It’s that time of year again, where we give good tidings, spread cheer—and watch our kids go bug-eyed over the prospect of major loot under the tree. As parents, we all want big smiles on Christmas morning, but do you have a sinking feeling that your kids are getting spoiled by the holiday spending? If so, you’re not alone.
Parenting and TODAY Moms surveyed more than 6,000 parents to find out how much they really spend at the holidays, if they feel guilty saying “no” to items on their kid’s wish list, what they do to give back, and more. The results were surprising, and indicate that while many families are struggling to make ends meet this year, kids still expect Santa to deliver.
The Spoiling Epidemic
Many parents admitted up that their kids do act spoiled, and the problem seems to be getting worse. A whopping 3 out of 4 parents admit their kids are less than grateful to some degree during the holidays, and 59 percent of respondents shared that their kids are more spoiled than they, the parents, were as kids.
“After opening all his Christmas presents, my son actually looked at me and my husband and asked, ‘Is that all?’ After we picked our jaws up off the floor, we had to explain that he needed to be happy with what he received because there were kids who didn't receive anything that day,” wrote one mom. “It made us realize he was getting extremely spoiled.”
This might have something to do with why many kids come down with a case of the “gimmes”: parents plan to spend an average of $271per child on gifts this year, with a surprising one in eight spending between $300 and $400. Despite the tough times, 74 percent will spend the same amount or more than last year.
Making Their List
The reason parents drop so much cash on gifts: Many feel guilty if they don’t deliver on their child’s wish list. After all, Santa’s recession-proof, right? Almost 76 percent of respondents confessed to feeling guilty about saying no, with 18 percent saying they’d ideally like to be able to give their kids everything they ask for. 46% of parents also admitted they feel some amount of pressure to keep up with their neighbors’ holiday haul.
While few parents will resort to snatching something from the hands of another parent in the toy aisle, most respondents say they would go a little bit out of their way to score the hot, hard-to-get gift without going crazy. Almost 44 percent will make multiple trips to the store to see if it’s back in stock, and almost 23 percent will visit multiple stores until they get their hands on it.
Thank-you notes are on their way out, and we’ve got the numbers to prove it. One quarter of parents never require kids to send thank-yous, and moms under 30 are almost twice as likely to let their kids skip thank-you notes than moms over 45.
Notes are one thing, but how about saying “thank-you” in person? Parents shared some cringe-inducing stories of kids openly showing disappointment over gifts from family and friends (our fave: the kid who showed his dissatisfaction by peeing on the carpet). The good news is that almost all the parents we surveyed would nip this behavior in the bud. If a child pitches a fit when Grandma gives him socks instead of a iPad, 98 percent say they’ll take some action—whether it’s making the child apologize (68 percent), reprimanding him (19 percent), or simply talking about it later on (8 percent).
Plus: 5 Ways to Raise Grateful Kids
There is heartening news among all this talk about greed and overspending. Almost 4 out of 5 families make an effort to something to counteract the commercialism of the holiday and teach kids the importance of giving back. 70 percent of parents donate gifts or money to those less fortunate, and 16 percent volunteer as a family. 36 percent of families also encourage kids to spend their own money on gifts for others.
Full Survey Results
Do you think your kids are spoiled during the holidays?
Yes. Our gift-giving has gotten out of control.
A little. We could definitely cut back.
No. We set limits and stick to them.
Do you ever feel guilty for saying no to something on your child’s wish list?
Never. We’re the parents spending the money, and they need to accept that.
A little, but we openly discuss why some gifts aren’t possible.
Yes. As parents we want to be able to give them everything.
Compare how spoiled your kids are to how spoiled you were at their age. Are they:
About the same
What do you do to teach kids the importance of giving back during the holiday season?
Volunteer as a family
Donate gifts and/or money to those less fortunate
Do you require your kids to send thank-you notes?
Your child pitches a fit when Grandma gives him an unwanted gift. How do you handle this situation?
Immediately apologize on your child’s behalf
Make your child apologize for his behavior
Reprimand/discipline the child
Nothing in the moment, but we’ll sure be talking about it later
Laugh it off…kids will be kids
Do you bribe kids into good behavior with the “Santa’s watching…”
Do your kids spend their own money on gifts?
No, but only because they’re too young to have their own money.
Your child is begging you for this year’s “must-have” (but impossible to get) gift. What is the most extreme measure you’ll take in order to get it?
Stop by the store a few times and hope it’s in stock
Visit multiple stores until I track it down
Wrestle it away from another parent in the toy aisle
Wait on abnormally long lines
Research online until I find it
Pay a premium to get it
All of the above - whatever it takes
None of the above
How do you keep holiday spending under control?
Setting and sticking to a strict budget
Bargain shopping at outlet stores, using coupons, etc.
Only buying gifts for the kids
Gift exchanges like Yankee Swaps and Secret Santa
Set strict limits on the number of gifts given per person, regardless of age
We don’t! This isn’t the time of year to hold back.
Do you feel pressure to keep up with other families this time of year?
Approximately how much will you spend per child this year?
$25 to 50
$51 to $100
$101 to $200
$201 to $300
$301 to $400
$401 to $500
$501 to $1,000
More than $1,000
How will your holiday spending compare to last year’s?
We’ll spend less.
We’ll spend about the same.
We’ll spend more.
Do you have a friend or family member who spoils your kid too much?
Have you ever asked anyone to scale back the number of gifts given to your kid?