Dear Barbara: What About Giving Our Kids Christmas Gifts?

Dear Barbara, How should we handle giving gifts to our children? I want them to have some presents they want, but I don’t want to overindulge them. Are gifts appropriate? I feel pressure to forego gifts altogether and spend Christmas morning serving at the soup kitchen instead. I equally feel the pressure to buy them the newest item because I know most of their friends will be getting it. How do I balance the tension?

This is a really great question.

Like you, Dennis and I both brought very different holiday gift traditions to our marriage. Though we talked about our likes, preferences, and our “we’ll nevers” in those early marriage years, I always felt, as the mother, it was my responsibility to guide our family’s gift giving and the way we received gifts at Christmastime.

As a young mom, I was relieved to be reminded that there is nothing wrong with giving gifts at Christmas because gift giving is biblical. After all God, our Heavenly Father, sent the perfect gift—Jesus—to the world on that first Christmas. While we can argue their arrival time, we know the Wise Men brought gifts to celebrate and honor Jesus, the newborn King.

James 1:17 also tells us that, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above.” The Bible is full of accounts of giving and receiving gifts as a way to demonstrate care and love for others. We, as parents, can certainly imitate this model by giving gifts as one expression of love to our children.

Knowing God is a gift giver opened the door for me as a parent to follow His generosity with those I love most: my family. As a mom, I enjoyed the quest to find or create presents tailored for each of my little ones as a way to demonstrate my individual love for them, just as God does for me.

But if we’re truly going to copy our Heavenly Father’s example of gift giving, we have to know and imitate all of God’s nature, not just His generous love. For instance, God in His infinite knowledge doesn’t always give us what we want. As the perfect parent, He wisely gives us what we need but not so much that we don’t trust Him by faith anymore.

I’ve experienced this limited and sometimes no giving by God many more times than I would have liked. I have old journals filled with prayer requests, hopes, desires, and longings that seemed at the time to be unanswered and unfulfilled. I imagine now the reasons were varied; it wasn’t His timing, it wasn’t best for me then or ever, or it wasn’t what I needed most but was only something I wanted.

Similarly, as my children made their Christmas requests known, Dennis and I listened, took notes, and then we talked. Some desires were easy to meet and we did. Others were not because we couldn’t afford them or they clashed with our values.

We also tried to model God’s balanced giving approach. We decided to give our children one main gift at Christmas knowing they would also be getting gifts from grandparents. We didn’t want them spoiled or so saturated with gifts that the presents lost their significance.

In addition to the one main gift, we gave them stockings filled with small treats and a book bag. Every year all six kids and Dennis saw the same gift bag under the tree with a great book or two or three. (I still believe you can never overgive books!)

In this season of giving material gifts, it is very easy to be lured into believing the value of a gift is determined by quantity and dollar signs. 

You also need to consider how the gift giving will affect your child.

  • Is it going to be good for him or her?
  • Is your attitude about giving and receiving gifts going to teach your children entitlement?
  • Will you send the message that your children can and will get whatever they want?

As moms, none of us would seek to feed a bratty self-absorbed attitude on purpose. But if we aren’t careful and intentional about our choices, our children hear messages and come to conclusions we never intended.

Another caution is about our own hearts as parents. Do we want to impress our children and others with the grandeur our gifts? Do we want to feel the honor or pride of having chosen the favorite gift of all? 

As a mother, you are raising your children in an affluent culture. Extravagance is all around. Are you looking to satisfy your children’s—or your own—desire to look good and be in step with your community’s standards when they announce what they received for Christmas?

Giving presents has changed from bestowing on another person something for the recipient’s satisfaction and has instead become about exalting and feeding self.  Have you felt that tug of competition when giving as I have?

One of our goals as parents was to teach our children to think of others more than themselves by helping them buy or make gifts for their siblings too. We decided the best way to put gifting into perspective was to put the emphasis on giving instead of getting. Instead of asking our children to make crayon marked lists of what they hoped to receive, we required them to make lists of what they intended to give.

So our kids gave gifts to each other. It was a delight to watch them jot down their notes of what others might want. We helped them earn and save their own money to purchase these treasures for their siblings. If there wasn’t enough money or a child was too young to shop, handmade keepsakes were carefully crafted and wrapped with pride with a brother or sister’s name scribbled across a construction paper tag.

To keep the emphasis on giving, on Christmas morning, one by one, our kids collected the gifts of all the packages they were giving around their place on the floor. Then we drew names to see who would give first. As the first child gave a gift of his choosing to a sibling, the rest of the family all watched. I remember as a child I wanted Christmas morning to last forever, so this method of one-at-a-time gift giving was a way to do that for my kids.

