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<< Holidays & Special Coverage << Christmas and Advent

Three Ways to Avoid the Christmas 'Gimmies' with Your Kids

  • Vicki Courtney Author
  • 2011 8 Dec
Three Ways to Avoid the Christmas 'Gimmies' with Your Kids
Adapted from 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son and 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter

There's a contagious bug spreading around the country, and I'm sure you've heard of it already: Stuffitis.

Hardly any of us are immune, and it's particularly aggressive this time of year. While the holidays can be a joyful time to bond with our families, deepen our faith, and look for ways to give back, unfortunately, stuffitis wants to infect us all. And the most vulnerable? Our own children. 

Daughters and sons are affected by stuffitis in different ways, but fortunately, there are cures. Below, I talk about the signs and symptoms of stuffitis, and the common cure – which you can try out this holiday season.

1. Beware the Christmas Princess. If you have a daughter, you have likely been caught up to some degree in the princess movement. I know I have. This generation of divas-in-the-making has grown up wearing Onesies announcing their "Princess" status in rhinestones. The Disney princess empire banks around $4 billion annually. More likely than not, most of us have supported that fund to some degree. But not everyone thinks it's healthy to feed into the princess mentality when it comes to raising our daughters – and it certainly doesn't help Christmas stuffitis.

 Now, there's nothing wrong with telling your daughter she's a princess and treating her like one on occasion. But during the holidays, we have a perfect opportunity to show her what it's like to be treated, and what it's like to treat others. We'll talk more about that second part in a minute, but for now, be thinking of ways to bless others in your community. How can you and your daughter make a child in need feel like a princess?

2.  Deck the Halls with … Video Games?  Shifting gears a bit, let's talk about a common Christmas present that boys can't wait to unwrap: The latest and greatest video game.

Prior to my son's sophomore year in high school, he learned a valuable life lesson that won't soon be forgotten. He and a good friend had been waiting with much anticipation for a new video game to release, and when it did that summer, they were first in line. In the week that followed, they holed themselves up in my home office in front of the computer in a frenzied attempt to get to the next level in the game. One week turned to two, two weeks to four, and before you knew it, the summer was gone.

While I sometimes stepped in and made them take a break and go outside, it was as if they had a one-track mind and could think of nothing more than getting to the next level of that ridiculous video game. I held back on the urge to ban playing it altogether, hoping he would eventually come to the conclusion that it was nothing more than a time waster. Sure enough, my plan worked. By the end of the summer, my son grew weary of playing the game only to realize the summer was now gone. I remember him saying something to the effect of, "I can't believe I wasted my whole summer playing that stupid game."

While video games can be A-okay for holiday presents, they can also worsen stuffitis because ultimately, they are disposable. Beat a game, then move onto the next, right? Instead, create some video game boundaries in your household prior to Christmas morning (such as "No running off to play the game while people are still opening presents"). That way, you'll have rules in place that temper immersive video game playing.

3. 'Tis the Season to Give. The absolute best cure for stuffitis, I have found, is to expose your child to others in need and find ways to help them. 

If they are young, volunteer in a soup kitchen or sponsor needy families, and take them with you to pick out the gifts. It’s easy for our children to assume that every family experiences the luxury of waking up on Christmas morning to gifts under a tree, but in reality, many families are unable to buy a tree and are worried about putting food on the table. If you are able, consider buying food or a holiday meal for a needy family, in addition to a few gifts. If your family is involved in church and your children are older, think about seasonal mission trips to build homes or schools for the poor. 

By helping your child understand the difference between quick, momentary happiness (the kind that comes with new stuff) and lasting joy (the kind that comes with feeling pride and generosity about helping others), you'll not only have helped cure stuffitis. You'll make this Christmas the merriest yet!

Vicki Courtney ( is a youth culture commentator and the bestselling author of 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter and 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son (B&H Books).