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Extension > Extension News > Overindulgence and good hearts: Parenting during holidays and beyond

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December 07, 2017

Overindulgence and good hearts: Parenting during holidays and beyond

ST. PAUL, Minn. (12/7/2017)—If holiday shopping feels like being stuck in a pressure cooker, here are some good questions for families to ask and open a valve:


What do I want my kids to remember about the holidays? Is it the things they got? Or is it the things we did?

University of Minnesota Extension family educator Ellie McCann says the holidays exacerbate parenting pressures that exist all year. The onslaught of advertising is piled on top of ever-present social media and peer influences. Knowingly or not, kids can exert pressure on their parents. Adults, too, feel the influences in their own spheres.


“Parents and others actively involved in upbringing want their kids to be happy. What you have to consider is how our choices build upon values and priorities,” McCann says.

To navigate through the next month, Extension offers these tips for getting through the holidays in good financial shape.

For the holidays and beyond, strategies for dealing with overindulgence and children can help families create peace and live within expectations that help children flourish. Two Extension online courses are designed to help families

Parenting in the Age of Overindulgence examines what’s “too much,” not only giving too many material items but overscheduling and doing for children what they need to learn to do themselves. The course also examines how to set the right amount of structure and rules around children’s lives.

Parenting with a Good Heart delves into the pressures to overindulge children—recognizing them and developing strategies to avoid them. Parents and other caregivers want the best for their children; this course details how it can be achieved without overindulgence.

“Wanting kids to be happy doesn’t have to be about ‘the stuff.’ Holidays are a great time to build new habits as a family. Spend time together – build upon old traditions and create new memories, not new debt,” McCann says.


Use 'Test of Four' to check for overindulgence 

Is overindulgence occurring in your family? A “yes” to any of these questions can be a sign.

1. Whose needs are being met? Will doing or giving this benefit the adults more than the children?

2. Family resources: Will doing this or giving this use a disproportionate amount of family resources – including money, space, time, energy or attention – to meet the wants, not the needs of one or more the children?

3. Development: Is what I’m doing, or giving, keeping my child from learning what he or she needs to know at this age?

4. Possible harm: Does doing something or giving something pose the risk of harming others?

Learn more about the Test of Four as a tool for families.
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