From handmade brother sister love, to the one parent present, to grandma and grandpa’s gifts, our kids never felt like they missed out on receiving, and as parents we never felt like we sold out on entitled giving.

One more thought as you consider gifts this Christmas: Remember to celebrate Christmas with the focus on already having been given the best Gift you could ever want or need. Making your decorating and your conversation about Jesus, will keep your material giving in proper perspective.

In the spirit of giving, we want to give a GIFT to one of you, our faithful readers/friends, a set of His Advent Names ornaments.

To enter:
1. Comment below with a favorite gift you’ve received OR given.
2. Share this post on Facebook or Instagram and tag @EverThineHome

Giveaway CLOSED!!!

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53 thoughts on “Dear Barbara: What About Giving Our Kids Christmas Gifts?”

  1. My favorite gift to receive was a yearly box of stocking stuffers from my sister-in-law (because the mom of the family doesn’t always get her stocking stuffed). The box of carefully curated and wrapped gifts was always a highlight of my Christmas.

  2. The gifts that I have received over the years have paled in comparison to the gift the Lord has given me of peace, steadfast love, mercy, His righteousness, and his Word.

  3. I seemingly randomly gave a gift of a wallet last year to a lady that runs a bible based recovery center in our town. It had RF protection and I just wanted to gift her with something. Come to find out, she was really blessed by it because she had been thinking about purchasing one for some time for her travels. I think she was very surprised and needless to say, I was the one blessed.

  4. Recently a group of women and I had the opportunity to surprise a local pastor’s wife with a nice, leather purse she wanted. She does so much in the church and for the community, that there was no doubt she deserved it. There was no reason for her to anticipate a gift, so she was surprised! Her pleasure and shock at receiving the gift was a blessing to me!

  5. I grew up in the 50″s & 60’s and money was scarce in our household due to an alcoholic father. However, one Christmas when I didn’t think there’d be anything under the tree, I received a pink clock radio! I’m now 70 and I still remember my excitement. To this day, I don’t know where the money came from (my mother probably did without as was her way). We didn’t take anything for granted and in many ways, it was good for us.

  6. It’s hard to decide which gift was a favorite. However, I’d have to say it’s the one thing that, in an emergency, I would grab my great grandfather’s Bible. After my grandfather passed away, my grandma gave it to me and it has been an amazing gift. It’s a reminder of a family history of loving Jesus.

  7. The best Christmas gift I ever received was not a tangible item. My mom died in Jan 2005. Getting to spend one last Christmas with her in 2004 was the best gift ever. However, the Christmas before in 2003 was even better because her disease hadn’t progressed so much that she was completely disabled. I will cherish that Christmas with her forever.

  8. Best gift? I received the gift of salvation Dec 1, 1990…27 years ago 👏✝️😀what could be better?! Every year Christmas means so much to me, because He pulled me close, gave me His righteousness and my life has been changed forever❣️TY for your ministry over all these years to me and my family, it has meant the world to me Barbara & Dennis 🎄

  9. My favorite gifts to give are always the little ones to an unsuspecting recipient like the mail man, favorite fast food worker, or delivery person.

  10. Such a great article and a great balance! We do something similar with 3 things, something they need, something to read, and something they want. 3 gifts similar to the idea of Jesus receiving 3 gifts! Thanks for this and thanks for this wonderful giveaway!!! Beautiful ornaments, love!!

  11. My favorite gift to give was given to my 91 year old grandmother in 2015. My daughter and I made her a fleece throw pillow and matching blanket that she could sit with her her easy chair. Making that gift for her was a gift in itself for our then, 12 year old daughter, Sara. The act of giving unselfishly was the best gift.

  12. My favorite Christmas gift was in 1999. I was a Sophomore in college & my boyfriend’s mom (who later became my mother-n-law!) mailed me my first real name brand handbag! I carried that classic black Kate Spade purse with me everywhere. It was my first bag that kept its quality & the labels never peeled off. In Jan, she went home to be with the Lord, I received several of her personal classic name brand handbags. When I am on the go, carrying her bags, I am so proud that she was my mother-n-law.

  13. My favorite gift has to be the kidney I received from my sister in September of last year. It was a season of my life I try to forget, apart from my husband’s unconditional love and care…and the priceless gift of life from my oldest sister. And our other sister spent a month away from her own family to care for our kids. So, so thankful.

