Putting a Stop to Holiday Greed in Children

Managing Child Misbehaviors During the Holidays

holiday warmth
The holidays can bring out some of the best — and worst — behavior in children. ckforjc/stock.xchng

The holidays are filled with moments that make the most wonderful memories. A cozy nights spent around a fire, Christmas caroling, making cookies -- anything that allows you to spend time together as a family, enjoying each other's company. Unfortunately, the holidays can also bring out some not-so-great behaviors in little kids. Temper tantrums, rudeness -- sometimes even Santa has to deal with it too! While frustrating, child misbehaviors are very common during the holiday season. With upended schedules, new foods, new people, it's understandable (although not acceptable) if a little one has trouble handling everything that is going on.

One of the most common child misbehaviors has to do with getting a little too greedy. And again, while not a fun behavior to manage, it is one that makes sense -- for weeks on end, it seems, kids are given things or asked what they want or what they are asking for. The key is to try to keep it under control. Here's how.

Problem: A Too-Long Holiday Gift List

Is your child's holiday gift list getting too long?
Is your child's holiday gift list getting too long?. Stockbyte

I think that one of my children's favorite parts of the holiday season is writing out their holiday gift lists. The catalogs come in the mail and the commercials air on television and there the pair of them are, studiously concentrating on the page in front of them, making sure they've spelled the name of the latest got-to-have-it toy correctly.

This is one of those misbehaviors that while, your child shouldn't do it, it kind of isn't his fault. Everywhere we go we are bombarded by what we need and what we should want -- happy children playing with toys on t.v. and on the pages of magazines. And during the holiday season, what's the question they get asked the most? "What do you want for (insert your holiday of choice here). Still, there should be some limits. Whether you are buying the gifts or Santa is in charge of them let your child know that while you realize the things he is asking for is important to him, he won't be able to get everything that he wants. Talk about how gifts during the holiday season are just one way we are able to do something nice for the people that we love and care about, but there are other ways that make us feel good inside too.

Then act on it. Go to the store and pick out a gift or food to donate to a less fortunate family. Have him make a holiday card for a relative -- anything that focuses on the sprit of the holiday and not the material aspect.

Problem: Being Ungrateful -- "I Don't Like that Present!"

A child should behave graciously -- even if they don't like a gift they've been given.
A child should behave graciously -- even if they don't like a gift they've been given. Sharon Dominick

First a reality check: your preschooler is not going to like every gift that she receives. That's just the way that it is. Now, having said that, there is no reason why she should be announcing her hatred of the hand-knit orange polka dot sweater Aunt Kitty made or telling your neighbor Bob that the doll he bought her is babyish. An ungrateful child is not a pleasant one, and while most gift givers understand that kids can be very picky, it's still not an acceptable behavior.

Before the start of the holiday season (and each time you are about to encounter a scenario where your child could receive a gift), go over the rules. That no matter what she is given -- whether she loves it, doesn't like it or has one already -- she is to stop, smile and say "thank you."

The issue that young children have is that they don't understand the concept of telling a small lie to save someone's feeling. Mostly everything is black and white. So when they say that they don't like something, they are just being honest -- not trying to hurt someone's feelings. And most people get that, but still, if your child does behave ungraciously, be sure to thank the giver and apologize for your child's actions.

Problem: Sibling Jealousy -- "She Got More Than Me!"

It's natural for children to feel jealous if a sibling received more gifts.
It's natural for children to feel jealous if a sibling received more gifts. Jupiterimages

Every year I make myself crazy, trying to make sure that all three of my kids have the same amount of gifts to open. They are young enough, so I don't worry about the size of the gifts or the amount of money I spend, just that they have the same number of packages. A tricky proposition that doesn't always work. Because sometimes for whatever reason, one child gets more gifts than the other. The "why" isn't important. The how you deal with the sibling jealousy is.

While you are likely to hear a "That's not fair!" or two, as we know, life's not fair. To explain it to your preschooler, use plain and simple terms. "I know that Sara got two dolls from Santa and you only got one. But you got a new teddy bear and Sara didn't. It's important to be thankful for what you have. And maybe you can play with the dolls and the teddy altogether."

Some parents try to avoid the issue by buying children who are close in age the same thing. Sometimes that works, but more often than not it doesn't. Kids are allowed to have different interests. Now if they truly adore the same toy, that's fine, but buying two things for the sake of avoiding conflict isn't necessary.

Or as my daughter's favorite preschool teacher always says, "You get what you get and you don't get upset!"

Problem: "I Want That!" The Holiday Shopping "Gimmes"

Holiday shopping with your child can be a pleasant experience -- just set some ground rules first.
Holiday shopping with your child can be a pleasant experience -- just set some ground rules first. George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin

I have always been amazed at the ability of my children to find something they want in every store that we go to. It doesn't manner where we are, somehow, they'll find something they have to have. And during the last two months of the year it seems, the holiday shopping "gimmes" gets even more intense as the displays in stores get more colorful, more bright, more enticing.

The trick to getting rid of the holiday shopping gimmes is to put a stop to it before you even leave the car (or house). Explain to your child where you are going and why. And unless you are going to buy your child a present, make it very clear that he will not be getting anything. If he starts to ask, a firm "no" should always be the response. Don't engage your child in the conversation, just ignore it.

If shopping online isn't possible and a babysitter isn't available, plan out your trip. Pack plenty of snacks and little toys and go during a time when your preschooler is normally in a good mood (not nap or a regular mealtime). If he'll still ride in it, bring the stroller. If possible, get your child involved in the shopping process. Are you buying a gift for her teacher? Buying groceries for your holiday party? Ask him to help you make some decisions -- just make sure the choices that you give your child are ones that you are willing to follow through on.

Problem: Too Many Gifts from Too Many People

Too many gifts can lead to a holiday meltdown.
Too many gifts can lead to a holiday meltdown. modish/stock.xchng

Ask a child and the notion of too many gifts just doesn't seem possible. It's something I'm completely guilty of myself. I love shopping for kids. The clothes are adorable, the toys awesome -- it's just so hard to resist! But we must. Because I don't know how it is in you house, but in mine, the kids get presents from Santa, from their grandparents, from their aunts and uncles, from their great-grandparents, from their friends, from our friends, from our neighbors -- needless to say it's a lot.

And while too many gifts can certainly cause a logistics problem (where are you going to put them?), there can be some emotional issues as well. Because if every year your child gets a pile of colorful packages that rivals the size of the house, they will come to expect it -- and be ungrateful for what they do receive if they don't. They'll start to judge people by what sorts of gifts they give -- how big and how much.

As someone who has been on the receiving end of a temper tantrum caused by a child who was just completely overwhelmed by dozens of presents, you quickly realize that less is more. And while it's easy enough for you to cut down, how do you convince everyone else in your child's life?

Ask. Talk to relatives and friends about past holiday seasons and explain how you think the gift situation is getting to be a bit over-the-top. Maybe they could each buy one gift for your child, or give a gift in another way -- a trip to the movies or a special day at a museum. This is an area where there is room for compromise for sure. Try to come to an agreement where everyone involved is happy.

If you are still expecting a truckload, you may want to consider doing some cleaning out ahead of time -- donating items that are sill in good condition to your local church or daycare, or even organizing a toy exchange or swap -- you'll get to get rid of unwanted stuff while doing some inexpensive shopping of your own.

And of course, remember, when the holidays are over, make sure your child writes thank-you notes (with help from you of course).

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