Question: My 12-year-old daughter is upset she didn’t receive all the things she wanted for Christmas. How can I avoid raising a greedy child?
Answer: You need to show her how to live a life that doesn’t revolve around owning material goods. Remember that these changes need to happen in your family as a whole, not just with your daughter. She might be modeling behavior from you, your partner, or other members of her extended family.
Here are some ideas that can help you set these boundaries:
- Focus on giving, instead of receiving. Instead of letting her get caught up in thinking about what she wants for Christmas, start out the holiday season next year by focusing on what she can give. Make plans to create special gifts together for members of the family or even members of the community. Guide her through the process of thinking about what other people are interested in or what they need and find ways of giving them something that reflects that thought. She will learn to appreciate the effort that goes into gift giving and learn to appreciate the thought and not just the gift.
- Spend on experiences, not things. Scale down on the amount of material goods that you buy for you and your family. Substitute buying something for creating special occasions with fun family activities instead. You can go on a picnic, to the library, the movies or do whatever your daughter enjoys.
- Make her earn it. Have her research how much each of the things she wants cost. You can then tell her you might be able to pay half of the price tag if she is willing to work to pay the other half. She can save money during the summer by mowing lawns, washing neighbor’s cars or helping out around the house.
- Never buy more than you can afford. Tell your daughter the truth if times are hard. Find inexpensive or free ways to celebrate Christmas. You are teaching your daughter a valuable financial lesson by not spending what you don’t have. Talk to her about how she was lucky to have received the presents she got, but unfortunately no one gets everything they want all the time.
Teaching children to practice gratitude is a way of building good character that will eventually help them successfully handle life issues when they are older. Christmas is a great opportunity to teach an attitude of gratitude.
For more information on the issues addressed in this question, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. Refer to page 66 of Through High School and Beyond to learn more ways to emphasize positive character traits.