Teaching children gratitude in the Christmas present aftermath and dealing with an excess of toys.

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My children, 9 and 5 receive far more presents than I did as a child and I feel that gift opening can be a bit of a production line, particularly if you have a larger family. I was horrified this year when my daughter said “NEXT!” when she had opened her third present at my parent’s house. This was after waking at her Dad’s house where she opened Santa’s gift and gifts from Dad and then with me after breakfast opening the gift Santa left here and gifts from me. I had heard “NEXT” from her older nephews when they were younger but never thought I would hear it from one of my children. I am big on manners and showing gratitude and found her attitude embarrassing and disappointing. Following the 10 seconds it took me to pick my jaw up, my nine-year-old girl immediately received a small lecture. “Next!..Next?” like she is entitled to an endless flow of gifts to approve or disapprove……insert speech on gratitude and manners. What I realised, is that Christmas is very heavy on the gift side of things and should be heavier on the family time side. 

To add to the excess, I did my first Advent Calendar…more stuff, so by Christmas day, with Santa’s gifts, mum and dads gifts by the time they get to grandparents for lunch/dinner with extended family they become quite ambivalent…. it’s too much…..and clearly from my daughter’s comment, it begins to mean nothing!

Clearly speeches on gratitude don’t cut it. Action is required and I’ve begun to think about new strategies for next year. Here are some of my thoughts to deal with the excess of Christmas without being a Grinch.

Note: It’s easier to implement some these strategies with young children who forget what they receive but with older children you may need to negotiate beforehand and warn them about what’s coming.

1.Re gifting

If you have toddlers or even 5-6 year old's, chances are there were so many toys they won’t remember. Put a few away and re gift to friends when the next birthday comes up.

2. Give to charity

Sadly, many children living in financial disadvantage don’t receive gifts at Christmas and we talk about that A LOT in our family when I constantly bang on about gratitude. But charities need your help all year around, babies are born, children have birthdays and Mum’s flee violent relationships with only their children and a suit case. There are some great charities around Australia. Here is a link to the Australian Charity Guide- LINK 

Like the re gifting option, they won’t remember so give them to someone who will. With older children, perhaps you can negotiate choosing one gift from their stash that they can give to charity.

3. Clean up / Clear Out

Use the time after Christmas to throw out broken toys, and give away unused toys that still have plenty of wear in them. I know, I know, this is HARD. My kids want to hold onto everything, even the broken stuff…”it’s my favourite”….”it’s special”…..but be strong. The key is to negotiate before Christmas so they know it’s coming. I’m sure there will still be tears but you won’t feel as guilty (manipulate) if they have agreed prior. #characterbuilding

4. Keep for a raining day

Bring out a Christmas gift in the lull between Christmas, birthdays, Easter when you feel they need a little sometin’ sometin’ to lighten the mood or deal with cabin fever when sick or suffering the winter blues.

5. Hide and Seek

Hide in places that the kids only explore rarely and let them find them over time. It won’t deal with the excess but will deal with your children getting so many at the one time and not enjoying what they have.

6. Experience gifts

Plan to give more experience gifts. I’m committed to this one for next year. Although I didn’t put any disposable plastic crap in my first Advent Calendar, it still equals MORE STUFF! Next year I think I will use home made sweets and zoo visits and maybe a little Lego throw in….

7. Rewards

I don’t use any reward systems or bribery, especially with toys BUT if you do, then right here my friends, with all the Christmas stuff, you have the biggest collateral!

Hope you've found some inspiration here- Maree x 

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