A complete system to measure and improve your child's success

  Articles & Ideas

Kidtelligent Blog

Tuesdays With Jane: Just Three Wishes?

As retailers ramp up for the holiday season, (Yes, our winter holidays are three months away, but your children will start seeing toy ads and store displays within the next few weeks!!!), here’s a thought about successfully balancing gifts and greed.


Keep their gift lists to just three wishes.


This handy family rule came about by accident.  The year my son turned three, his list had just three items: roller skates, a movie, and a game. Fulfilling that list was easy. And, what child wouldn’t be contented with his heart’s desire?


Things had gone a bit differently for my neighbor.  Christmas Eve found her son in tears because he didn’t “get what he wanted”—even though he received many items from his two-page wish list!  Expectations had made the difference between satisfaction and disappointment.


“Oh, come on now,” you say.  “My kids are going to get a whole lot more than three presents.  Why limit their list?  How else will I know what they want?” With grandparents, aunts and uncles, my children also received more than three presents.  However, wouldn’t you like some say in what is on that list? The Three Wishes rule gives you more say as to what makes a great gift.


And wouldn’t you like to place your emphasis in December on something besides what you’ll be wrapping?  Perhaps even on teaching some of the big lessons of life?  With the three-wish rule, teachable moments abound. Here’s the Hows and the benefits.


You Really Can’t Have It All

If your child tries to add a fourth gift to their wish list, ask “Which one of the other three are you eliminating?” Life is full of tough choices—get them ready for the reality that they cannot have it all.  Why make three the magic number?  Three will be fairly easy for you to remember, no matter how many children you have.  Further, you can rationalize your choice with the fact that the Wise Men brought three gifts; you are simply following their example.


You Need To Live Within Your Means

Be realistic about what they can put on the list.  One year my son initially listed three big-ticket items.  I told him the facts: one item might come from Mom and Dad and one from Grandma, but there was no way he could receive a third major item. Oh, and Mom and Dad pay for what Santa brings (this really works!). Wish for something smaller.


Thoughtful Goal-Setting is a Key Factor in Success

Once your children have three satisfactory items, make sure they get them.  After my children received their hearts’ desires for a couple years, they spent very little time talking about what they wanted—and we could focus on the meaning of our holidays rather than the commercialism.


Sometimes, Mom Knows What is Best

Big hits at our house over the years included a checkers set, a children’s cookbook, and new books, none of which were advertised on TV or in catalogs. I passed on ideas like these to relatives, yet my children still received their main choices.


Life is Full of Surprises

As we discussed what would be on their lists, I, of course, become aware of what their fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. choices were.  The rule made it easy for me to ignore trendy or expensive options, yet keep others in mind. We have a wonderful picture of our son’s amazed joy at opening an $8 super-hero transforming action figure, all the more thrilling because he never expected it.


Why not give the three-wish rule a try?  In the first year, used to giving you a list that would make a lobbyist blush, your children may doubt your intentions.  But stick to it for at least two Decembers.  What have you got to lose besides the post-present-opening blues?


By Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is