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Even at Christmas, too much is too much

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Is the toy box overflowing? Are your child’s closet and dresser drawers jammed beyond capacity? Is every available space in your home being utilized in an attempt to store all the stuff?

Special days such as Christmas and birthdays can quickly result in an overabundance of stuff. To help alleviate this problem, let friends and relatives know you appreciate their desire to give something to your child, but that it would be great if they would limit it to just one item.

Too many toys and gadgets and too much clothing may not be the sign of a spoiled child or even a rich family. Often it is simply the result of well-intentioned giving gone too far.

More does not mean better. Parents must learn this lesson before they can pass it on to their children. An abundance of toys, games and even clothing creates an atmosphere of discontent and a desire for more stuff. Too many things can be distracting and have a negative effect on your family. It does not take long for well-meaning intentions to backfire. In an effort to supply our children with good literature, I went overboard at book fairs, yard sales and thrift shops, and soon their bookshelves were overflowing. As a result, my children began avoiding the bookshelves because it was too much effort to take books off the shelves and put them back again.

I have noticed the more stuff my children have the less they choose to play with any of it. When we began to sort through and keep only those toys and games that were educational, creative or had multiple uses, the children soon began to play with and truly enjoy them again. Even toddlers do not need those advertised, expensive and colorful toys to develop properly. Empty plastic bowls with lids, boxes and pots and pans with a wooden spoon will suit them just fine. Children learn from all kinds of stimulation, much of which does not have to come new from the store.

Give excess toys and clothing to a local charity. Put the remaining toys and games in boxes and rotate them every few weeks. The toys will seem like new, your child will not be overwhelmed and she will be more likely to use her toys creatively. Review toys, games, books and clothing on a regular basis to ensure items available reflect your child’s current needs and interests.

Let your child help weed out the surplus. When we discovered an overabundance of toy horses in our home, we allowed our daughters to choose the ones they wanted to keep, provided they fit in a bin we chose. The rest we took to a secondhand store. Since our daughters had a choice concerning what stayed and what did not, no tears were shed and there was no pouting or arguing. Consider using Freecycle (www.freecycle.org), an online listing service that allows you to give items to people in your community.

Train your child to be choosy. Impulse buying often begins at an early age. By going through the excess in our home, our children discovered that it was the novel or trendy items that soon lost their appeal and were quickly tossed aside.

Reinforce what your family stands for. “A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure” (Proverbs 24:3-4). An excessive accumulation of stuff is not the legacy you want to pass on to your child, but if that is all she sees, it will become second nature to her.

An overabundance of material things is not pleasing in God’s eyes. As a parent, you must check your own motives for supplying your child with too much stuff. Prayerfully ask God how He would have you deal with overabundance in your home. Then take the necessary steps to start storing up treasures in heaven and not on earth (Matthew 6:19-20) — for with this God is well pleased. ?
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer from Three Springs, Pa. She and her husband Ralph are the parents of two daughters. Reprinted by permission of ParentLife, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Tammy Darling