How to Raise a Happy, Cooperative Child

Parenting Strategies for All Ages

Setting Limits During the Holidays

It's OK to want but you cannot have everything.

During the holiday season, kids can seem like bottomless pits. No matter how many gifts they
receive, they want more. Every time a commercial appears on television for a new toy, your
child may ask for it ,and have a tantrum if you say no. Parents are equally afraid of depriving
their kids as they are of spoiling them, and often give in to end the fuss. It is important for your child ‘s well being that he learns it is OK to want things, but you cannot  have everything you want . As parents you can help your child to arrive at this understanding  by setting limits with him in a positive way. Here is some advice about when and how to say no:

Establish a budget for holiday shopping that works well for your family and try to stick to it. This will act as a guideline for you and help you to say no. For instance, if your child asks for sneakers that are too expensive, you can explain, “We set aside a certain amount of money for the holidays and this costs too much.” 

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Approach your child with understanding. It is natural for children to want everything they see. 
Even as adults, when we walk into a department store, we tend to want more than we can 
buy. It is important not to make your child feel guilty about her wishes. Otherwise, she may 
grow up having a hard time giving to herself or accepting from others. The key is to patiently 
teach her how to accept limits.

Avoid saying no immediately when your child asks for something.This is an immediate call to 
battle. Acknowledge his desire, instead. For instance, you can say, “I know you would really like that shiny new truck.” When a child feels heard, he feels respected and has less of a need to protest.

Set a limit and give your child a reason. For instance, “We have bought many toys already 
and we do not have the money to buy more.” If you give your child an explanation she will be 
more capable of understanding why she is being denied.

Come up with creative solutions that will help him to let go. For instance, you can establish a 
wish list at the beginning of the holiday. When you walk into a store and he asks for 
something that is not on his list, suggest that you will get it for his birthday, instead. An older 
child can be encouraged to save up for a costly item.

Involving your kids in giving to others is also a way to cut down on the extreme self-focus. 
Even a young child can contribute to the holiday by giving drawings to family members. She 
can also color on paper to make wrapping paper for presents. Involving your children in an act
of charity each holiday season, such as bringing toys to children in a hospital, teaches kids 
that the holidays are about giving to others, as well as receiving.

As children grow they will gain a better understanding of the reason for limits and an ability to 
accept them. But, remember you will need to be patient. This takes time.

Meri Wallace, LCSW, is a parenting expert and child and family therapist.

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