Children’s Gift-Giving & the Law of Diminishing Returns

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Did you see it last Christmas?

Did your kids tear into a stack of gifts that represented a great deal of sacrifice on someone’s part? Did they display excitement for a brief moment, toss the gift aside and grab for the next one? Did you hear that dreaded question: “Is that all?”


If so, you reached the point of diminishing return.

The Law of Diminishing Returns

The Law of Diminishing Returns states that there is a point of forward movement that begins to deliver a decline in the desired outcome. Your desired outcome for enduring Christmas chaos, birthday pandemonium and vacation madness is your child’s excitement, joy and gratitude. It’s easy to believe that fulfilling as many wishes as possible will deliver those outcomes but all too often, it doesn’t.

Where is the point of diminishing return? Only you can discover that, but here are a few ideas for avoiding the tipping point of diminishing returns with every gift-giving and merry-making event this year:

  • Balance talk about gift-getting with focus on gift-giving and charitable deeds all year long.
  • Understand the priority of your child’s desires with a wish list so that you gift them with the ones they truly want the most.
  • Set the expectation for how many of their wishes will be granted. Disappointment is always in direct contrast to expectations, so be honest up front and get the disappointment over beforehand. Everything you do is then received with surprise and delight.
  • Depend less on purchases to raise the level of fun. Plan family activities like Wii tournaments, game or movie nights, or the creation of new family traditions they help decide on.
  • Consider going slim. Many people are surprised to discover some of their best Christmases, birthdays and vacations ever happen in their most meager years because creativity kicks in.

How have you avoided the tipping point of diminishing returns?