How Much Is Too Much? The Dark Side of Holiday Gift Giving

How much is too much when it comes to holiday gift giving? Each year it seems that parents spend more money and buy more gifts for their children with the hope that the new toys will make them happy. But everyone knows that it is possible to spoil kids with too many gifts, and some, like Education Week blogger Michele Molnar, think that too many gifts may even be a detriment to their education.

Too many gifts may lead to expectations of instant gratification

Molnar argues that giving children too many gifts, at the holidays or at any other time of year, teaches them to expect instant gratification. She quotes Jean Illsley-Clark, an author and co-creator of an Overindulgence website. According to Illsley-Clark:

What we’ve found is that too much stuff [creates] a big stumbling block to learning delayed gratification. The ability to delay gratification is a tremendously important personal quality for achieving those things that you want. Delayed gratification is absolutely basic to success in school.

When is it time to cut back?

As an only child, I received a lot of gifts from my parents and relatives — usually everything that I wanted, and more. It’s difficult to say how this affected me as I grew up, but I don’t think that the presents I received on my birthday or the holidays made it more difficult for me to succeed in school because my parents instilled the values of hard work, patience and independence in me despite the material gifts they were able to give me.

There is probably some truth in Molnar’s argument in that we could all afford to cut back a little bit over the holidays. The giant pile of crumpled wrapping paper on my living room floor is proof enough of that. But parenting and helping your child to succeed in school is surely more complicated than the gifts you give. If your child expects gifts all the time, has a hard time waiting for something he or she wants, or seems unusually focused on material things, then it may be time to hold back a little on the gift giving.

What do you think?

How much is too much? Do you know someone who goes overboard with gifts, to the detriment of their children? Have you occasionally gone overboard yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Related Stories:

5 Holiday Gifts That Your Child’s Teacher Actually Needs

Top 5 Christmas Stories and Why We Love Them

5 Books to Keep You Warm During the Holidays

Photo credit: lorenkerns

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Tammy Baxter
Tammy B.2 years ago

i actually had to put a limit of 2 toys on the inlaws because they were giving more than "Santa" was!!!

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara2 years ago

I agree with "Too many gifts may lead to expectations of instant gratification",

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Totally agree, thanks for posting

Andrea M.
Andrea M.2 years ago

I have to admit that I was always showered with gifts as a child and it has been hard at times as an adult not to expect to have all that I wanted and to appreciate things. I don't have children, but I would work hard not to shower them with gifts all the time. However, I know that's probably easier said than done. I too wish the article had included some tips on how to cut back on the gift-giving.

Morgan Hartman
Morgan H.2 years ago

I was hoping this article would actually give an example, or idea of what an appropriate balance would be for gifts for children to allow them to participate in the excitement of gift-giving holidays without becoming spoiled or developing a feeling of entitlement.

Ro H.
Ro H.2 years ago


Tammy Taylor
Tammy Taylor2 years ago


Akriti A.
Akriti A.2 years ago

I know someone who wants gifts all the time. Unfortunately, that person is my little brother.

I am the eldest child in my whole extended family. This summer, I'll even get a job (I have no idea what I'm gonna use that money for, but I'm gonna be 15 and some work experience would be good).

I got a T-shirt for christmas this year and I'm not asking for more. My brother, however, wants a VIRTUAL REALITY thing that he says gets released this month. I can't even imagine how expensive that would be...He's actually getting it from my mom too -_-...

And to think I'm satisfied with a T-shirt...

Zac G.
Zachary G.2 years ago


Zac G.
Zachary G.2 years ago