Why I Withhold Gifts From My Kids


My Kid Has Enough GiftsIn our LV Moms Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to someone with a strong opinion about family and money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, Shirley Park shares with us why she decided to withhold gifts from her kids–and why she’d do it again.

For Christmas last year, my husband and I bought our 3-year-old daughter some Lincoln Logs, but we ended up not giving them to her for a couple of months.

Considering the fact that the adults in our family had agreed not to exchange gifts among themselves, and to only get things for the kids, there were a lot of presents under our miniature tree.

A flurry of gift unwrapping ensued, and so did the sensory overload–at a certain point, our daughter stopped paying attention to the gifts around her. It seemed to us that she would have been equally happy if she had received just one or two gifts, as opposed to the six or seven she got that night.

Suddenly, it didn’t seem so important to give her the Lincoln Logs, so we let her open a few more gifts, and then snuck the rest of the presents back upstairs.

Why We Chose to Withhold Gifts

Our decision wasn’t really related to money–the fake Lincoln Logs only cost $11.

In general, we can afford to buy our daughter just about anything that she wants. My husband and I live near Berkeley, California, and both of us work. He’s a researcher at a university, and I’m a production editor at a scientific publisher.

It’s not surprising that, until recently, the average American child received 70 toys per year–that’s more than one toy a week, per child!–when used kids’ stuff is available on Craigslist 24 hours a day and gifts from well-meaning friends and relatives stream in regularly.

RELATED: Is Your Child Spoiled?

In time-deferring the Lincoln Logs and other gifts, my husband and I were attempting to take a stand against toy overload, and abide by the less-choice-is-better principle. We did eventually give her the remaining gifts, but we staggered them throughout the next few months to make sure that she fully appreciated each one on its own.

A little deprivation really makes you savor something when you finally get it. I still remember how my brothers and I begged our mom for an Atari, which was $200 back in the ’80s. She finally caved, but she said that the Atari would be our birthday and Christmas presents for all three of us for the next two years–and she stuck to it. Boy, did we appreciate that Atari!

  • Lford

    What a beautiful gift you’ve given to your daughter.  I wish more people would follow that rule.  I have relatives that gave expensive gifts (and lots of them) to my 2 kids that they never played with!  Giving into your kids all the time makes them expect everything handed to them.

  • Stysonrn

    I 100% agree with everything you said! It is not healthy to get so many gifts at once. Yours is a voice of sanity! Bravo to your Mom too!

  • Frances

    Great insight.  We always made sure that there was  a book, a craft type item,a toy,   music item & clothing item.  Gettting the in-laws in made sure it was not a gift overload. My children had series of books for many years.A harmonica  to an  acoustic guitar help develope sense of arts and love of reading in both my children. 
    Also by doing this this gave realtives directions on what the children liked.

  • Frances

    Great article.  We started with a list, a book,toy,craft item,a music item and clothing. My children have recieve book  series,an acoustic guitar,harmonica ect.
    This also help the extended family too! My adult children are avid readers, appreciate the arts,volunteer for causes they believe in and both are college grads. We now give gift to hiefier international in their names.

  • Guest

    What a great article! Thank you for the great ideas, Shirley! We always limit the gifts for Xmas to one gift from Mom&Dad and one gift from Santa. I ask kids to put several items on Santa’s list so that he can choose one. However, my younger son’s birthday is right before Xmas and he still finishes up with LOTS of toys from the family… Heifer International is my favorite charity, too. They teach people to feed themselves instead of counting on somebody to provide for them.