“I just can’t wait for it to get here!” he exclaimed. At the same time, I was going over the mental list I had going on repeat, listing every single item I need to buy now that we are officially in the holiday season. I paused in my checklist and turned to him.
“Really? What are you going to get ME?” I asked him. He took on a deer-in-the-headlights look.
“Uh…” he stammered, quickly switching the subject to something else.
It’s only natural that kids focus most on the “getting” than the “giving” in the holiday seasons. Let’s face it, the holidays are geared around the younger generation with the ongoing commercials of must-have toys and the giant catalogs of goodies from the big box stores in every Sunday paper, as well as all the loudest and brightest merchandise at their eye level in the stores.
Kids want, want, want. And what do we do? Give, give give.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re not bad parents for supplying our kids with the things they wish for. And kids are not bad for constantly wanting more no matter how much they have. Regardless of how downhill our economy is, we’re fortunate to be able to offer our kids more than we probably had growing up, and definitely more than many in other economic scenarios. However, we’d be doing them a disservice if we didn’t also use this time to instill in our kids a virtue of gratitude – especially as the holidays approach. Here are FIVE tips I have to encourage a spirit of thanks in your household – shifting the focus from receiving to giving – starting with this holiday season.
1. Model Gratitude
Just as important as it is for our kids to say “please” and “thank you” for everything they ask for and receive, they should be hearing it from us – their parents. Modeling the behavior we wish our kids to follow speaks much louder than any verbal instruction we could give them, and is an important key in teaching gratitude. Whether big or small, never fail to offer heartfelt thanks for anything that is given to you. Thank the waiter for their service when you go out to eat. Thank the barista when you grab a cup of coffee. And be sure to offer your child at least one sincere “thank you” per day, being specific about what they did and how it made you feel. You’ll not only teach HOW to say thank you, you will also be encouraging kind acts from everyone in the family as they feel more appreciated.
2. Grateful Lists
Create time out of each day for the whole family to gather together (dinnertime, for example), and take turns to list three things each person is grateful for that day. Hot chocolate. Warm blankets. Smiles from friends. A favorite stuffed animal. A kind word from a teacher. Doing well on a test. Focusing on all the good things in life every single day serves as a reminder about how fortunate everyone in your family really is. Plus, it may even invite more good things to come your way.
Whether your time, your belongings, or your money, giving to those in need should be a habit for every family. There are always those in worse situations who could benefit from the kindness of what you have to give. Encourage your child’s help when going through clothes and toys to give away, taking time to discuss who might receive them and how it might help them or make them feel when they receive them. Choose a heart from one of Volunteer Now’s Giving Trees (see volunteernow.org for locations) and have your child help choose and wrap the gift. You can even bring the whole family for an evening of bagging food at the Redwood Empire Food Bank (see refb.org for available times).
4. Thank you notes
It was required of us when we were kids, and it should be required of our kids as well. For every gift a child receives, they should write a note to the person who gives it them. How involved these notes are depends on the age of the child and their concept of understanding. But eventually, a kid should write a note that offers three things – an offering of thanks for the gift, how they will be able to use that gift, and why they appreciate the person who gave it to them.
5. Just say no.
It’s one of the hardest words, but possibly the most important. Don’t succumb to giving your child everything they ask for, or fulfilling all their requests on their gift lists. Let them have the opportunity to earn the things they want by themselves. This teaches them the value of a dollar, as well as appreciating the effort put into each gift they do receive. And it is also a way to be kinder to your pocketbook.
What are some ways you help your kids focus more on giving during the holiday season?