Use the holidays to teach children life skills: Don’t overindulge kids

Americans plan to spend an average of $935 during this holiday shopping season

(Credit: WLFI)

INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) — Many kids love waking up on Christmas morning to find an overflow of gifts from under the tree. But are those piles of presents doing more harm than good?

Psychologists say parents who overindulge their children put them at risk of becoming adults who may have poor self-control, an overblown sense of entitlement and a need for immediate gratification. Those same experts say these kids may become self-centered, ungrateful and irresponsible.

The National Retail Federation says Americans plan to spend an average of $935 during this holiday shopping season and about half of that will be on family members.

In fact, researchers found that overindulging kids is actually more about the adults and what they get out of giving. That’s why Tami Silverman with the Indiana Youth Institute said parents may  need to set gift limits ahead of time.

“Have those conversations with your family members: How are we going to keep this realistic? How are we going to keep it within a range that our kids will actually value what they’re getting? And how do we make it that it’s comfortable to give and take? And that the holidays aren’t simply about material items and gifts,” she said.

Now, Silverman said we need to remember there is a difference between indulging and overindulging. But how do you know? Researchers came up with four questions:

  • Does it keep your child from learning developmental tasks?
  • Does it use too much of the family’s time or resources?
  • Does it benefit the adult more than the child?
  • Does it cause harm to others?

If the answer is yes to any of those, you may be overindulging. However, experts say you can stop. They recommend working on one indulgence area at a time, whether it’s fewer treats or fewer gifts.

Silverman said ultimately, it comes down to parents being more mindful of their own behaviors and what they’re modeling for their children.

“If you go to the store this time of year and you pick up a couple extra things and … you’ve already completed your shopping list, go ahead and put them down,” she said. “It’s actually better for your child.”

Silverman said it’s also the perfect time to teach children some life skills – things like self-control and moderation.

“These skills don’t come naturally. This is something we need to teach our kids,” she said. “So teaching them how to say no, showing them, modeling them, and then letting them do it for themselves is a wonderfully beneficial skill that will pay dividends for years to come.”

IYI said a 2015 study found these skills are actually better predictors of college success than IQ, SAT scores or a student’s GPA.

But psychologists warn saying no all the time could impact your child’s confidence, outlook on life and even their relationship with you. Instead, they suggest conveying the same message, just using different words. Also, it’s important to find opportunities to say yes to your children.