This time of year is mad, impulse buying, potentially buying gifts you can ill afford or you know are going to be forgotten about come January 1st. This is why I use and recommend to parents I work with the 4 gift rule, I have gone so far as to break it down into categories so that you can guide your offspring to really think about the spirit of gift-giving, they can add multiple items to each section but the understanding is that they will not get it all:
something you need
something you want
something to read
something to do
There are many advantages to this system, as it allows everyone to make good decisions about needs rather than wants. It could be that the ‘do’ section it is filled with family experiences, many of the children I work with added movie night or playing board games here, this does not need any financial out lay and you are adding to their memory banks this Christmas.
When friends and family ask what to get your kids, refer to the list! it could be that you decide between you that the grandparents will get the ‘something you need’ items, cousins will find a book from the list that they already own and gift your children a book from the ‘something to read’ section, and you buy the ‘something you want’ and everyone contributes in different ways to the ‘something to do’ part, I think you get the idea!
When children start adding last minute items, get them to put it on the list with the proviso that there is no guarantee that it will be purchased or arranged. Our children are growing up in a world of ‘instant gratification’ it is ok for them to need to think more deeply about the value of gifts not only the money side but also the thinking around why we give gifts and the intention behind it.
I got to be a guest expert in this article for Yahoo News, talking all about the 4-gift rule, feeling grateful.