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  • Dr. Henry J. Svec

Shrink Holiday Gift Giving Guide

With American Thanksgiving upon us, it seems that the rush to buy a happy holiday is on. If you have children it can be a challenge to limit purchases and cut down on expectations. Emotions take over and regardless of all of the great parenting books out there, we often let emotion guide our parenting behavior. That’s not good. Here is my list of things to do to during these emotional times to stay on track to Leadership Parenting.

  1. Set a limit as to how much you will spend on each child’s gifts. Thirty years ago $100/child was our limit gradually moving up to $150/child, now to very token gifts of $20 or less. With inflation don’t spend more than $200/child for holiday gifts. I still think $100/child is adequate or make your own. I always get significant push back from parents on this one. Remember it’s not the things you buy your children but the things you DO with them that matters.

  2. Remind your child that this is a time of giving not receiving. Ask if they want to use the money that was to be spent on their gifts and share that with someone else. A soup kitchen, someone less fortunate.

  3. Ask your child to purchase gifts for others. Do they have an allowance system in place? Do they give 30% of their allowance to charity?

  4. Look for gifts that will make your child think, be active and not continue with increased screen time. Lego, building blocks or outdoor toys are important.

  5. Share family stories. This is a great time to remind children of the past challenges and victories of the family. Did ancestors fight poverty or communism to help make today possible? Were family members away at one of the Wars and unable to have even a Christmas meal?

  6. Be thankful if you receive any gifts. I hate getting gifts and often I ruin the enjoyment of others who want to give me something. Be thankful, don’t say “I don’t need anything” as most parents say when their children buy them something. Enjoy it and be appreciative.

The holiday season is a good time to take stock and be mindful of what is important to you and your children. This year don’t spend a lot of money on your children but do spend a lot of time with them. It’s priceless and one of the few things you can give that money can’t buy. Your time.

Dr. Henry J. Svec is the author of Don’t be a Wimp Raise a Strong Leader: Parenting Strategies from Conception to Late Adulthood. He is also the author of The ADHD Fix and the online training tool both books available on He is a Clinical Psychologist in Private Practice at

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