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No More 'I Want': Cultivating a New Christmas With Your Kids

Photograph by Twenty20

“Mom! Mom! Did you see that?” bellowed my 5-year-old at the top of his lungs. “That! Look, right now! I WANT IT!!! It’s sooooo cool! I really, really, really want it!”

I glanced at the TV in time to catch a glimpse of the latest car racing track that was being featured. On the screen, the children showcasing this product were smiling and cheering. The fast-action replay of how it worked really did suck you in. I could see the allure. I could see how “I want” was his gut reaction.

With nonstop commercials and advertisements, it's hard to avoid the temptation of all the bright and fun new toys during the holidays. I get it and I don’t fault my kids one bit for falling in love with everything they see. But at 5 and 7, my kids were (and sometimes still are) constantly saying, "I want this" and "I want that" and their unintentional greediness really started to wear on me.

So, I drew the line.

It started with a conversation. My kids do well with boundaries and we had arrived at a very necessary one. I pulled them together and said, “I can’t hear ‘I want’ anymore.” I explained that Christmas is not about what we want and asked them to join me in making a new plan for how we handle our Christmas wishes since proclaiming, “I want” was off the table.

Kids are so resilient. They’re smart and understanding too. So together we made a list of ways to catalog what they hoped for, minus demanding “I want.” After all, we decided, birthday are about us, but Christmas is about others. In addition to reassessing how we outline our Christmas wishes, we found ways to celebrate Christmas that are not associated with presents. Here’s what we’re applying this holiday season.

Say “I Like” Instead

"Want" is such a coarse and greedy word. We’ve been practicing this for some time now and my two have almost made it a competition to see who can sweetly chant, “I sure do like that!” instead.

Participate in a Giving Tree

You know the rush of finding the perfect gift for someone? Allow your children that same joy of shopping for another by choosing a child’s Christmas wish off a giving tree from your local mall or church. I’ve never seen my kids get so excited as when they found a sale that allowed us to buy both ideas listed on the tag they had chosen.

The goal isn’t to stop your kids from wanting, it’s simply to temper the demand.

Create Non-Gift Traditions

Christmas has turned into a material-focused holiday in so many ways. Institute other traditions early and often so gifts don’t become what your children most look forward too. On that same note, you don’t have to do every tradition you’ve ever heard of. We alternate years going to see "The Nutcracker," making cocoa at home and going on light drives (simply winding through neighborhoods near our home), and opening chocolate-filled Advent calendars. That’s plenty, in my opinion!

Don’t Deny Wishes

Wanting new toys is completely normal. Hey, I even have a wish list and I’m in my 30s! The goal isn’t to stop your kids from wanting, it’s simply to temper the demand. When the catalogs arrive, I give my kids a pair of scissors, glue stick and paper, and they create a visual wish list—while practicing their cutting. They also get to practicing handwriting with a written list. That's surely a way to make it shorter! They know they won’t get everything, we converse about that. Instead, their wish list serves as an idea list.

Talk About Budgets

It’s never to early for children to gain an awareness of a reasonable Christmas wish. Start early and by the time they’re teens you won’t be handed a list of $500 dreams.

Make Space

Use the month of December to clear space in your home for the new things that will inevitably arrive. Encourage your child to find things they’re ready to pass on and with what they do choose to keep, give them tools to properly organize.

If you need to curb the Christmas craziness in your own home, I hope these ideas are a helpful jumping off point. Most of all, it's about crafting a new mindset and the younger years are the best time to do it!

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