My daughter sat playing quietly on the floor. She'd placed herself carefully out of sight, hiding in the corner of the dining room, behind the table.
When we make eye contact, her smile disappears.
Despite my heart telling me to simply let her be, I cave to the pressure and quietly say in a chipper voice, "Honey, why don't you come and finish opening the rest of your presents? You can play with that one later."
She crawls out from behind the table and heads back to the family room. Her crestfallen face is met with overexaggerated encouragement from the extended family.
"Look at this!"
"Oh, that's a big one!"
"Open this next!"
We rush kids from thing to thing, wanting them to experience more, often missing the fact that they are happily enjoying themselves with what they already have.
If you're reading this, I trust that you've already started to consider what more really means.
Here is the blessing and the problem…
Aunts, uncles, cousins.
… all the well-meaning people who want to give your kids something for the holidays.
So, how do you ask people you care about to stop buying your kids so much stuff — and here's the key — without offending them?
You don't want to offend anyone or steal their joy of gift-giving; yet, you want your kids to enjoy a Christmas celebration that isn't overwhelmed with stuff.
You've been working hard at simplifying. You're not exactly looking forward to drowning in a sea of unneeded toys, gadgets, and clutter again this holiday season.
The Dear Friends & Family — Please Stop Buying My Kids So Much Stuff Guide offers ten ways to start (or revisit) the gift-giving conversation. Get everything you need to start a successful dialog with your family and friends.
Perhaps you've already tried to talk to your family, but they just won't listen.
Let’s take a quick look at three reasons why people are adamant about gift-giving (even if you've asked them NOT to buy gifts for your family).
- Societal norms
- The fundamental function of gifts
- The paradox of Love Languages
It’s important to understand your loved one's perspectives if you are trying to change family traditions.
1. Gift Giving + Societal Norms
Societal norms can push us to view the holiday season as a time to consume rather than as a time to simply celebrate.
While not an excuse for someone to ignore your gift-giving change request, deeply entrenched social norms can be tough to overcome. But the fact that you're reading this guide means that you might be further along in your personal journey toward meaning and simplicity than you give yourself credit for... Stand strong in your beliefs.
Give your friends and family grace and adequate time to understand your minimalist values, which may differ from theirs.
2. The Fundamental Function of Gifts
In order to head into this conversation with love, it’s essential to recognize the fundamental function of gifts.
Exchanging gifts is a social tool used to create bonds. Opting out goes against social norms and can sometimes feel offensive to people because it implies an exit from relationship-binding rituals.
It’s crucial to offer a gift-exchange alternative to reduce any inherently defensive reactions. You want your family and friends to know you still love and want to spend time with them, but that you simply no longer want to exchange gifts — or you want to exchange them in a more meaningful way.
Each of these ten conversation starters provides alternative suggestions to start your conversation on the right foot.
3. The Paradox of Love Languages™
Have you heard of Dr. Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages? His premise is simple: People feel cared for when others demonstrate their love through one of five love languages:
- Words of Affirmation,
- Acts of Service,
- Quality Time,
- Physical Touch, or
- Receiving Gifts.
It’s important to note that people whose love language is Receiving Gifts might truly struggle with changing holiday traditions at a deeper level.
What is your primary love language? What are the love languages of the people around you?
Understanding love languages can help you identify the root of holiday conflict and help you find ways to connect with the people you care about most in this world.
Of all five love languages, Receiving Gifts is arguably the most misconstrued. On the surface, it can come across as greedy. As if the recipient is fixated on things. But that’s not the case.
“Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, cared for, and prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly." (source)
For people with this love language, the true meaning of getting a gift isn’t its extravagance; it’s often its sentimentality.
The paradox is that both this love language and your differing beliefs about gift-giving are “true.” Go into a conversation about altering a practice of exchanging gifts with grace, holding these two different ideas in your head simultaneously.
The truth is, getting your family to change gift-giving traditions is a long game. It can take two or three years of having variations of these same conversations over and over again before these concepts truly sink in.
Don't get frustrated. Keep moving forward with love.
P.S. While this may feel like a logical and straightforward request, you're asking people to change a tradition that feels as old as time. Get everything you need to have ongoing conversations with your family and friends about gift-giving with the Less Gifts, More Love Guide.
THIS GUIDE INCLUDES:
- 5-STEP GAME PLAN: Easy to follow steps for creating a game plan
- 10 CONVERSATION STARTERS: Ten real-life conversation starters you can use with your family
- TIPS & TRICKS: Insider insights and suggestions to help you through the holiday season
- REUSABLE PRINTABLES: Budgeting, wish lists, and holiday planning printables.