At Christmas, your children might be putting “present pressure” on you – i.e. asking for specific gifts that you may not be able to afford, that you find inappropriate or are not willing to buy for any other reason. “Pester power” i.e. your child pestering you for weeks about what they want, is making it harder for parents to say no to their children.
Generally, children now are closer to their parents than their parents were with their own Mum and Dad. This is positive on one level, because the family unit is strong and children can speak to their parents openly. Parents include their children in decisions too. However, there is a danger of the parenting role becoming too much of a friend role and this is where we need to be careful that children are not asking for too much, where we are obliging just because we have such a close relationship with them.
Here are 8 tips on how you can handle your child’s demands more effectively.
1. You Are The Parent – Instill Your Values
You are the parent – it is up to you how you raise your children. Instill your positive values into them and consider if giving expensive gifts fits in or not. Explain this to your children in the context of family values.
2. Ease The Pressure On Yourself
Set realistic expectations. Sometimes, when you become a parent, you want to “do it all” for your children. But think about if it is all necessary? Pick the most important things and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If there are things you want to do but it is too much for you to manage alone, then get others involved. Ask your partner to do some parts, get your children to plan the games (depending on their age), and if you have guests coming over, ask them to take care of some aspects (the alcohol, crackers or dessert).
3. Cut The Stress
Travel can be stressful. If you are not having Christmas at your house, it can be stressful to take young children to other people’s houses. It is OK to say no. If you feel that it would cause more stress than enjoyment, you could say that you are staying at home for Christmas to avoid the travel. Family members might get offended, but explain your reasons. Invite them to come to you instead if that helps.
4. No One Is Perfect – Don’t Compare Yourself
Don’t worry about perfection. On social media, you will see friends posting pictures of their perfect Christmas tree or a posed picture of the family in Christmas jumpers. These are pictures – not real life. If your tree doesn’t look like that, who cares? Let the children decorate it the way they want to and as long as they are happy, what does it matter if the tinsel is wonky and the baubles are in no particular pattern?
5. It Is OK To Say No To Your Demanding Children
Sometimes your children will ask you for a gift that you simply cannot afford. I understand it can feel heartbreaking when you cannot provide what your child wants. But remember, most of the time, they only want it because it has been marketed to them, and their friends are talking about it as the “gift to have” this Christmas. Does your child really want it? Or are they getting caught up in the hype? Have a think about why your child really wants the gift. You can even ask them. Assess if they will really value the gift after Christmas Day is over.
If you find it is a present they legitimately want, and you cannot afford it, do not worry, get them a related gift that is within your budget. If they seem disappointed, explain to them that you really wanted to get them the gift but it is not possible right now – make sure they know it is nothing to do with them, and you love them. If it is possible for you, you could get the gift but say it is a combined Christmas and birthday present because it is such a special present. (Make sure you remind them of this when their birthday comes round).
6. Ensure Gifts Are Age Appropriate
Occasionally your child may ask for something you do not feel is age appropriate, e.g. a video game. If this is the case, explain why you think they are too young for it and offer an alternative that you consider appropriate that they may enjoy instead.
7. Pocket Money Can Teach The Value Of Money
Consider giving your children pocket money so they understand the value of things that they want.
8. Blended Families: Be Open-Minded & Plan Ahead
You may be part of a blended family – perhaps you have step-children or your ex-partner has the children at theirs for Christmas. Any situation like this can mean emotions are heightened. All I would say is to be open-minded at this point because it is not just your traditions that will be followed – it will be a mix of everyone’s and you have to be ok with that as you are not the only one with influence over your children. If you are able to discuss your expectations in advance, it will help a lot.
Remember, you are the parent and your children have certain expectations around Christmas because of what they see on TV and what their friends are doing. I have given you some tools and ideas above to help you to manage your children’s expectations, and even your expectations of yourself. Take it easy on yourself and enjoy the festive period.