  14. My favorite gift I’ve ever received was a little princess castle craft made from foam and pipe cleaners. My niece had just turned 12 and she LOVED to make crafts from any kind of craft kit. She had gotten some kits that made things like that looked like gingerbread houses, bird houses, and a princess castle. I knew she had picked out the princess castle for herself. As she was building it, I told her how I thought it was turning out beautifully. When she was finished, she gave it to me. My immediate reaction was to give it back to her, but in my heart, I knew this would be our last Christmas with her. She had brain cancer and we had just learned that her treatments were no longer working. I accepted her sweet gift and still have it 10 years later. It sits on a shelf in my bedroom. I now have two little girls who love everything princess, so when they ask me about it, I get to tell them about my niece (their cousin) who had such a generous heart.

  15. My most memorable gift was the year our humble blue collar working dad was very ill and out of work yet he saved and was able to purchase my mom, myself and two brothers each a personal gift. I was given a beautiful pair of earrings I continue to wear almost every day for 45 years. Thank you, Dad.

  16. When I was 11 or 12, electronic games were very popular. I wanted one so badly, but never dreamed my parents would actually indulge my wish. What a surprise to receive not 1, but 2 that Christmas: Merlin and a baseball game. They were for my sister and I, but I spent many more hours playing them than she did. Thirty-five years later, my children play the games on Merlin from time to time.

  17. My favorite gift was watching my daughter receive handmade clothes from her Nana (and labeled as such with cute “Made By Nana” labels). Growing up my mom bought tons of fabric to make me clothes but her job and life at the time made things all too busy they didn’t always appear. Now I see the joy and contentment in my Mom’s face in creating these treasures…and even when my daughter grows out of them, I find that I can’t let them go! A shadow box is in my future…

  18. When we were newly married, with no money, my husband scrimped and saved to buy me a special gift. He surprised me with a Tiffany lamp that I still have and treasure, even though it no longer goes with the style of our home. Since then he has bought me many very nice gifts but none that were so heartfelt and sacrificial.

  19. My Navy husband was deployed for two years on an aircraft carrier. He came home briefly for Christmas the first year & gave me a cross necklace with matching earrings he bought in Taiwan. I cherish it, knowing he carefully chose it for me, while on the other side of the world.

  20. My favorite gift to our family & children has been the Advent wreath EVERY CHRISTMAS! Keeping CHRIST as our centerpiece throughout the season!
    This year our 42 year old daughter gave us her FIRST CHILD: precious Indie Rae Shalom. A loooong Time ANSWER to PRAYER & the PERFECT CHRISTMAS 🎁 ever!!

  21. My favorite gift during Christmas was time spent with the family. As a girl growing up in the Philippines, we did not focus on gifts but togetherness. My family would go to midnight Christmas church service and come home to some home cooked meal that are shared with neighbors and friends.

  22. A favorite gift I received was from my beautiful mom, and it was a musical merry-go-round that lit up so bright.
    And the favorite gift I gave was the gift of making crafts with my precious children which they still have…

  23. My favorite gift was a Cathy Quik Curl doll I received one Christmas morning from my parents. I’d asked for it, but I didn’t expect to receive it. Her hair some special wire in it so it really did cur

  24. My mom had to go out of state for cancer treatment for about 6 weeks. Before she left I gave her a tin filled with little slips of paper, a slip of paper for each day she would be gone. On the pieces of paper I wrote notes thanking her for the many wonderful things she had done, the reasons why she was so special to me and about some of my favorite memories with her. I told her it would be like a little hug from me every day that I was unable to be with her. God took her home just a few short months later. I am so thankful that she knew from my written notes about all of the specific ways I loved her and appreciated her before I lost her.

  25. My favorite gift was a walnut jewelry box my father made for me
    It has 9 small drawers and it has been sitting on my dresser since I was 16.

  26. My favorite gift at Christmas and birthdays was my grandpa’s time with us. My grandpa passed when I was just entering middle school. His wife, my grandma, passed when my mom was seven so my two sisters and I never knew her. Gifts were never expected nor given by my grandpa on Christmas, birthdays or any other special event. Even as young children my sisters and I were ok with this! My fondest memory of him was the fact that every day he would walked to our apartment house to visit. It was always right after dinner. There would be a knock on the door and we would rush to the door to let him in. Occasionally we would walked to his apt house. My mom and dad worked opposite shifts and there was only one car in the family so whomever was working had the car. My grandpa never had a drivers license so he had to walk where ever he went.
    Sometimes we would walk to grandpas house instead and we never complained. It was time we spent chatting with mom about our day. It is funny how my girls will complain if I chose a parking spot too far in their opinion at a store parking lot. I still love walking to this day perhaps because it was all that walking we did as children. So you see we didn’t need gifts from our grandpa. We just loved our time with him!!!!

