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How Not to Raise Spoiled Kids

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

Okay, so I was watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians tonight, the “Kendall’s Sweet 16” special, and I actually teared up when she and older sister Khloe visited a children’s hospital to bring bags and bags of toys to sick kids. What’s even more touching, Kendall told mom Kris Jenner that her grand plans for throwing her an extravagant sweet 16 in the Bahamas for 75 of her closest friends were too big and “embarrassing,” when there were people in the world much less fortunate than them. Their compromise? To throw an extravagant party in town, and set up a toy drive for her friends to donate gifts to the L.A. Children’s Hospital. It’s so easy for a girl like Kendall, already a successful model, to be affected by all the attention and wealth that comes with being a Kardashian-Jenner, but she's somehow managing to escape it. It made me think about how to raise my own son to be as sensitive and giving, especially around the holidays…

The holidays, like birthdays, can be tricky—I want to spoil the hell out of Preston of course and give him eight gifts for each night of Hanukkah, more for my own enjoyment of seeing his face light up. He just started understanding the concept of presents. But I don’t want him to grow up taking any of that for granted. Hanukkah is about a lot more than gifts, which actually has nothing to do with the origins of the holiday—but for kids, that’s all it’s about. I remember sneaking peeks at my presents in my parents’ closet the week leading up to Hanukkah, and actually finding the Cabbage Patch Kids clothes my mom bought for me, and I went so far as to take them out of their boxes, try them on my dolls, and then put them back, making sure my mom was none the wiser (until now)—I was just that excited. Lighting the candles each night, eating latkes and playing dreidel, dreidel, dreidel was fun too, but come on—it was all about eight nights of presents.

I am certainly not saying I don’t want my kids to enjoy the excitement of getting gifts for special occasions, but I want to institute a tradition early on that involves giving back every bit as much as getting, not only around the holidays but year-around. Jews don’t have an equivalent of Letters to Santa for Hanukkah, but I’m sure I can find a synagogue or school that’s doing some kind of a toy drive (or latke donation?). 

Preston is too young to ask for anything yet—he’s perfectly happy with the many toys he already has, which is exactly what I told my mom when she asked me what he wanted this year (frankly I'd rather skip the toys altogether and collect small donations for his college tuition—hint). I think he already got what he wanted anyway—his mommy is home more. Hanukkah starts on Tuesday night and I haven’t gotten him a single thing yet (I know, I know, bad mom). I’m still debating if I do eight gifts for eight nights this year, or wait to start that tradition until he's old enough to expect it; at this point it's more for me than for him. So let's be honest, I'll probably give him something each night and keep the gifts small. 

How do you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah with your kids in a way that the whole gift-giving thing doesn’t get out of hand? Do you do anything with your kids to give back around the holidays? I’d love some ideas.