The Dad’s Guide to Avoiding a Veruca Salt Christmas

  by Erik Wolgemuth

“All I’ve got at home is two dogs and four cats and six bunny rabbits and two parakeets and three canaries and a green parrot and a turtle and a bowl of goldfish and a cage of white mice and a silly old hamster! I want a squirrel!”

These are the humorous words of one Veruca Salt – a lucky golden ticket winner in Roald Dahl’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you happen to read this book to your kids – recommended – Veruca will prove to be a memorable character for both your kids and you as well. To the kids, she’s an absurdly funny example of greed and selfishness. And to you, she serves as an extreme example of exactly the sort of entitlement and ingratitude you don’t want to catch a glimpse of in your kids.

Following a recent journey that my kids and I took through the pages of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I couldn’t help but think about the fast approaching holiday season and little Veruca. I want my kids to soak up every aspect of Christmas, and I want them to experience the joy of giving, healthy perspective, and genuine gratitude.

And so, I’ve spent some time thinking through a few ways that we can enjoy the Christmas season and keep Veruca Salt-tendencies out of the kids…

1. Read a few books.

The power of good stories can teach and mold in a unique way. As already mentioned, Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory provides some unique characters for discussion. Ronnie Wilson’s Gift unpacks the significance of what we do for those around us who are in need. A Charlie Brown Christmas reminds us to look past the consumerism to the true meaning of Christmas. Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol (there are plenty of adaptations for kids) gives that timeless story of a heart softened and transformed.

2. Look for ways to serve.

There are so many different ways to get involved in volunteer activities at this time of year. Food banks need help packing up boxes of food, nursing homes need carolers, and that ubiquitous Salvation Army bell needs ringing. Find something you can do together as a family, and talk about the importance of service and sacrifice for others.

3. Give meaningful gifts

Encourage and equip your kids to give gifts to one another and/or their mom. The gift could be homemade, it could be something they help you pick out, or even something they use some of their own money to buy. Get their help in the wrapping, and have them own the act of giving.

4. Loosen their grip.

The possessiveness of children is a force of unmatched determination and power of the will. (And, if I’m honest, perhaps there’s not quite the difference I’d hope there would be in my own life on this) It doesn’t matter how many available toys there may be in a room, the best, the only one is what one child has and what another child wants. You can help your kids fight this mentality in a variety of ways, but a simple idea is to find something(s) of their own to give away. Give to a toy drive or simply make a gift to a local Goodwill donation drop off.

The Christmas season is an amazing experience as a dad. Having kids bring fresh perspective to the unique joy and awe of December days. And it also brings unique challenges as you teach and shape character in your kids. Hopefully these ideas will help you experience both the fun of the season and keep your household Veruca-free.


Enjoying experiences together (instead of adding more stuff to your household) can be another help in this season. These can be in the kitchen (making pizza or cupcakes), at the table (burping or coloring), or throughout the house.

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Picture by Annie Spratt; Used via Unsplash license.