Thoughtful Parenting: Giving is the reason |

Thoughtful Parenting: Giving is the reason

“Giving is the reason for the season,” I hear my 9-year-old tell her younger brother in the car the other day.

“I like that saying,” he said.

“Wow,” I think.  They do listen to me. Just as I applaud my amazing parenting skills, however, the conversation shifts and they begin listing all of the things that they want from Santa.  I am sad to say this is not a modest list.

Admittedly, I may be a little at fault for the length of this list.  All year long, when my children ask for something that is not in the budget, I say, “you can ask Santa for it.”  Unfortunately, they take my advice.  I hope the big guy knows where to get a PlayStation, a snowboard and a million dollars because that’s what’s on the list this year.

Of course it is nice to get gifts during the holidays.  It’s hard to fault children from dreaming about owning a few of the newest toys they see in the bright store displays or in television ads.  To be fair, I have found myself lingering in the aisles with the shiny new Kitchen Maid Mixers.  Still, I really wish my children would focus more on giving than getting this holiday season.

While encouraging the spirit of giving, however, it is important to recognize where your child is developmentally and have realistic expectations.  If you have a young child, younger than 5, he may not have the skills to understand other people’s perspectives.  Developmentally, he is egocentric and has difficulty considering what others people may like or how other people feel. 

I once asked a 4-year-old student what he thought I wanted for my birthday.  “A T-rex”, he solemnly replied.  Giving (really giving) can be a tough concept for children in this developmental stage.

One way that you can help your child learn about giving is by including him in the gifting process.  Show your child what gifts you will be giving this holiday season and explain why you chose them. 

You may say, “Grandma complained her hands were cold when we saw her last week, so I bought her these new gloves.”  By listening and watching you, your child will learn how to be considerate of others and how to be a giver.

The following are a few other ways to help your children get into the spirit of giving this holiday season.

  • Donate lightly used toys and clothing to LiftUp and talk about how they may become gifts for other children.  The bonus is that you can make room for newer items while helping a good cause.
  • Bake bread or cookies.  Wrap in bright ribbon and share with neighbors.
  • For siblings: Give each child a modest amount of money and take them to the thrift store to shop for a gift for the other. We like to all go at the same time and make a game out of keeping the gifts a secret.
  • Set up a card making station and mailboxes so that everyone in the family can write notes to each other throughout the season.
  • Enlist your children’s help in wrapping gifts for extended family.  Pre-cut scotch tape can help even young children participate.

Even with a robust list for Santa, children can and do enjoy the spirit of giving. Happy holidays.

Kerri Ann Crocker is the director of North Routt Preschool.

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