Santa School Teaches Managing Kids' Expectations In Down Economy

12/01/2011 06:25 pm ET

Students at the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Michigan are learning how to curb children's expectations in a tough economy bygetting lessons on how to properly handle children's long, expensive wish lists, according an article in The New York Times.

The key? Never promise anything.

When kids hop on Santa's lap with extensive lists, one worker said he tries to explain that Santa can't bring it all, a gesture he said parents often appreciate.

"I try to guide the children into not so unrealistic things, and I do tell them that Santa's been cutting back too," Tom Ruperd told the Times.

While Santa might be able to help lower children's expectations during the Christmas season, parents are responsible throughout the rest of the year.

"We live in a culture that encourages children to get all they can," psychologist Lynne Namka told Psych Central. "It happens year-round, but is especially noticeable during the holidays. Children are constantly bombarded with the message that they can have everything they want."

Teaching children the difference between "want" and "need"is also crucial to managing expectations and keeping the family budget balanced.

For example, some parents might want to consider shopping after Dec. 26 in order to snag a better deals, especially for older children and teens once they're taught to be more understanding.

Involving children in everyday financial decisions, such as grocery shopping or saving up for a trip, might also help them learn the value of a dollar after the holidays are over, according to Disney Family.

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