  27. I surprised my husband by installing a garage door opener. He had let me park in the spot for over a year while having to manually open his side, never complaining. It was so exciting to see his face as the door opened the first time!

  28. The best gift I have ever given was a Bible to a man that had never owned a copy before. His reaction of complete delight made me realize how I have always just taken such a precious gift for granted.

    1. Hi Jen — LOVE this story. I wish we could see a picture of his delighted face. :) In other fun news, your name was randomly selected as the winner of the giveaway!! Please e-mail us {[email protected]} your address to us so we can send you the set of His Advent Names! Thanks for sharing and participating! Merry Christmas!

  29. My favorite gift(s) I gave was when I bought presents for children whose names my husband and I pulled off the Salvation Army Christmas tree. I will never know those children, but it was an honor to buy presents for them.

  30. The best gift I ever gave was a WWII Memorial book to my grandfather, an Army WWII veteran. I had visited the memorial myself and thought my grandfather who had never been might be interested in seeing it. Little did I know how much that gift would mean to him. He showed everyone that came to visit him that book for weeks. It touched my heart and I know he felt honored.

  31. As a child we as a family always bought gifts for a less fortunate family and we would deliver them and food a few days before Christmas . It blessed us more than the family, I think.😀

  32. My favorite gift given was a kitchen clock (with a fork and spoon as the hands) that I saw in a magazine. (Remember the magazine ads, before the internet?). I was in 4th grade and saved up my money to get it for my teacher. I even “splurged” and had her name written on it. It was quite the cheesy gift, but as a young child I thought it was perfect. I still have the thank you note she sent me, in return.

  33. My gifts received that always come to mind are my Chatty Cathy doll and my Easy Bake Oven. They were years apart, but those two gifts always come to mind. Gifts to give was a home produced Christmas play. It started as a way to help unchurched family members bring Jesus into the celebration. We had lines and songs and everything; it was the highlight of the day. It also started the tradition of our family not “calling the tree” (exchanging gifts) until 2-3 o’clock in the afternoon, after the play.

  34. My favorite gift giving was the year I gave my daughter and son-in -law a full year of house cleaning from mom. Why , because it came from the heart. She was busy with work and two beautiful kids. Being a mom is precious gift. I was honored to bless them and serve them with gladness.

  35. The best gift I’ve ever received was just a couple of years ago from my husband. Through several sacrifices, he bought us tickets to go to dinner and see a Broadway show. But it’s the sacrifices and thought and care of the gift that mean the most to me. ❤️

  36. As a mother, I have always loved giving a special ornament to each of my three children every year as we start the tree trimming. We date each one and have enjoyed looking at them over the years. My hopes are that as they marry and have a family of their own, they will reminisce with their children and have wonderful memories. My mother had seven children and we all have a warm memories that we still share with her, Dad and our siblings.

  37. Our favorite gift-giving tradition is shopping for the needy in our community on Black Friday. Our church erects an angel tree every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving. We select an angel tree tag for each member of our family. On Black Friday, each person shops to fulfill the wish on their angel tree tag. Once we have complete our quest, we go out for a pancake breakfast. This is the only real shopping we do on Black Friday. We all have fun experiencing the official start to the Christmas season while focusing on others that are not as fortunate as ourselves.

  38. My favorite gift I give to my parents (who are now Great Grandparents) is a wall Calendar. Each month has the birthday photo or wedding photo on the date along with memorable photos of those individuals on the page hanging above the month. My parents truly love this gift. Brings back so many memories with their Grandchildren’s wedding photo or their Great Grandchildren’s birthday party photos. I try to get photos of my parents with the little ones just for the calendar. A memorable gift!

  39. Mariln Mcfarlane

    I wanted a baby sister but that was impossible so instead my mother bought me a Patty play pal, a 3 foot doll with blonde hair. Fun but not a real sister.

  40. One of my favorite gifts received was a pair of shoes from my husband one year. He put time and research into something that would help my sore, tired feet. So sweet!

  41. As a child my favorite gift was the game of Life. ( I still play it with my adult children and nephew at times).
    As an adult, I’ve received more than i can ask for. My favorite gift was 2 years ago when our first grandson came to visit for Christmas.
    Actually, I love giving gifts I know will be appreciated by those I care about. Also, to serve the community during the Christmas season is a bigger gift to me than it is for the receiver.

  42. We have loved giving ornaments and crafts made by our children. Our family members cherish those items year after year (and so do I).

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