Friday, December 19, 2014

Montessori Parenting: Some Thoughts on Holiday Gift Giving

It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put in giving.
— Mother Teresa

I met a fifth grade boy recently who was happy to share his feelings about the upcoming holidays. “I’ve given up on Christmas,” he said. “I’ve come to realize that, no matter what I ask for, what I really want I just won’t get. I asked for an Xbox last year and got a book. Whenever I ask for video games, my mom tells me to go outside and play. Why doesn’t she understand I just want to be like the other kids?”

I have to admit, his cynicism tugged at my heart strings. I know his mother, and I know and respect the reasoning behind her parenting decisions and their family values. I know, too, that she feels guilty at times over values, wants, and needs.

Gift Giving as a Montessori Parent

In her article “Anger, guilt and spending on kids: 8 questions to ask before buying anything,” psychotherapist and parenting coach Debbie Pincus states that “Guilt and anger are both uncomfortable emotions; and as different as they might seem, they are really just different sides of the same parenting coin.” (Pincus, 2014) Guilt, Pincus says, arises when parents don’t do what our children want or when we don’t give them what they want. Anger and frustration comes when we feel unappreciated for what we have provided. Both emotions, Pincus warns, are focused on the children: “keeping them happy, doing as they wish, avoiding their disapproval.” (Pincus, 2014)

She suggests asking yourself these eight questions before making purchases so that you make decisions you can feel good about:

  • 1. What can we afford this year for gifts, without stressing our budget?
  • 2. Is the requested gift age-appropriate?
  • 3. What behaviors has my child exhibited that tell me he is ready for the responsibility that comes with owning this gift?
  • 4. Am I ready and able to monitor her use of the requested gift?
  • 5. What can I expect will be the repercussions of his playing with this gift? Am I in favor of those things?
  • 6. How will she benefit—and not benefit—from owning this? How will I benefit? Not benefit
  • 7. Am I buying this for him because I don’t want him to be upset with me? Is this a good reason?
  • 8. Am I buying this for her because I don’t want her friends to alienate her if she doesn’t have it? Is this a good reason?

(Pincus, 2014)

Most importantly, Pincus reminds parents to communicate your reasons for your decisions with your children. When my son was in third grade, he asked for a video gaming system so he could be like his friends. I realized the importance gaming plays in today’s society and researched all the options. I decided on the system that had the most child friendly games. He was thrilled, of course, to find the gaming system under the tree Christmas morning. He knew I had made a compromise. He received his gaming system, and I was able to decide which games were appropriate, maintaining our family values through my choices.

Being a Montessori parent isn’t always easy. It takes a firm conviction in what you value and the willingness to openly communicate those values with your entire family. This gift-giving season, openly discuss your child’s wish list with him before the big day, so he can understand how his desires fit into your family.

I know what I have given you… I do not know what you have received.
— Antonio Porchia

Works Cited
Pincus, Debbie. “Anger, guilt and spending on kids: 8 questions to ask before buying anything.” Empowering Parents, November 18, 2014.

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, December 19, 2014.


  1. Ana Maria Rodriguez R.April 23, 2015 at 5:57 PM

    I consider gift-giving a current topic of general interest in the Montessori training. My personal opinion as a teacher is that parents should not satisfy every demand of their kids related to toys and technology devices, because that lenient attitudes will make of their children little dictators at home. If my husband and I ever have a child of our own, I'm quite sure we'd adopt a parenting model very similar to the one mentioned at the beginning of the article. When that third grade boy become an adult, he'll be thankful and he'll understand clearly what was his mom doing and why it was so important for her raising him as a "different" child. Now, about the questionnaire, I believe it's an interesting and essential exercise for parents to ask themselves if their son or daughter are asking for a gift which is age-appropriate, if they're going to give it to him/her just because they don't want to have a "scene" or because according to them "everyone at school has one of those". Moreover, good parenting involves thinking about the future repercussions, values and the model of person we are promoting through that gift.


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