Toys, tantrums and the worry of over-indulgence

Christmas is now finally well and truly over for us.  Both sets of grandparents have been seen and all presents exchanged.  It has been exhausting and, I’m not afraid to admit, a little challenging.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year to spoil those you love and the magic of Christmas is so special to see in the faces of children.  But, I think it all became a little overwhelming for our nearly 3-year-old.  Over the last few days we have had fun, frolics…and tears and tantrums.  Merry Christmas indeed!
(Click here to get Images & Frosty And Santa Pictures – Pictures)

Don’t get me wrong, Olivia and William have both had a fantastic Christmas.  William, being only 9 months old, displayed his usual nonchalant attitude to it all but Olivia understood the idea of Father Christmas and was very excited.  They have both been well and truly spoiled over the last few days; by Santa on Christmas Day morning, one side of the family in the afternoon and the other lot of family a couple of days later.  Presents came in what seemed like never-ending waves…

…We now have enough toys to start our own creche! 

The problem is there are so many toys lying around that the children don’t know what to play with first, never mind the fact there’s no room to get the toys out properly.  This is very definitely a case of Christmas excess.

And there’s something else.  As I have mentioned, we’ve had our fair share of temper tantrums. There have been times when Olivia has been defiantly uncooperative, sulked, cried and screamed in frustration.  She’s been so spoiled over the last few days that she didn’t enjoy it when she wasn’t indulged. She didn’t want to ‘toe the line’ but instead wanted to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted.

Yes, I know it’s Christmas, I know it’s a special, exciting time but my husband and I are worried that the huge amount of presents received and Olivia’s tantrums may be linked.  We know children deserve to be spoiled at Christmas – heck, we all deserve to be spoiled at Christmas – but we don’t want Olivia or William growing up to be ungrateful, spoiled and selfish.

Another, more practical problem, is that we don’t have enough space to store all of these new toys.  So, my husband has come up with an idea for next Christmas which should resolve all of these worries; we’re going to place a limit on how many presents each child gets from the entire family (that’s including gifts from Santa too).  We’re not talking about scaling right back, but surely a child will be just as happy with 20 presents than they will be with 30 or more?

To do this, we’re going to change a family tradition and stipulate that Father Christmas will only leave presents at one house from now one – ours.  There’s just no need for Santa to leave a sackful of presents at grandparents houses on top of gifts from Nanny and Grandad.  We’re also going to be quite strict on the present limit we come up with.  For instance, if one set of grandparents goes a bit over-the-top buying gifts for grandchildren, then Santa won’t leave as many presents come Christmas Eve.  Rest assured though, we won’t make the limit too low – we do want our children spoiled a bit!

I want to stipulate right not that we’re not trying to be Christmas grinches and certainly don’t want to reduce the enjoyment that grandparents and others get from seeing the children opening their gifts.  That’s the last thing we want to do.  People could still spend as much as they want on whatever they want.  Perhaps this way, the children will receive slightly fewer presents of really good quality instead of many presents they look at once and then never again.  This doesn’t just apply to friends or family members either – it should also help my husband and I to really think about whether or not to buy certain things, rather than just doing it on a whim and hoping for the best.

It might seem a little early to be making a resolution about next Christmas, but I’m writing it down now while it’s still in mine and my husband’s thoughts.  At least this way, we can look back next December and remind ourselves of the promise we made to ensure our children are moulded into decent, considerate, grateful and unselfish human beings.

Of course, there are many events in someone’s life that helps them to develop into the person they grow up to become.  We know this.  But characteristics can start early and we want to nip those more unpleasant ones in the bud before they can grow into anything more. 

Are we being too harsh?  Worrying unnecessarily?  Should children be spoiled as much as possible at Christmas or should we try to impose some boundaries?  I’d love to know your thoughts…


  1. Just remember that there is also joy in the giving for the grandparents and friends who like to see the look of excitement on the children's faces when the gifts are unwrapped. So maybe the hovers need to be at your house when the presents are opened.

