Gentle Parenting Grow Kids

Gentle Discipline for the Holiday Gimmies

girl holding stack of christmas presents
Written by Jessika Firmage

| by Ariadne Brill

The holiday season is one of the very best seasons for connecting and celebrating family. On the other hand, children may also develop a serious case of the so-called “gimmies.” Frequent requests of “Buy me this?”, “Can I have that? What about this one, oh and that one too? Please, please, please!!!??”, can lead to all sorts of upsets, tears and power struggles between parents and children.

While it may seem impossible to deal with one more request, whine, potential meltdown, let alone set a limit in an effective yet gentle way there are a few ways to make the holiday “gimmies” easier to navigate. From planning ahead, to the magic of a wish list, here are six gentle discipline tools to try.


The best way to avoid becoming overwhelmed by requests is to make a plan with your children before going to stores. Children find a lot of comfort in routines and clear expectations, so talk about which stores youare going to, what they can expect and if they will be able to choose something on that particular outing or not. Dr. Ross Greene reminds us, “Children do well when they can.” So, before shopping, make sure your child has had enough rest, play-time, something to eat, drink and keep errands short!


With so many toys and treats on display during the weeks leading up to the holidays, children are being overloaded with excitement and possibilities. Most packaging is craft-ed very carefully to attract the attention of shoppers, especially children. Young children also have low impulse control, meaning they really want what they want, in that moment. Before saying “no” or wondering why your child is asking for everything, try to see the store from the child’s perspective. For a young child, it can be quite difficult trying to imagine going home without that ever-so-cool and fun new building set that is sitting on the shelf practically speaking to him, “Buy me! You will love playing with me!”


Given that all those wonderful items are tempting your child, go ahead and let them know you understand that they really want what they see. “Oh you want that truck; it looks fun to play with. I can imagine you would like it so very much.” The more we can empathize with our children and voice their wishes back to them the more they feel understood and listened to. This is often enough to create the kind of connection needed to set an effective limit.


In addition to empathizing and recognizing your child’s wishes, it’s alright to go ahead and let them know that it’s not the right time to purchase the toy or treat they have their eye on. Setting a limit with young children usually works best when coupled with kind words, so instead of saying “put that down, I’m not buying it!”, try an alternative like, “ I see you really like this, today we will not be buying that.” Such kind but direct words create connection and trust all while making it clear that the toy will not be coming home.


Walking away from all those toys and treats can be tough on young children, one way to help children have a bit of ownership over their wishes is to have an ongoing wish list.Keep a small notebook in your purse, or have your children draw pictures of all the things they saw that day that they wish they could have. Both can work really well. Introducing such a wish list also gives you one more great way to set a limit with kindness “We will not buy that today. You can add it to your wish list!” The magic of such a wish list is that you can keep it going all year long and periodically sit and review it with your child, too.


There may be a moment when your child just feels completely over-whelmed with the input from stores and finds it hard to deal with mom saying “no” to that treat or toy they really wish to have. If this is the case, try to empathize with the frustration and accept that some tears may just need to flow in order for the upset to go away. If a lot of tears and tantrums are happening every time you are out and about, it may be helpful to review those shopping expectations again before entering the store. Remember to be really mindful of any other needs your child may have.


Lastly, an excellent way to combat the “gimmies,” is to move the focus of the holiday season to gratitude and generosity of heart instead of gift purchasing. Creating your very own family traditions that focus on appreciation, like playing “Hi & Low’s of the day” or making a pin board that displays photos and quotes from “special moments.” These create a sense of family, improve communication and lead to a strong family bond during such a special time of year.

About the author

Jessika Firmage