s demands that are beyond your means. Just look at the children’s reactions in this video from Jimmy Kimmel where parents tell their children they ate all their Halloween candy. Similar stressful reactions can occur at Christmas time too if children do not get the gift they asked for from Santa.
Does Your Child Seem Entitled?
Research says that up to the age of 25, we tend to focus on ourselves, and why not – we mostly do just have ourselves to think about at that age. The issue arises when we get so focused on ourselves that we expect and demand things that are unreasonable. Experts say the peak of this behaviour is from the ages of 6 to 8.
If your child has a tantrum, and you think they are acting entitled, don’t worry – this is not your fault. This is a natural part of growing up – children feel they are entitled to have “everything their friends have” and want the newest and coolest gadgets. Try and help them to move from their self-centredness towards self control – listen to what they are saying, help them to understand that they are not the centre of the world and that others around them have needs too. Talk to them about the media and marketing to help them understand how the things they want are being positioned to them and reinforce the positive values you have in your family and how they are more important that the latest cool gadget.
I want to share some tips on how to handle your children’s demands and expectations about presents at Christmas.
6 Ways To Handle Your Children’s Demands At Christmas
1. Educate Your Children About Christmas
The message that children get about Christmas is that it is all about presents – these messages come from our families, other children at school, and the media. Therefore, if they don’t get the gifts they want, they may feel disappointed. Or worse, get angry and have a tantrum.
The trick is to teach them beforehand about the real meaning of Christmas (whatever this means to you). For example:
- A meal with the family
- Spending time with their parents/siblings/extended family
- Hearing the Christmas story
- Going to Church (if you are Christian)
- Feeling gratitude for all you have
- Reflecting on the year that has just gone and the year ahead
- Thinking about others who may have no one to spend the day with or who have no home/family. Perhaps you would volunteer time at a soup kitchen, or create a gift box to send to a child in a disadvantaged country.
Help them to recognise how lucky they already are. If they get a gift, that is the icing on the cake, no matter what it is.
2. Prepare them for Christmas Day
Before Christmas day, take some time to speak to your children about what to expect on the day.
Explain when they will wake up, open presents, have meals, have quiet time, play games etc. This will manage their expectations for what will happen during the day, which gives you a chance to make the present giving part a minor segment of the day. You could make the playing games or the meal the most exciting part of the day to take their focus away from the presents. This will help reduce over-excitement and potential disappointment if they do not get what they want (because it is unaffordable or perhaps an inappropriate gift for their age).
3. Ensure All Adults Are Consistent
It is important for both parents to agree on how they will handle Christmas with the children. You may want to extend this to other guests you have invited round.
Call anyone else who is coming to your home for Christmas in advance and let them know of your plans to make the presents a smaller part of Christmas and that you want to focus on family time and gratitude instead. This will mean they can help you reinforce the message rather than contradict it when they come over and the first thing they ask is “What did you kids get for Christmas?”
4. Keep Your Daily Routine Going
You most likely already have a daily schedule in place for your children including bedtimes, bath times and mealtimes. Stick to this as closely as you can around the festive period to help the children stay on track. If they miss bedtimes, they may feel more tired and that is when they start to get a bad attitude.
5. Involve Your Children In Chores
On Christmas Day itself, get the children involved as much as you can – get them excited about being your “special helper” and laying the table, tidying up the gift wrapping, or putting the games away neatly after playing. Give them importance and incorporate them into the day to make them feel valued.
6. Create Memorable Experiences & Traditions
Memories are not made through things – it is much more about experiences. Make your children feel loved – they will remember the feeling. Start your own family tradition if you don’t already have one – here are a few of my own ideas:
- A silly family Christmas song that you all make up together
- Watching the Queen’s speech together
- Writing a letter to each person in the family to say why you love them so much
- Playing charades (or another game)
- Going for a walk after lunch
- Dressing in onesies
Get creative and think of your own fun tradition!
I hope this post has helped you to think about ways to celebrate Christmas without putting such a great emphasis on presents. Have a great Christmas with your family!