  2. I agree – there is a fine line between 'spoiling' them in the good way, and being 'spoiled' in the bad sense of the word. All over FB, my friends were posting pics of their lounges full of Christmas presents for their children – sometimes only one child under the age of one, and in most cases it was excessive x

  3. I am so with you and nice to read your post! I felt exactly the same after everything was opened and everywhere! The youngest had a meltdown being overtired and overstimulated by it all… we are working our way through all the toys gradually, one friend I know had so much last year off everyone she actually kept some for this year… Next year we are cutting back and getting less expensive presents too, the joy they had with the simple ones illustrated that, bubbles were a hit! x

  4. Enjoyed reading your experiences and thoughts on this. With three ASD/SPD kids, I know all about over-stimulation. It's been helpful over the last three or four years to limit the number of presents but make them quality and well-thought-out. As a general rule, it's one from each parent and Grandparent – so six nice presents and stocking items. Also, we try and put a real focus on making gifts for people too as that tends to shift focus from just receiving to gifting and the creation of things for people is theraputic in itself. Thanks for sharing and enjoy a delightful New Year!

  5. We have the same problem. We have sooo many toys but I feel bad if we start selling (at NCT Nearly New) toys which are practically new but which the boys never play with because we simply don't have room for all the toys to be out and accessible. Even considered not opening boxes of some toys to stick um straight on Ebay but Spud was too eager to get them out. Very tough subject and you have come up with a great solution. You could suggest if grandparents want to spend a set amount on them they could put money away for them or perhaps buy a gift from your children to give to a local children's hospice.

  6. I agree with you about excess. However, you might find that it resolves itself to some extent as your children get older. My children had way too many toys for Christmas when they were babies/toddlers, not least as friends and relatives tended to go as much overboard as we did. Over the years, this has calmed down!My children now tend to get a small present from my parents (their only grandparents), and my parents then give me £50 to put in their bank accounts for when there's something they really need/want. Thus far, this money has paid for bikes and a trampoline, which they have used to death.We've also found that ours now tend to want one expensive present rather than a host of cheaper ones. I tend to supplement the 'big' present with box sets of books from Book People/Red House, selection box, Beano annual and so on. I don't think they had any actual toys this year. My daughter's 'big' present was a life-sized stuffed dog (£19.99 off eBay), which she is thrilled with. I think that size matters more to her than expense!I think you'll probably find, too, that your own values of kindness and consideration and thought for others will transmit themselves to your children even if they do have a bit of a blow-out at Christmas!

  7. Perhaps that is a resolution we should of adopted all those years ago but hey it didn't do you any harm….. or did it? Unfortunately we are all writing the book of life, there is no transcript to adhere to. I can see how Santa delivering to two houses may or would be a little ridiculous, presents from grandparents should be simply that, at the end of the day we (the grandparents) have had our time and it is now down to you as parents to do what we all have done over the years and to enjoy and savour the moment.For you (as it was for us) as working parents it becomes so hard NOT to compensate for your absence, after all, that is why we all work so hard,.. to give our children all those things that we as parents never had, but don't chastise the grandparents for wanting to help out just a little bit, at that special time of year…. You have all year to prepare for the next one (that's your I am afraid we all are just too busy chasing the dollar, should we feel guilty? maybe I don't know, I am still at chapter one of the book of life.

  8. Thanks for all your comments so far. It's certainly been some food for thought. In the interests of transparency I would like to point out that 'Modalconfusion' is my Dad and makes some good points – thanks Dad! I do remember being spoiled at Christmas and it didn't do me any harm (or I like to think not at any rate) but I have no idea how my parents coped with the mountains of gifts that came into our house every year! I want to do as good a job as my parents did with me. But, my husband and I have found it hard this Christmas, more so than the last two years. I think it's been felt more acutely this time around because we now have a child who is old enough to get (over) excited about Christmas and who is also still going through the 'terrible twos' and trying to be more independent – what a minefield!Also, now we have two children, we've come to understand that the amount of presents given automatically doubles. That gives us a problem with storage space.Next year, as I go back to work, my husband and I will definitely have the problem of trying not to compensate for our absences. It will be hard, I admit. And we don't want to chastise grandparents for wanting to spoil their precious grandchildren. Not at all. But, what we do want, is for our children to understand that there are others who aren't so fortunate and to appreciate what they are given, as well as the true meaning of Christmas.I like the idea of a donation to a worthy cause and perhaps this is something my husband and I will think about doing. Also, as 'MaidInYorkshire' points out, our children should learn to be considerate and kind through the values we teach them throughout the year. I will certainly do the best job I can and hope I provide them with a good example to follow.

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