Family Matters: To buy, or not to buy?

Conflict resolution expert Shimrit Nothman gives her advice on what to do when children ask for expensive Hanukka presents.

December 9, 2012 14:14
4 minute read.

Gift. (photo credit: WIkicommons)


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Jenny asks: “Hanukka is coming soon, and my 11 year old son has informed me that he would like to receive the new iPhone 5 as a present for the holiday. I believe he is way too young to own an iPhone, and besides, it’s a very expensive gift. I tried to explain this to him, but he says that at least half his class owns one or will get one as a gift for Hanukka. I don’t want him to feel excluded and unhappy. What should I do?”

Hanukka, which often coincides with Christmas, has long become the festival of gifts. Our children grow up expecting us to buy them the newest, best toys of the year.

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Many parents, just like Jenny, wish to put a limit to the value of the gifts they’re giving, but don’t want to go to war with their kids over it.

So what can the parents do to avoid unnecessary arguments with their children over presents, and how can they turn this occasion into a valuable lesson?

Money makes the world go round

At 11, your child probably doesn’t understand the value of money yet. He might have already figured out that it doesn’t grow on trees, but he still hasn’t internalized how much working time translates into a new iPhone.

Use this opportunity to sit with him and explain concepts such as salary, savings and budgeting. You can even ask him to do a little internet search on these concepts and then have a conversation about it. You don’t have to teach your child everything in one go, but this can be a great chance to educate him about the basics of economics. He’ll have much greater need for that than an iPhone when he grows up.

Explain to your child that you still love him and want him to be happy, but there is a limit to how much you’re willing to spend on gifts.


In those days at this time

Your child is focusing his attention on one element associated with Hanukka - the presents. Try shifting that focus to other values related to Hanukka. Jewish bravery, the freedom to practice our religion and miracles in our lives, are some of the main themes. Start presenting one of these themes in the leading weeks to Hanukka. You can find dozens of different suggestions online, on how to introduce these ancient ideals to your child’s life today.

Try building a Menorah or a dreidel with him, and then learn together what stands behind those symbols of Hanukka. You can get him inside the kitchen and make some traditional Hanukka foods. Use this time to get his curiosity going and ask him: “Why are these foods associated with Hanukka?”

He may still be quite upset about not getting the present he asked for, but you’re going to gain some quality time together, learning new things and strengthening your relationship.

The outcast

As a parent, you’re willing to pay almost any price to make sure your child is loved and treated well at school by his peers. You may fear that by not purchasing an expensive item for your child, when all the popular kids at his class own it (at least that’s what he says), you’re dooming him to life as the school’s social reject.

You can take the easy road and just put all your principles on the side and get him that iPhone he’s asking for. Another option is to help your child build the confidence to feel like he is worth something, even without owning expensive gadgets.

Sit him down for a conversation and discuss what things he can do in order to gain more true friendships at school. You can even ask him to invite some close friends for a Hanukka party, which he can help organize.

Jenny is facing quite a difficult situation with her 11-year-old son, but she can also look at this situation differently. She can decide that this is a great opportunity to enrich her child with lessons about economy and the true spirit of the holiday. She can teach her son about the important things in life and how to gain true friendships, ones that are based on caring and less about status symbols.

Shimrit Nothman has a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution and believes that like charity, conflict resolution begins at home. If you have any questions for Shimrit, please use the comments section below or email her at

This column is brought to you as general information only and should not be a replacement for professional advice.

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