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Jordan Harrell and her husband, Clark, no longer get that “yucky” feeling on Christmas morning.
It’s the feeling they used to get when their three kids – ages five, four, and two – would tear into their presents and, giddy with the thrill of seeing their shiny-new toys, would inevitably shout, “Do we have any more presents?! Is that all?!”
Today, Harrell’s kids know they’re getting exactly four gifts from Santa. One is a gift they want; one they need; one they can wear; and one they can read.
Now, Harrell told Business Insider, instead of acting entitled on Christmas morning, her kids are grateful.
Harrell is one of a growing number of parents embracing the want/need/wear/read gifting strategy. The idea has made the rounds on “mom blogs” over the past few years; Harrell posted about it on her blog during the 2016 holiday season.
Harrell’s kids were young enough that they didn’t push back too much when she explained the new gift-giving strategy. But Lauren Greutman had a slightly harder time- her eldest son was eight when they instituted the want/need/wear/read rule four years ago.
“He was very upset,” Greutman told Business Insider, “because he was raised on the quantity of gifts.” Still, he adjusted pretty quickly. Now, she said, all her kids “think more about the family experiences over what [gifts] they’re getting.”
Since starting to use the want/need/wear/read rule, Greutman said she and her husband, Mark, have spent $100 on the “want” gift for each kid. (They just increased their budget to $150.) Last year, those “want” gifts included a dollhouse and a Lego set.
One unexpected outcome has been that her kids are learning to make some financial decisions on their own – if they see an item they want, but it’s more than $100 or so, they know Mom won’t buy it for them and have to look for something else.
The want/need/wear/read strategy is in line with recommendations from some parenting experts. Sean Grover, a psychotherapist, wrote on Psychology Today that it’s important to “set gift limits”: “Meaningful gifts have more emotional value than a mountain of generic presents.”
Some parents see the want/need/wear/read rule as an extension of the “three-gift tradition.” In other words, Jesus received three gifts (and only three gifts) from the Three Wise Men – so should you.
As Kathy Radigan wrote in a blog post that was republished by the Huffington Post, “I really liked how it made the children think and decide about the things they truly wanted. I also liked that there was a religious significance to the tradition since the three wise men each gave one gift to the infant Jesus on the occasion of his birth.”
Some parents are taking the idea of limiting gifts to an extreme. Entertainment Tonight reported that Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher have decided not to give their kids any Christmas gifts. Kunis said: “The kid no longer appreciates the one gift. They don’t even know what they’re expecting; they’re just expecting stuff.”