The Four Gift Rule

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Four-Gift-Rule“I don’t need this at all!”

Around the holidays my family always shares a laugh over the time I – at age four – shouted that phrase on Christmas morning after receiving a play typewriter as a gift from my grandpa. As the story goes, I opened the present, immediately declared its uselessness, pushed it aside, and dove for my next package. What’s worse, I’m pretty sure someone has it on video.

It’s funny because I was four years old, because kids say the darndest things. Nevertheless, whenever the story comes up I can’t help but feel ashamed of the complete lack of gratitude I displayed that Christmas day. I’m sure my mom scolded me and made me say a proper thank you, but then I was right back to plowing through my pile of presents, drowning in wrapping paper like the privileged and oblivious child I was.

It was with that embarrassing memory in mind that I instated the Four Gift Rule among my family this Christmas season. On December 25th, my son will be receiving one sizable present from Santa and four smaller gifts from his parents: one thing he wants, one thing he needs, one thing to wear, and one thing to read. The same rule will apply to the gifts I exchange with my husband.

Why I Love the Four Gift Rule

1. It will help me teach thankfulness.

The Four Gift Rule is a simple way to teach my kid that presents don’t grow on trees (or, more accurately, fall down chimneys). Ultimately Christmas isn’t about some bearded stranger lavishing children with mounds of toys, many of which will probably be quickly forgotten. Santa will come to our house, yes, but he will bring a single gift; the other packages under the tree will be courtesy of actual people to whom my son can express the toddler-equivalent of gratitude.

2. My cover can’t be blown.

The Four Gift Rule will also come in handy when my son is older and likely to stumble upon a present hidden in a closet or his mom stealthily wrapping gifts at night. I won’t have to worry about being “caught” and having the Santa story ruined, since my boy will already know most of his gifts are from me in the first place.

3. It saves the budget. 

I know I’m not the only mom who feels unreasonably drawn to adorable outfits, plush stuffed animals, and bright shiny toys. We want to buy our kids stuff even though we know they don’t need it. The Four Gift Rule has become my motto for resisting that urge to splurge.

That’s cute, I think to myself while strolling through Target or flipping through the toy catalog, but is it really worthy of being one of the precious four gifts I give my child this year? No? Then put the wallet away!

This is the first year my family is trying the Four Gift Rule, but if it works out we’re hoping it becomes our gift-giving mantra for many holidays to come.


What do you think of the Four Gift Rule? How do you teach your children to show gratitude for the presents they receive?

*I wish I could say I came up with this clever idea, or even that I know who did so I could properly credit them. Whoever you are, thank you!