11/18/2013 03:38 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

How Many Holiday Gifts Should I Buy For My Child?

In every home where there are young children, who are eagerly awaiting their gifts for the holidays, there are also parents wondering what to give their children. As a parent, I remember the angst at trying to buy important things for my children that would enrich them but not spoil them. Perhaps this was an unrealistic expectation. I always have believed that loved children do not necessarily get spoiled only because they receive gifts. It is the conversation around the gift giving and the attitudes of the parents, that do the imprinting on the child. If your child is accustomed to giving to others, because it is what your family does, he or she will understand the concept better. A child is not entitled to massive numbers of gifts because parents can afford to buy them. It is the feeling of wanting to make each other happy in the process of giving, that needs to be considered first. Many families believe that home-made gifts have the most meaning because they are gifts from the heart. Others feel that in limiting the numbers of gifts it makes those received more important to a child.

I believe that a parent should anticipate the holiday season with many conversations about what it means to give a gift. It is the excitement and the anticipation that is the most thrilling, and often it is a validation from mommy and daddy or Santa Claus that signifies the fact that the child has successfully lived up to specified expectations. Has he/she been honest and kind this year? Has your child treated others the way in which he/she wishes to be treated? This is the very best season to discuss your values, and to teach your child what is important to your family.

Parents are always asking me how many gifts are good for their children. The numbers need to match your family's financial situation as well as your traditions. Gifts do not need to be elaborate to be valued. Wish lists are always one way to discover what kinds of gifts are important to your child, but you do not need to worry about fulfilling all of their wishes. It's important for children to feel that they are remembered with love, not smothered with all the things that their schoolmates discuss or want. This is a great opportunity to listen and then make your decisions.

I had a child in my class years ago who came from an economically challenged home. He was a well liked and very bright little boy, who was surrounded by many affluent children. After Winter Break was over, I allowed the children to share one gift with the class that was important to them. It could be something that was purchased in a store, home-made, cooked, or even some words that felt very special. After many children shared their favorites, this little boy happily came to the front of the class to share his Sears Toy Catalog. He pointed with glee at all of the toys that he liked the best, and all of the little 5-year-old children were happy to see the bright pictures. On one level I was amazed at the cleverness of this child, and of course, on the other hand I wished I could buy something for him, but that would be unfair to the rest of the class. That was a time of growth for me, because I had to realize that he was handling himself in a way that made him feel happy. It was up to me to support him in his journey, and to praise him for being thoughtful enough to share his favorites with the group.

A child that is happy with himself or herself will be happy to be remembered. You don't need to stress about numbers or prices. You simply need to let your child know that he or she has the greatest gift of all... your love!