Managing expectations

In business and in marketing discussions, ‘managing expectations’ is important and quite common.

The point is to let people know what to expect so they are content with things. For example, if people know it will take two weeks to have something delivered, they’ll be happy with to arriving in 12 days but 12 days would be irritating if you expected it in 3 days.

What about Christmas expectations?

Small Christmas gift sitting on a large present

The size of a gift can raise expectations…

Managing expectations is not a term I’ve really though about in relation to Christmas (or other gift times of year), but it makes sense to think about it.

Have you ever had expectations about Christmas that were not met or exceeded?

High expectations fail

I remember once that I was given some hints that I would get an iPad for Christmas, and I was quite pleased about the idea. And quite disappointed when I didn’t get one on Christmas Day. Had I not heard those hints, the lack of iPad wouldn’t have bothered me at all so it was false expectations that caused the disappointment.

It’s a bit like the child getting a huge gift, only to discover that there is a box inside a box inside a box… The child would be a mix of emotions – excitement over a large gift, disappointment over it not being so big, excitement over lots of layers to unwrap and the surprise of finding whatever was in the middle. My Dad did that to me once – the final gift was very small, but as it was a key to a car it was also a very big gift!

Low expectations succeed

Via jcc81’s comment in a recent post, I heard of a great way to set low expectations and thus provide excitement on Christmas Day. Imagine children watching you wrap some junk for them and seeing those gifts under the tree for days and weeks… Only to discover some other gifts were placed under the tree on Christmas morning!

 Managing Christmas gift expectations

So letting children know in advance that they may not get everything they want, not even everything they wrote to ask Santa for, is a good way to keep them happy with what they get on Christmas morning.

I think that is a good lesson for them anyway – there should be more to Christmas than the gifts and they need to learn that they can’t always get what they want.

Have you ever really thought about managing gift expectations?

21 Responses to Managing expectations

  • Matt says:

    That’s true. Setting expectations too high will only end up in heart ache. But should be just the right amount to still be excited about the gift. Thanks.

    • I don’t think realistic expectations need take away the excitement – much of the excitement is in the not knowing, wondering and unwrapping I think 🙂 But setting expectations way too low could put a downer on the lead up so you have to find the right line.

      • juno says:

        I agree that Christmas time is magical for children and we must allow a certain level of expectations for children. However, it is important to make sure they are within our means.

  • Nikkishea21 says:

    This period usually hold high expectations from the children depending of the tradition that they are accustomed to. If changes will occur in the ability of the parents to get gifts, then depending on the age of the child it may be taken with some level of anger or disappointment. As adults we too go through disappointments at times when things go against our expectations but with proper preparation it can be handled in a civil manner.

  • jcc481 says:

    Wow, thanks for posting my comment up! It does, however, get funny once you’ve done it more than once: “Dad, you’re not trying that trick again…” I loved the key to a car story, but imagine a gift-wrapped car, and a suitably sized tree to put it under on Christmas Day!

    • Lol, that’d take a lot of wrapping paper as well as manoeuvring a huge tree into the house, jcc! Could use up the piles of decorations I have though 🙂

      I love one off actions that end up becoming family stories/jokes that are repeated annually as a special bond. It sounds like wrapping dud presents is your family tradition, now!

  • sorrowscall says:

    I’ve always told the kids I watch to have realistic expectations when it comes to me from Christmas. That way, they know I’m not magic like Santa and can’t do all he can do. While, I do also show them that I will work my utmost hardest to ensure they have a good Christmas. Thus far, the kids seem to understand and appreciate the difference and the hard work that goes into it.

    As for letting the kids see the gifts wrapped, I’ve never done that. I don’t know, it always seems mean to me to 1. Show them presents (it takes away the surprise) 2. Let them believe they have terrible junky presents (it makes them think I don’t care much about them at all.)

    As for the gifts on Santa’s list, I do try to explain that while Santa may be magic and can get many of the things on their list, sometimes, there’s a reason he can’t get one thing or another. For instance, Santa knows an elephant won’t survive captivity in a living room.

    • Not to mention most living rooms wouldn’t survive having an elephant captive in them either!

      Comparing yourself (as human) and Santa (as magical) sounds like a good idea for teaching children we can do our best but not always provide what they want.

  • juno says:

    Christmas is over now, but my little one did have some high expectations. We went over all the things he had been asking for and agree on all the reasonable ones that we believed Santa was going to bring. We hyped him up about wondering if he was going to get the ones we expected. That way there was no disappointment. It works well with younger kids.

  • celinejulietdcosta says:

    I agree with you. High expectations lead to disappointments very often. Hence false promises should not be made as kids may be heartbroken on the christmas day:)

  • sorrowscall says:

    Oh! The movie! I think it’s the self-titled Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer movie. I believe it’s the stopmotion/claymation one where they used dolls of some sort.

  • kcareconnections says:

    I think we must all remember the real meaning of Christmas and that it is the thought that counts. That being said, I think it can be fun to have a really cool Christmas gift in mind. It might not be something you can realistically get, but it is fun to wish during the magic of Christmas.

    • It is the thought that counts and I find that is more challenging to show children as they tend to be spilt with many things at Christmas. Letting children have dreams is fun, just as long as we don’t lead them into believing they will get it all.

  • syrkt says:

    In a way my family does something kind of like this… We have this tradition where before wrapping our presents to each other we put them in different size boxes, whether they suit the actually size of the gift or not. In this way, we automatically have come to know and assume that the presents we see under the tree are not going to be anywhere near to the presents we actually receive. It’s also kind of a fun prank at the same time!

    • I like that, syrkt – it helps keep the mystery and surprise for all gifts when they are hidden in an anonymous box. It would also protect the gifts from prying little hands trying to figure out what they’re getting!

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